Article by Vanmala Subramaniam, Financial Post
Canadian hemp and cannabis producers are pushing for changes to the rules governing the use of hemp-derived cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound found in both plants that has multi-billion-dollar potential as an ingredient in a host of wellness products.
“There’s some pretty extensive lobbying going on right now — by licensed cannabis producers, and by the hemp guys. We all want to sell hemp-derived CBD extracts by the fourth quarter of this year,” said the CEO of one licensed producer, who declined to be named because his company intends to, but has not yet announced its formal entry into the hemp industry.
The push comes ahead of the federal government’s October target date for the legalization of cannabis edibles and concentrates, and has taken on added urgency since December, when a bill passed in the United States effectively legalized hemp on a federal level and declassified CBD as a controlled substance.
“The passing of the Farm Bill made things attractive down south. I wouldn’t say we’re behind in Canada, but it’s strange that we’re not ahead of them with hemp, despite having legalized cannabis,” said Ivan Ross-Vrana, National Director at Hill & Knowlton Strategies’ cannabis practice, and one of the country’s top cannabis lobbyists.
In Canada, as it stands, CBD and its psychoactive cousin, the more potent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are regulated in the identical way: Both are legal under the Cannabis Act for medical and recreational use.
That means CBD derived from the hemp plant — widely seen as a cheaper source of the compound — also falls under the jurisdiction of Health Canada and the Cannabis Act, which effectively means that it can only be extracted by a licensed cannabis producer, and only available in flower or non-concentrated oil to be sold by licensed private or provincial retailers.