Hemp Comes of Age

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by Jesse Hahn, Natural Fibre Technologies

There has never been a better time in History to grow aside from World War II when North America relied on the versatile plant to support the war effort with ropes, sails, lubricants and more. Since first being re-legalized on March 12, 1998, under licenses and authorization from Health Canada, hemp as a specialty crop has had trouble gaining the recognition it deserves. But burdensome legislation was only one reason why the Hemp industry has remained fledgling. Fast forward to 2018, Bill C-45 has passed in Canada which, in addition to decriminalizing Medical and Recreational Cannabis, has re-opened the doors for Hemp cultivation on a mass industrial scale – indeed a move towards full de-regulation of the crop. And, in this environment of pending climate catastrophe, it’s about time.

You may have heard all sorts of rhetoric about Hemp the versatile ‘miracle plant’. Indeed the plant can be used for everything from automobiles and bio-composites to nano-crystalline cellulose and yarn. But if the plant is so miraculous and has been legal to cultivate since 1998 then why don’t we see more hemp derived products around? The answer to that question is complex.

The food industry has been the main driver for growth of the specialty crop since decriminalization. With retailers such as Costco eventually stocking raw and processed hemp products, consumers are beginning to acquire a taste for the superfood (hemp seed is rich in Omega fatty acids and Gamma Linolenic acid – a known nutraceutical compound used to treat skin conditions). Still, the novel and expensive specialty food has had only limited success in gaining market share. Reasons explaining slow market uptake could be due to stigma and misinformation surrounding this mysterious food or it could be the expensive price tag associated with a price high enough to convince farmers to re-learn how to grow it. Or, perhaps slow market adoption has to do with volatile market prices caused by fickle international food contracts – like I said, the reasons are complex! Then again, it may simply be mega-corporations in the food, forestry, auto and pharma industries suppressing the opportunity. Conspiracy theories and speculation aside, much of it boils down to the lack of processing equipment for the primary breakdown of the fibrous stalk.

But it’s ok. Like I mentioned earlier, there has never been a better time to grow hemp! It seems that a perfect storm is brewing, one where the bottlenecks holding back hemp production are disappearing. Conferences and seminars on the topic are selling out – thanks to ABCtech and Agriculture & Food Council for showing leadership and organizing a highly successful event on April 20th – Developing the Western Canadian Hemp Industry.  The masses are waking up to the opportunity. But this new hemp boom will not be catalyzed by food or fibre products. Canada’s new hemp regulations now allow farmers to harvest the flowers and leaves for lucrative medicinal compounds in the form of oil called cannabinoids (CBD). Welcome to the “green” gold rush.  Next week Issue #2. The “Green” Gold Rush


The Farm Products Council of Canada is examining the merits of establishing a Canadian Industrial Hemp Promotion    and Research Agency.  Submissions will be accepted through November 24, 2018. HERE

Source: ABC Tech