Hemp growers pressure Ottawa to recognize health claim

Canadian growers want Health Canada to recognize hemp as a beneficial natural health product.

Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance members recently voted during their annual meeting in Calgary to push for a health claim on food products.

However, lawyer Sara Zborovski, who works with companies seeking approval from Health Canada for food products, said the process is lengthy and multi tiered.

Hemp oil products could be registered as novel food, but the government requires scientific evidence.

She told alliance members that they must be prepared to work together and provide whatever information is necessary to move the request forward.

“It is important for all of you to band together on this issue. There is strength in numbers,” she said.

Work on a proposal could start by February.

Zborovski said it would have to be made clear that the product is not the same as medical marijuana. Instead, the claim would focus on oil and byproducts.

“Farmers are probably not interested in that route,” she said.

A health claim rating could be profitable.

“Canadian farmers are suffering because they are missing out on a traditional revenue stream that other farmers in other jurisdictions are gaining,” she said.

Hemp and marijuana are part of the cannabis plant family, but are significantly different.

Hemp is grown for industrial purposes such as food, fibre and fuel.

Canada’s hemp oil products contain less than 10 parts per million of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component. It does carry higher levels of other chemicals that are showing potential as antidepressants as well as high levels of omega fatty acids.

The United States does not allow the cultivation of industrial hemp, but many groups persist in efforts to gain approval, said Joy Beckerman, president of Hemp Ace International Washington state.

She said there is significant confusion about cannabis plants and their benefits, so their use remains under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.

Beckerman said 2.5 million sq. feet of medical marijuana are grown in Washington, but no hemp is allowed.

Federal legislation on hemp farming was introduced in 2013 but not approved. It was re-introduced as the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, which would have a significant effect on the developing cannibinoid industry if passed in Congress.

It would allow banks to lend to farmers wishing to grow hemp and remove the government’s monopoly on research.

The 2014 U.S. farm bill allowed farmers in Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont, in partnership with state departments of agriculture, to grow and harvest hemp on small plots for research purposes. Other states are considering similar approval.

Contact barbara.duckworth@producer.com

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