New market opens up for hemp growers

Hemp is no longer about seeds, food and fibre.

Effective immediately, hemp growers in Canada are now permitted to harvest the whole plant, meaning they can collect and store hemp flowers, buds and leaf material.

Health Canada, which regulates industrial hemp production, made the decision Aug. 10.

Previously, harvesting hemp flowers, buds and leaves was illegal in Canada.

“These new parts (of hemp) are economically valuable and will provide a new source of CBD and potentially other cannabinoid products,” the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance said in a statement.

The Health Canada decision is significant for the hemp trade because CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in the plant tissues of industrial hemp plants.

Studies suggest that CBD provides pain relief, has anti-inflammatory properties and may help combat anxiety.

The CHTA has argued for years that harvesting the whole plant should be legal because the natural health market for CBD is potentially massive.

“My gut tells me there’s going to be more value coming out of industrial hemp from the cannabinoids than the food and the fibre combined,” said CHTA president Russ Crawford said in 2016.

“There is a medicinal application for this that could be global in nature.”

Health Canada proposed the idea of whole plant use for industrial hemp in November. The new rules for hemp are part of the federal government’s Cannabis Act, which permits the production and use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.

The Cannabis Act is scheduled to take affect Oct. 17, but hemp growers and processors didn’t want to wait that long.

“We need to experiment with harvest, preservation and storage technologies, and this exemption means we won’t waste a year, which would have been the case if we were unable to collect plant material until Oct. 17,” said Jeff Kostuik of Hemp Genetics International and chair of the CHTA research committee.

“These next two months will enable us to research the most efficient and economic ways to capture the full value of the hemp plant.”

While hemp producers can collect and store hemp flowers, buds and leaves, they cannot sell the material until after Oct. 17.

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