Key Points about Hemp Agriculture and the Cannabis Act 2018
Posted on March 11th 2019
Although it does not contain the chemical THC responsible for producing the high or psychotropic effects, the hemp plant is controlled under the Cannabis Act 2018. This means that hemp possession, production, sale, and/or distribution requires a license from Health Canada. The Cannabis Act and its regulations do not separate CBD derived from industrial hemp or CBD derived from cannabis plants – defined as cannabis plant material containing greater than 0.3% THC.
Growers, dryers, extractors, and product makers handling hemp plant material need a Hemp License. Even growing hemp with very low THC levels (i.e., ≤ 0.3% THC), also known as industrial hemp, requires a hemp cultivation license. Industrial hemp is a strain or variety of the cannabis plant containing no more than 0.3% THC in the flowering heads, branches and leaves. The available options for farmers intending to grow hemp, are those strains on the List of Approved Cultivars (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medication/cannabis/producing-selling-hemp/commercial-licence/list-approved-cultivars-cannabis-sativa.html).
Mike Hodgson, president of Greenleaf Productions, wants to help Canadian farmers interested in growing hemp for CBD. He has been a strong advocate to allow Canada’s hemp growers to plant strains with higher CBD content. Currently fewer than 20 strains of the hemp plant are available, all of which have lower concentrations than four percent CBD. While American growers are not restricted and can grow cannabis plants with CBD concentrations upwards of 20%.
Growers in Canada need to get their cultivation license for hemp and the government needs to open up the hemp plant selection to plants containing at least 12% CBD or better. Hodgson says, “If Canada doesn’t provide better hemp plant choices, the Americans will take over the whole North American CBD market.” “They’ll advance quickly into the international market too”, he says. For hemp growers in Canada to realise return on their investment, time and hard work, the breakeven point can be argued to be about 12% CBD content.
A hemp cultivation license permits growers to plant, harvest, dry and transport their crop to buyers. Growers can sell non-viable seeds, or hemp seed derivatives, for use in food or cosmetics, for example. Non-viable hemp seeds and hemp seed derivatives (like hemp seed oil or shelled hemp seeds called hemp hearts) that contain no more than 10 ppm THC after testing are legal for growers to handle with a hemp license (exempt from the Cannabis Act).
A hemp grower is also able to cultivate hemp for the flowering heads, branches, and leaves, which contain CBD. With their hemp license, they are can sell the flower heads, branches and leaves to a cannabis processor who must be licensed under the Cannabis Regulations. Extraction of CBD requires a processing license under the Cannabis Regulations; requiring huge investment in equipment and a facility that meets Health Canada regulations. Mike Hodgson is in line for a processing license and anticipates to build a facility in time to be ready to receive hemp plant material from the 2019 harvest.
For Ontario farmers hemp may be a viable crop. Hemp cultivation in Canada to date has mainly been in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba. Hodgson says, he just wants the Ontario farmers “to know the law and if farmers need help getting into the hemp industry he’s going to be a licensed producer”, and his business will be one of the available licensed processors to produce products for farmers and other businesses.