Once illegal material promises dizzying array of green energy uses
by Miles Howe
The Dominion – http://www.dominionpaper.ca
The seeds are currently the only part of the hemp plant that are processed and sold in Canada. cc Photo: Yesica
HALIFAX—Wanda Beattie, president and CEO of Atlantic Healing Hemp, paces the floor of her flagship store in Berwick, Nova Scotia. She is a woman on a mission. The shelves around her are lined with hemp salves, hemp balms, cold-pressed hemp seed oil and vacuum-sealed bags of crushed hemp seeds. The hemp is top quality and Canadian grown, but it’s definitely not local—and that’s something Beattie would like to change.
“At the moment I’m bringing in hemp oil in large quantities from Winnipeg,” she says. “That’s the hemp heartland. There was an attempt to grow hemp in Nova Scotia, back in 2000, but it wasn’t feasible because there wasn’t a market for the product. There was some amateur processing being done, but nothing of any scale.”
Beattie’s mission: to resurrect the deep-seeded relationship between Nova Scotia soil and hemp.
Port Royal, Nova Scotia, was the site of North America’s first recorded hemp crop, in 1606.
Hemp stalk can be processed into various materials, including durable, waterproof cord. There are currently no hemp stalk processing facilities in Canada. cc Photo: SnapKracklePop
But by 2009, Saskatchewan had 5,090 acres licensed for hemp and Manitoba had 6,015 acres. Nova Scotia had none.
“The issue is not related to soil,” says Beattie. “There is wonderful soil here in the Annapolis Valley. You can grow hemp here. Top quality hemp. In 2000, Nova Scotia farmers proved it could be done. There’s simply not enough of a market.”
The hemp plant has had many uses. Christopher Columbus swore by hemp sails. Hemp rope, even 50-year-old hemp rope, is still highly sought after for its water-resistant qualities. Anything oil, lumber or cotton can do, hemp can do better. The seeds can be eaten or pressed into oil. Both methods of ingestion are extremely healthy.
As Beattie will tell you, hemp seeds contain all the essential fatty acids. Her hemp cream also goes on smooth after a shave.
Re-education is a large part of Beattie’s campaign to get hemp back into the Nova Scotia diet and consciousness. She and her husband Brian offer weekly, one-hour information sessions out of the Berwick store. She also offers free presentations to Nova Scotia groups and businesses.
“People in the area just don’t know about the benefits of hemp. We grew up in a generation that didn’t hear anything about hemp. Consumers are looking at our products now, and they know they have a value, because they have been used for thousands of years. Younger people are using hemp as a preventative, incorporating it into their diets to stay healthy.”
Hemp was banned in Canada and the US in 1938. Jack Herer, in his book The Emperor Wears No Clothes, highlights the link between DuPont’s patenting, that same year, of the processes of making plastics out of petroleum and paper out of wood pulp, and the continent-wide ban on growing hemp. In 1998, amid growing interest in textile alternatives, Health Canada lifted its ban.