Canada Report 1998

Roddy Heading

        New regulations to allow a thoroughly modern, fully accountable industrial hemp industry passed into Canadian law in March of 1998. The Health Ministers' Office immediately began issuing permits and licenses to Canadian farmers, processors and seed breeders across the country who had applied for the privilege of participation in the first legal commercial production of Cannabis in North America since the 1950s.
        Support for the Canadian hemp initiative has been eagerly embraced by both the Canadian government and the public, who now view hemp as a demonstrably safe and valuable new crop returning to the agricultural system. The reimplimentation of industrial Cannabis to the Canadian farm menu is a great relief for hemp industry lobbyists who have been working, in some cases, for decades, to achieve a consensus to lawfully restore commercial access to the opportunities that hemp culture has to offer.
        As the hemp agenda was, of necessity, somewhat rushed into place for Spring planting, Federal hemp regulatory priorities were arranged to ensure that first-time commercial applications were processed immediately. Most first-time applicants received their permits in June. Some farmers decided not to risk the short growing season remaining, but others did and still managed to harvest good crops of fiber and seed in many different parts of the country. Late sowing reduced overall yield of fiber by 20 - 50 percent across Canada.
        Complete official figures for the maiden voyage of Canadian commercial hemp were not available at press time, but approximately 5,000 hectares of licensed Cannabis were under cultivation during 1998. The signal fire has been lit and saluted by commercial players to begin growing, breeding, processing and trading Canadian hemp as if it was just another crop. They are taking the lead in a nascent continental hemp market that will consume all the hemp fiber, seed and oil that they can deliver to commercial clients at home and abroad.
        The record low Canadian dollar favors hemp in Canadian commodity export strategies supplying North American, European and Asian markets. As soon as Canadian producers can show commitment to large scale production on a sustainable basis, key line industry sectors such as pulp and paper, automotive and clothing may be induced to purchase Canadian hemp en perpetua, as long as acceptable price and quality shape the supply side of hemp.
        The gains Canada makes and keeps during the next few years will be "proving grounds" for the health of the entire modern hemp industry in the Western world. Canada is in a precarious position to "lead or bleed" in what will soon likely become, indeed, a billion dollar crop.
        Hemp was grown under license in eight provinces across Canada in 1998, primarily in SW Ontario and Manitoba. Kenex and Hempline, the leading Ontario commercial hemp players, have arranged financing to purchase or develop new processing machinery, erect spacious new factories, and oversee hemp contracts to farmers near their respective centers of hemp production. Both companies are experienced hemp producers. Canada's third regional hemp processing plant will likely be built next year in the Peterborough region of east central Ontario.
        Kenex, keen to deliver fiber to nearby US automotive clients in Detroit for use in Cadillacs by 2002, in the meantime has made progress developing a commercial line of culinary grade de-hulled seed meal, and has started pressing oil for the expanding North American hemp edibles market. Kenex engineers are working with established Ontario cordage mills, and Parisian bast thread and yarn operations, to obtain what may turn out to be the first offering of homegrown North American hemp cloth, just in time for the new century ahead.
        Hempline, the pioneer of modern Canadian industrial hemp, has developed advanced machinery that converts the raw stalk into loom-ready fiber that seems to satisfy US carpet manufacturers seeking to enter into the production of hemp rugs and floor coverings that can be recycled. Hempline will provide fiber to US upholstery manufacturers as well as carpet makers.
        While Kenex hopes to enter into almost every phase of hemp product development, from farming to secondary processing, Hempline will likely narrow its research horizons, perfecting operations to supply finished hemp "to-order" for US mills.
        The continentally central province of Manitoba offered a striking hemp profile in 1998, as CGP orchestrated more than 50 local farmers to grow hemp on contract. They are pursuing plans to build a major league processing factory at Portage la Prairie, (a regional hemp center in the 1930's). The prospect of developing a new prairie oil seed industry has attracted oil seed entrepreneurs to the region, eager to set up secondary facilities in the heart of what may someday soon become hempseed central for the North American continent.
        The opportunity to research and develop new hemp varieties is now available in Canada. Qualified agronomist/ seed breeders in Saskatchewan will soon be introducing a greatly improved oleo strain - ‘Canefa’ - that will endure the prairie conditions admirably while developing up to 10% GLA, more than three times the levels of this important nutriceutical than is usually found in Old World varieties of oleo hemp. ‘Canefa’, in the process of registration, is hoped to be included on the approved list of hemp varieties, and when "green lighted" will be the first new Canadian variety offered to Canadian farmers before the year 2000. Advanced breeding is sure to unlock even more secrets of Cannabis germplasm, as the plant can now be explored without unwarranted interference.
