Shaun Crew is more aware than most people about the requirements of making a success of agricultural hemp. Having founded Hemp Oil Canada (Know where to buy CBD oil for weight loss in Canada), of which he’s still the president, he has labored in the hemp business for longer than almost anyone else in his nation and witnessed the great number of obstacles the industry has had to defeat since hemp-growing came back to Canada.
Although hemp staged a return to the United States in a limited way in 2014, every Canadian has been permitted to grow it since 1998, but with more restrictions upon it than there are upon other crops. Now, hemp covering around 100,000 acres is grown in Canada every year per the experts we spoke to, and hemp currently exists as a thriving business that’s supported by the government.
In comparison, only around 23,000 acres of hemp grew in the United States in 2017, a factoid that can be gleaned from a report released by Vote Hemp, and the industry is beset by regulations that are unclear plus the odd threat from government agencies that include law enforcement.
Canada and the United States now stand at a crossroads with the cannabis plant. At the moment, Congress is contemplating the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would enable just about anybody in the country to grow hemp.
At the same time, Canada has now legalized the use of psychoactive cannabis for recreational purposes. This was a momentous step for those of us who wish to see legalization in all of North America and perhaps beyond. With the legalization of hemp imminent in the United States and more states legalizing cannabis even for recreational purposes, we pondered what things our country might learn from the Canadian experience and requested that experts hailing from either of the countries also give their input.
In Canada, the hemp industry was confronted by many obstacles even after growing it was made legal
The crew is wary of growing hemp for a market that’s new, having seen the hurdles that confronted the industry in Canada when it began. He established Hemp Oil Canada way back in 1998, shortly after the legalization of hemp, but, nearly 20 years after, there are not many other companies founded then that still exist. Back then, many entrepreneurs, innovators, and farmers had great ambitions for hemp.
Most of these efforts, however, failed because there was insufficient infrastructure or places where their products could be marketed.
Crew recalled that when his involvement with hemp began, there was “zero market, zero products, and zero processes.” So everything basically had to be invented.
The chairman of the U.S.-based National Hemp Association, Geoff Whaling, agreed with Crew, speaking of “a lot of literal growing pains” in those early days. Whaling, who has both U.S. and Canadian citizenship, finds himself in a very special position where he can guide the growth of hemp in the United States based on the lessons learned by its northern neighbor.
Excited by the prospect of a new crop that could possibly have revived Canadian agriculture, many a farmer rushed into hemp-growing despite having no buyers at the ready. They ended up with warehouses brimming with hemp seeds. The crew explained that many of these farmers found themselves “sitting on that seed” for a year or two, by which time it had little value. Whaling informed us that after the third year, “the industry absolutely collapsed in Canada because nobody knew what hemp was.”
Not only was there little in the way of infrastructure, but hemp continued to carry a stigma due to its connection to psychoactive cannabis and the War on Drugs. The stigma isn’t helped by hemp-growing being regulated by Health Canada, the same government body that’s responsible for controlled substances, while other crops fall within Agrifood Canada’s remit. Basically, hemp was and still is considered to be a drug and not a run-of-the-mill plant.
The success of hemp in Canada comes from vertical integration
As time went on, Health Canada relaxed the restrictions it initially placed on hemp and grew more supportive by changing its policies to meet hemp growers’ needs. Law enforcement and other government agencies could tell that growing hemp led to neither a rise in crime nor any other problems for the communities where it was grown, processed, and consumed. And, as the hemp industry gradually grew more stable, the economic benefits it brought were obvious.
Now, Canada is among the leading exporters of hemp foods like chill CBD gummies, particularly hemp seed products, to the United States. Hemp Oil Canada is still one of the dominant forces in the market and, late in 2015, it merged with the other dominant force, Manitoba Harvest, although each company retains its own corporate structure. Crew estimates that, in Canada, hemp foods are responsible for a minimum of $150 million of profits every year.
Vertical integration is among the greatest factors when it comes to success. Companies, such as Hemp Oil Canada, are in charge of all stages of the growing process, from signing contracts with growers all the way up to bringing hemp foods to market. With this system, farmers can rest assured that their crops will find a market, while manufacturers of hemp foods are guaranteed that they will receive just what it is that they require from farms.
Canadian hemp also sees use, in a much smaller way, in the manufacture of textiles and building materials. A market that has been little-touched is that of CBD oil, a nutritional supplement that is much in demand in the United States thanks to its potential to heal. While CBD can be obtained from Canada’s medical marijuana program, people growing or selling hemp are prohibited legally and by the regulations of Health Canada from making use of the flower or leaves of the plant or refining it into CBD.
