Canada has grown hemp, primarily for hemp seed, across the Prairies for more than 20 years. The 2018 Cannabis Act relaxed regulatory controls on industrial hemp, in addition to legalizing recreational cannabis, and cannabidiol extraction is now permitted. Production and distribution of cannabinoids and cannabinoid containing-products are highly regulated, with products appearing in licensed cannabis stores or for medical purposes.
In a new USDA report the status of the Canadian hemp industry, is discussed.
According to the report, hemp cultivation was legalized in 1998. However, the cultivation of the crop was not particularly widespread, as the majority of growers have been working through agronomic challenges – one of which is the securing of certified seeds.
According to recent data from Health Canada, 77,800 acres of industrial hemp were planted in 2018. Growers are required to purchase government certified seeds, and to report the GPS coordinates of all hemp fields. In the USDA report, it has been pointed out that 90% of seeds for hemp cultivation are produced in Canada, most of which are Canadian developed varieties and some of these are produced in Canada under license.
The number of hemp growers is not particularly big because of the regulatory requirements and the agronomic unfamiliarity with the crop.
In Canada, industrial hemp is regulated by the Industrial Hemp Regulations, which fall under the Cannabis Act that took effect on October 17, 2018. According to the law, Canada defines hemp as that cannabis variety which has less than 0.3 percent of THC. With the new regulations, growers are allowed to harvest hemp flowers, leaves, and branches to sell to licensed cannabis processors. However, the report points out that the majority of hemp growers have been focusing on hempseed to be used for a wide range of food products.
Growers can plant only the varieties that are present in the List of Approved Cultivars. The report states that industry sources have pointed out that the approved hemp varieties are low in CBD content. Therefore, high-CBD varieties have yet to be registered for use in Canada.
According to the Cannabis Act, all cannabinoids in the plant – thus including both CBD and THC – are regulated in the same way as cannabis. Therefore, any CBD-containing products can be accessed only in three ways: from an authorized retailer, from a federally licensed seller of cannabis for medical purposes, or through a prescription issued by a doctor.