Industrial hemp making a comeback

By Tom Van Dusen – AgriNews Staff Writer

It’s baaaaack! Industrial hemp, that is, the ancient crop which many conventional farmers love to snicker at has returned to Eastern Ontario.It’s pretty easy to poke fun considering hemp’s close association with marijuana. It’s actually the same plant minus significant levels of the hallucinogen THC. Under Health Canada regulations, hemp and its parts may not contain more than .3 per cent THC.

Banned in North America in the 1930s, Canada reintroduced controlled production, sale, movement, processing, exporting and importing of certain varieties in 1998.

Re-introduction caused a flurry of interest in growing and selling hemp in this country, but primarily as fibre, OMAFRA expert Gordon Scheifele told information sessions at Douglas and Galetta Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

The meetings attracted 75 farmers potentially interested in trying out the crop on contract this season for Valley Bio Ltd. which grew and marketed 245 acres of food grade hemp last year.

Scheifele said the market wasn’t there 12 years ago. Now hemp is coming back, but almost exclusively on the food oil and meal processing side. Calling hemp “the most incredible plant God created,” he insisted hemp’s latest comeback in Ontario and across Canada is for real.

“This isn’t fly-by-night or boom-or-bust. The market still isn’t huge, but hemp is here to stay.”

At one time, the expert noted, it was more valuable than gold, providing man with food, clothing, ropes and sails. Today, it can’t be grown without a criminal record check and a license from Health Canada.

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