Red tape seen costing hemp growers market share

CNS Canada — Canadian hemp producers are missing out on a potential billion-dollar market opportunity due to government regulations, an industry group warns.

Canadian hemp farmers are only permitted to use certain parts, the stalk and seeds, of the plants they grow. As a result, the growers are missing out in the market, said Kim Shukla, executive director of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA).

The Steinbach, Man.-based CHTA is pushing for reform on the regulations that control how much of the plant can be used, Shukla said, and she hopes a new government has the potential to bring change.

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Industrial hemp plants contain low levels, about 0.3 per cent, of the psychoactive ingredient THC. Marijuana plants typically contain five per cent or more.

The parts of the plant that can’t be harvested also contain cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), which can treat schizophrenia, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Dr. Steve Laviolette of the University of Western Ontario.

“While we are struggling and fighting against these archaic regulations, other countries are beginning to really come on as powerhouses,” Shukla said.

There is a strong market demand for hemp, but the Canadian industry has struggled with its ability to process product and move it through the channel.

Shukla cited a 2013 fire at a major hemp processor as a setback. The processor wasn’t able to work at full capacity until 2014.

Next year’s hemp acreage in Canada will likely stay static at about 100,000 acres, she added.

“So we can begin to manage some of our processing challenges, and as more processors come on board, and as more folks are involved in the marketplace, we’re looking forward to 2017.”

Jade Markus writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow her at @jade_markus on Twitter.

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