Article by Amanda Stephenson, Calgary Herald
Alberta hemp farmers are betting that cannabis legalization will be a windfall for their industry, with some going so far as to draw comparisons between the distinctive jagged-leafed plant and one of Canada’s biggest agricultural success stories.
“This will be the next canola,” said Danny Fieldberg, who grows industrial hemp on his certified organic farm outside of Medicine Hat. “Once it gets going, there will be no stopping it.”
Like canola — which was selectively bred by a team of researchers in the 1970s and has grown to become a billion-dollar industry for Canada — industrial hemp is primarily grown in the three Prairie Provinces. Also like canola, hemp can be used to produce a cooking oil, as well as edible seeds, protein powders and more.
But unlike canola, hemp is a regulated crop and until now any Canadian farmer interested in growing it has been required to undergo a criminal records check. The plant is a member of the cannabis family, and though it contains virtually no THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) it does contain CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that was — until recently — illegal without a medical prescription.
In fact, for years farmers with licenses to grow industrial hemp have been banned from harvesting any part of the crop except the seeds and stems. The leaves, flowers and buds (the parts of the plant that contain CBD) had to be left in the fields.
That changed in August, when the federal government changed its regulations in advance of the new Cannabis Act. Now, hemp farmers are permitted to harvest the “whole plant” and sell it to licensed marijuana producers for the purpose of CBD extraction and sale.