        Quebec embraced hemp in a big way in 1998, as first-time commercial hemp farmers and the Quebec government held a hemp field day celebration to welcome the return of this traditional Quebecois crop in modern times. Plans for a committed hemp program includes the participation of Quebec fine paper mills and Quebec textile factories to utilize all the Quebec hemp fiber and oleo products that will be produced in the near future. However, Quebec lost out badly when NAFTA planning centralized textile production in the southern USA, wiping out, all at once, the Quebec Denim that was just starting to assert itself on the North American market and is now eager to regain a market toehold.
        Leading Quebec hemp farmers are growing ‘FIN-314’, a hemp variety acquired from our northern neighbors in Finland this year. These plants are very early maturing (as little as 75 days from seeding) and therefore well suited to the Quebec latitude. Most importantly, they are only knee-high at maturity, so regular farm harvesting machinery is all that is required to bring it into the barn. This variety also offers a tight floral structure, so very little seed is lost at harvest. So far, the birds have not discovered the seed-charged inflorescences in the field.
        Other Quebec oleo producers are eager to grow these new varieties next year. Much of the 1998 Quebec hemp seed crop was grown 100% organically, and this feature is expected to earn the farmers additional cash and place their products on the front row of retail shelves.
        Reports of industrial hemp cultivation on Indian reservations in western Canada -- sans permits -- may go a long way in establishing the supremacy of tribal law over Federal legislation in "last-tag" policy closures. How this "Indian Hemp" fares in the future may have great impact on the future autonomy of Native people throughout the North American continent.
        Exponential growth will depend on the availability of Canadian grown hemp seed for resowing. Many Canadian farmers are in a position to act as foundation-seed and registered-seed producers and to serve as hybrid seed multipliers for the future. Licensed hemp grown in British Columbia poised a special situation in 1998, this first commercial year, as youths descended upon certain hemp fields to nab midnight trophies of industrial hemp. The unacceptable quality of industrial hemp as a re-creational drug undoubtedly does not satisfy anyone or alarm the authorities. However, the licensed farmer chose to plow his hemp crop under rather than face the forensic paper-work that the new regulations require all permit holders to abide by.
        Medical Cannabis has attracted wide public support across Canada during 1998. National television and the popular press continue to portray this curious phenomenon in favorable light. Opposition is uncommon, and this use of Cannabis now enjoys the sort of support industrial hemp had gatered at the onset of its reimplimentation and normalization program some years ago. The Federal health Ministers Office is preparing a pro-gram to accommodate registered patients who are participating in a casual, but accountable, medical marijuana club format in many Canadian cities. These clubs are operating out-side the law on compassionate grounds, and even though Cannabis and derivatives obtained from Cannabis are controlled substances in Canada, 1999 may well see the federal government actually exercising some control over Cannabis, rather than merely erecting additional barriers of denial. If this comes to pass, Canada may be the only Western nation that has moved forward in the creation of responsible research to study the medical potential of Cannabis, or a least the only country in the New World to make any gesture of accommodation to this end.
        The illicit marijuana industry in Canada, estimated at almost one billion dollars sales in 1998, continues its undiminished advance in both domestic and US markets. As a result of twenty years of intensive domestic production, importation of foreign-grown marijuana to Canada has declined dramatically. The use of sophisticated artificial environments to grow high-THC varieties of Cannabis is most prevalent in British Columbia where its use is widely tolerated by adults in private, but many other parts of the country are providing unlicensed Cannabis flowers on a regular basis for the North American black market. This fact will no doubt be addressed by our American neighbors to the south before commercial industrial hemp trading between Canada and the United States can advance in our shared market place. Although Canada has adjusted her laws to recognize the difference between hemp and marijuana varieties of Cannabis sativa L., we are continental trading partners with a powerful client nation that does not recognize this distinction.
        It is hoped that reasonable adherence to the new industrial hemp regulations by Canadian producers in the commercial arena will demonstrate the safety and integrity of industrial hemp originating from he Dominion of Canada in the years to come, whether or not the US grants clemency to Cannabis in our lifetime.
        We are grateful that industrial hemp is now a formal reality in Canada in 1998. We in Canada are aware that this hard-won privilege to grow and trade our hemp stems not only from a delicate diplomatic genesis, but represents a golden opportunity to make the most of this wonderful new resource. Canadians intend to proceed boldly into the business of hemp culture....as if it was just another crop.

Table 1. Summary of hemp production in Canada for 1998.
  Total area grown commercially in Canada 1998 2,400 hectares
  Total number of provinces growing hemp 9 of 10
  Total area grown commercially in Ontario 1,163 hectares
  Total area grown commercially in Kenex ?
  Number of farmers contracted by Kenex 52
  Total area grown commercially Hempline 500 hectares
  Number of farmers contracted by Hempline 20
  Total area grown commercially in Manitoba by CGP 606 hectares
  Total area grown for research, non commercial license 107 hectares