Industrial Hemp - emerging agricultural/industrial opportunity!

Industrial Hemp - emerging agricultural/industrial opportunity!

By Jesse Hahn

In 1943, the Government of Canada offered a price support of six cents per pound for a little-known agricultural crop. Though it had only been grown in Canada since 1938, it was needed desperately for the war effort as a steam engine lubricant. That crop, dubbed “Canadian Oil”, at the time was considered to be toxic and inedible. After years of research, breeding and development, canola now contributes nearly $27 billion to the Canadian economy (Canola Council of Canada, 2017 - bit.ly/2HiHjWa).

But that wasn’t the only plant that was encouraged to be grown during WWII (bit.ly/2qu3RZh). The other agricultural hero of the war was a low-THC strain of Cannabis sativa known as hemp which was grown for lubricants, food, paper rope and textiles. Although hemp is a crop that has roots in Canada as far back as 1606 (bit.ly/2qyf0Zt), there was a paltry 143-thousand acres of it grown in Canada in 2017. This is minuscule in comparison to the 22-million acres of canola grown last year. 

So why did one crop – that had more uses, was edible, and had a longer history in Canada – flounder while the other flourished? I’ll leave it to the reader to research the various conspiracy theories on the internet and, for the sake of brevity, simply put - government regulation. Rather, the Canadian government outright banned industrial cannabis until as recently as 1998. Coincidentally, approximately 13-million acres of canola were grown in 1998. But things are about to change with the passing of bill C-45, the Cannabis Act – an Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.

Ironically, the same plant that fuelled the stigmatization of hemp is now leading the cultural shift that is going to unlock its full economic potential. Farmers are relearning how to grow hemp and scientists are developing new uses for the plant. And, while politicians and the public are preoccupied with medicinal and recreational cannabis legalization, entrepreneurs are gearing up for a long overdue agricultural revolution