There are three subclasses of cannabis. They include cannabis sativa, indica, and ruderalis. Marijuana is any class of cannabis that contains more than 0.3 % THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Most marijuana contains between 18-35% THC, the psychoactive compound found in the leaves and flowers that causes users to get “high”. Marijuana is recreational or medicinal cannabis that is legal in Canada. As a controlled substance, marijuana is regulated as cannabis under the Cannabis Act.
According to the Industrial Hemp Regulations, hemp includes cannabis plants and plant parts of any variety that contains 0.3% THC or less in the leaves and flowering heads. Hemp does not produce a high. Grown mainly outdoors, for industrial uses, hemp derivatives are being used to develop thousands products.
Specific varieties of hemp are grown for certain purposes. Certain varieties contain high CBD content, others are grown for quality grain and others produce large amounts of fibre. There are also hybrid varieties which combine traits for maximum benefit.
Hemp has been a significant part of human evolution. Historical cultivation goes back thousands of years. Hemp fibre has been used in the making of cordage, canvas, paper, and paint. It was used in the building of the Egyptian pyramids, and in the boat sails that brought Columbus to the Americas. Henry Ford built the first hemp car and it ran on hemp fuel. People were actually mandated to grow hemp for the military in the Second World War.
Hemp production was banned throughout the United States in 1937 with the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act. With a $100 transfer tax placed on the sale of hemp, it became too expensive for most farmers to grow.
Cultivation of industrial hemp has been permitted in Canada since 1998. The government of Canada legalized, regulated and restricted access to cannabis on October 17, 2018.
In October of the following year, laws changed to permit CBD (an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety compound found in cannabis) to be legally extracted from hemp flowers. Hemp farmers are now allowed to sell CBD biomass to licenced processors in Canada.
The US Farm Bill, passed in 2018 allows hemp cultivation broadly, not just pilot programs for studying market interest, which will significantly impact how the market opportunities unfold in the near future.
Consumer demand for hemp products is increasing rapidly, and this presents a real opportunity for rural economic development. Hemp is set to disrupt and diversify the economy by providing new and innovative options for job seekers and entrepreneurs.
In our part of the province where farmland is plentiful, hemp offers significant opportunity within the agricultural sector. It provides a more lucrative option for farmers, it is a quick-growing, multi-dimensional plant, and every part of it can be utilized.
Hemp has enormous potential to transform lives and livelihoods for the better.The hemp industry will create management jobs, labour-type jobs and everything in between. With new companies and products being developed, the industry will need lawyers, compliance officers, IT specialists, accountants, retail employees, transporters, researchers, and more.
Hemp can feed, shelter and clothe us, heat our homes, fuel our vehicles and even charge our cell phones. Over 55,000 innovative products can be made from the derivatives of hemp seed, fibre and flower, and more are being developed every day. Some examples include hemp-based foods, medicinals, bio-plastics, fibre board, batteries and biofuels.
Hemp is an environmental ally with properties that can improve the health of the planet. Hemp requires little water, needs zero herbicides or pesticides, it can help reduce soil degradation, and it improves soil health. Hemp is being heavily researched for its capacity to clean air, remediate soil and filter water. It is a renewable, biodegradable, sustainable, multi-dimensional plant with incredible carbon capture capabilities.
The hemp industry in Canada is a new and emerging industry, and with that comes a variety of challenges. Hemp flower is still regulated as a controlled substance even though it contains only trace amounts of THC. Misconceptions surrounding hemp and cannabis remain and influence common perceptions despite the fact that it is now legal in our country.
Industry leaders and community champions need to work together to help build education, awareness and capacity that will support and advance the hemp industry. Adequate infrastructure needs to be developed so hemp can be processed and manufactured on an industrial scale. The public needs to be aware of the multitude of benefits and applications that are waiting to be explored, and they need to see how they might fit into the picture.