Growing hemp interest in U.S. not seen as threat to Canada

American growers have been allowed to grow industrial hemp since 2014, but most of the crop is grown for research purposes

Growing industrial hemp in the United States was a non-starter for decades because of the crop’s association with marijuana.

Those days are over.

A number of states now permit the cultivation of hemp or research on hemp products. American excitement over hemp is noticeable on the internet and in the media as companies, governments and organizations issue frequent news releases about hemp being grown in New York state or hemp pilot projects in Kentucky.

Players in the hemp industry have suggested that the U.S. will quickly catch up to Canada, where hemp production has been legal for nearly 20 years and there is a sizable hemp food industry.

Others say it’s not a concern be-cause it’s a benefit to the overall hemp trade.

“There is definitely a lot of press and (new) people coming into the hemp industry,” said Anndrea Hermann, who runs Ridge International Cannabis Consulting from her home in Manitoba.

“Is there a U.S. industry being built? Absolutely. Should Canada feel threatened by that? Absolutely not.”

Hermann is well qualified to compare the situation on both sides of the border. She’s an American who moved to Canada to learn about hemp production and is on the board of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance and the Hemp Industries Association in the U.S.

The U.S. farm bill permitted industrial hemp production in 2014, mostly for research purposes. The crop is now being grown in multiple states and in some cases for the first time in 80 years.

Hermann said there is a buzz around hemp, but the situation is very different from Canada.

“We (Canada) are in the actuality point of it,” he said. “A lot of the U.S. is still built around (that) concept.”

Hemp may be in the nascent stage in the U.S., but things are definitely progressing. Canada should benefit if Americans do build a substantial hemp industry because it will boost interest and demand for hemp products, said Gary Meier, president of Hemp Production Services, a hempseed production company from Saskatchewan.

To use a cliche: a rising tide lifts all boats.

“The percentage of the consumer base (in the U.S.) that has never been exposed to hemp foods (is massive)…. When we expose them to it, through tasting … it’s ‘wow, where has this been all my life,’ ” Meier said. “(And) this stuff is probably as close as you’re going to get to fish oil and fish protein.”

Canada’s hemp industry should probably focus on agronomy in-stead of worrying about the U.S. Hemp is a tricky crop to grow, which could put off many potential producers. Industry expansion in Canada will be severely restricted if the industry can’t attract new growers.

“Some of the regulatory issues, although irritating, I don’t think are going to be a big of problem for growers as getting their heads around (production),” Meier said.

“The industry is not going to be successful if we don’t get repeat growers.”

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