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The majority of the hemp that’s grown for its seed, which means most of the hemp that’s grown in all of Canada, is found in the west of the country, but, to the east, Quebec has made up for this by taking the lead in hemp research.
Darko Popovic and his pals, who are also hemp enthusiasts, founded Chanvre Quebec (“Hemp Quebec”) to spread information concerning the crop in French and encourage hemp entrepreneurs in their province. He remarked that the hemp industry is supported by the government and innovation is crucial.
It is educational institutions that Popovic credits as leading advocates of the legalization of hemp: “It was actually the universities that made it happen.” In Canada, there was research into hemp years before it was legalized, and universities continue to do this.
If only seed that’s registered is used, Canadian hemp farmers are protected
One more company that benefited from Canada’s relatively early support for hemp is Valleybio of Ontario. This is a registered seed establishment: one that provides legal hemp seed to growers.
Reuben Stone, who founded the company, first grew hemp in 2009. His company later became one of the major suppliers of hemp seed in the province when it took over from the floundering Ontario Hemp Alliance. Valleybio also went into partnership with another seed cleaning company as well as a Quebecois hemp breeder to form Uniseeds, which undertakes genetics research and marketing. The general manager of Valleybio, Keanan Stone, claims that since 2014, his company has been carrying out all of eastern Canada’s hemp seed processing
Canada doesn’t permit hemp farmers to retain seeds from their crop, so they must buy “clean” seed from a registered seed establishment, such as Valleybio, every year. Although this might strike people as restrictive, Reuben Stone informed us that, in truth, it actually protects farmers against government interference with their crops.
States-side, the THC level of hemp crops is tested after they’re harvested. THC is the ingredient of cannabis that causes people to feel “high” and, by law, hemp can be no more than 0.3 percent THC. Hemp crops are incinerated if they contain so much as 0.1 percent more than the legal THC limit, even though that would still be too little to get people high.
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There was a time when Health Canada enforced policies of this nature, but it changed its tune after decades of seeing seed cleaners provide reliable seeds. Stone commented that there’s no longer a need for THC testing of commercial production so long as the seed is certified.
Stone also remarked that although he considers hemp growers in Canada to have been lucky with these slow changes, he still desires that hemp be completely reclassified at some point further down the line. He stated that there have been “20 years of really good history” of growing hemp as a field crop, so it ought to be moved from the jurisdiction of Health Canada to that of Agrifood Canada. He sees “the ideal situation” as being one where hemp is a normal food crop and not the stuff of the Controlled Substances Act.
Hemp’s future in Canada is uncertain now that cannabis has been fully legalized
It was possible to get medical marijuana through a highly successful federal program that started in 2001, but psychoactive cannabis also became available for recreational usage in the summer of 2020. Crew commented that he’s proud of how Canada has led the way with the legalization of cannabis but fears the effect it might have upon the hemp industry. Canada’s new law replaced the hemp regulations that had been in effect for the previous 19 years.
Such stakeholders as Crew attempted to contact government officials to be reassured but were frustrated to find them unsure as to the effect legalization would have on the industry. Crew, however, continues to see the law positively, predicting that Canada will benefit in many ways, for instance, the boosting of scientific research. He also stated that psychoactive cannabis for medical purposes had been legal in Canada for years and continues to spread but has presented no further worries for either politicians or law enforcement. He saluted Canada’s changed law as “a great move” and added that he hopes his country will continue to take the lead in this realm.
What can be learned from Canada: the success of the hemp industry rests on research and careful growth
Giving Canada as an example, Whaling informed us that the slow rate of U.S. hemp legalization had the benefit of obliging the industry to grow equally slowly. He holds that if hemp is to really revolutionize U.S. farming, there’s a need for more research. This would be into the efficient use of hemp and the improvement of tools for commercial harvesting.
Whaling commented that no industry is created from hemp if it’s just used for seed and the oil pressed from the seed. He noted that while the 100,000 acres of hemp grown in Canada is impressive, this pales in comparison to the area devoted to soybeans: more than seven million acres.
Needless to say, Crew agrees, testifying that “throwing millions of dollars at it at once” is a bad idea. He believes that unless there’s a market where products can be sold, “[Y]ou’ve got to be careful.” He doubts that hemp will save the family farm but thinks everything helps ever so slightly.
While Canada has taken the lead with cannabis legalization, the United States is also making progress, with psychoactive cannabis legal for at least medical purposes in 29 states. But as progress continues, there’s a need to take care and not harm the hemp industry.
As Popovic quipped when our interview concluded “You can learn from our mistakes instead of making your own mistakes.” follow more by clicking on this link.