In recent months Western Australia has been emerging as the dark horse of Australia’s cannabis industry.

It was one of the first state to allow GPs to prescribe cannabis without having to refer patients to other specialists.

Cannabis growing licenses have more than doubled over the last two years and 22 varieties of hemp are grown.

It is home to Little Green Pharma (ASX:LGP), the most recent pot stock to list on the ASX and the first cannabis company to export cannabis to Europe.

From coal mining to hemp processing

Today the industry received yet another boost. And at the same time the wilting coal mining town of Collie could receive a potential lifeline.

The McGowan government announced that Collie, a coal mining town 200km south of Perth, could be getting its own hemp processing plant.

Hemp is a variety of cannabis popular because of its fibre and it is less likely to get people ‘high’. This is because it has low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC — the part that gets you stoned) and slightly higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD).

The WA Hemp Growers Co-op (HempGro) was given $35,000 to develop a business case for the facility.

When complete the plant will service 37 industry growers. It will produce wholesale hemp as well as hemp-derived products including bio-char and fibreboard.

Bio-char is charcoal produced from the slow pyrolysis (heating in the absence of oxygen) of biomass. It is a product that has shown it can improve and maintain soil fertility and increase soil carbon sequestration.

The money is part of a larger $20m Collie’s Futures Fund aimed to diversify Collie’s economy.

But the government says the benefit will not just be for the town.

“An industrial hemp processing facility in Collie would create jobs as well as present growers with opportunities for diversification in and around the region,” Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said.

“The McGowan government has been a strong champion for the WA hemp industry, providing more than $435,000 in grants over the past 15 months and we hope this funding will really help it flourish.”