Board scientist Paul Pheloung said the southern coast of Western Australia provided ideal conditions for the growth of Indian hemp as a fibre crop.
Dr Pheloung said Indian hemp contained an edible oil, its fibre was traditionally used to make ropes, while the stems had the potential for pape-making. Trial crops of low-toxicity varieties were already being grown in South Australia and Tasmania.
Dr Pheloung said there was little chance of the plant becoming a nuisance weed in WA, despite its ability to escape from cultivation. However, it was possible new generations of the plant that were exposed to solar radiation could have increased levels of the drug THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which would be toxic to humans and animals.
Animals that ate the plant would become excited, have difficulty breathing and could die within an hour, he said.
Dr Pheloung said levels of the THC in naturalised plants might also encourage opportunists harvesting for illegal purposes.