A Canadian industrial hemp group is hopeful of “tremendous potential” following the legalization of cannabis on Oct. 17.
President of Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, Russ Crawford, told the Winnipeg Free Press that due to the current regulations, farmers who plant marijuana’s cousin – hemp – can only sell the crop’s seeds and stems.
Hemp is “either burned up, or it’s left in the fields to rot,” Crawford explained. But “there’s tremendous potential for that,” following the legalization of cannabis, he added.
Selling hemp’s seeds and stems can be processed into food or fiber, but the rest of the versatile plant is “basically wasted.”
However, when Ottawa updated its regulations last week together with the newly released rules for the legal recreational marijuana industry, Canadian farmers will get to harvest hemp’s buds, leaves, and branches. These parts of the hemp plant have significant amounts of cannabinoids or CBD.
CBD is the calming and soothing component found in both hemp and marijuana. It is used widely in conventional medical marijuana.
Extracting CBD will add “to the revenue stream of the hemp plant,” said Crawford.
For Crawford, growing a hemp plant that is good enough to yield CBD, seeds, and fiber – all at once – might be problematic. “That’s a long-term dream, perhaps, but it would require a lot of breeding,” he said.
“But initially, a farmer will have some choices here. He can harvest for the cannabinoids if he can get a good value and a good contract, he can let it go to seed and harvest it that way…. Or he can choose to plant a variety that’s more suited to fiber production and capture, perhaps, both cannabinoids and fiber out of the same plant.”
High CBD prices
So far, market prices for CBD are high right now due to its short supply, Crawford said.
“So, like anything else in an open market, the more we produce, the more likely it is it will lower the value.”
Don Dewar, a farmer, who is growing about 150 acres of hemp on his farm south of Dauphin, Manitoba, said if he can get an investor to funnel money into the necessary harvesting and drying equipment, he would consider selling his hemp for CBD extraction in the future.
“(CBD extraction) would make it more valuable, we think, but as soon as somebody comes up with a method of harvesting thousands of acres instead of thousands of plants, then the price (of hemp-derived cannabinoids) will come down,” he said.
“There’s going to be a window of opportunity to make some money, but once it turns into a volume product, the price will come down considerably, I expect.”