By Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Hemp and cannabis are from the same species of plants, however, the main difference between cannabis and hemp is that hemp contains much lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the chemical that gets you high). Yet despite this distinction, hemp still carries the stigma of cannabis. Martin Shields, MP of Bow River, spoke on the strength of the plant and how the hemp industry is a great inclusion to the agriculture in southern Alberta.
“In the Taber area, hemp has been grown there for a number of years,” Shields said. “There are products that have come out of it in the sense of it’s just the hemp seeds that were traditionally used to begin with and they could use nothing more of the plant. The first was trying to get more of the plant being used and that’s when you discover hemp is under Health Canada, not agriculture. Back when I first started meeting with people from the hemp industry — for example in Taber — they were very concerned that things needed to change because they could use so little of the plant and there’s much more of the plant that could be used for a number of things. The hemp industry Canada-wide has done a lot of lobbying with this federal government. I’ve talked to the ministers numerous times and whether it’s health, whether it’s agriculture, whether it’s industry, they all agree that there’s much more potential for hemp, but the restrictions under health really make it much harder to grow, due to the paperwork and the restrictions because it’s been treated like marijuana — in the sense of the restrictions. Marijuana in the sense of being legalized is almost easier to deal with than hemp. A number of years ago, Canada was leading in the sense of the number of producers in North America com- pared to the US. When you get into the flower, and the oils, and the fibres, Europe has been at this for years — they can make anything out of Hemp. They make brake shoes out of hemp — it is such a tough fibre — it really is a fantastic fibre. Even the past environment minister when I talked to him said, ‘yeah, they used to make clothes out of it.’”
Shields then proceeded to speak on how hemp being regulated under health is choking the hemp industry.
“When I talk to the environment minister, he says, ‘hemp’s a great product.’ I said, ‘Look guys, move it into agriculture.’ This is what the agricultural industry understands so well,” said Shields. “If we move hemp into agriculture then it’s like a normal, regular crop and the paperwork, the restrictions, the number of red tape hemp farmers have to go through, they get tired of dealing with this. There has been government funding put into a plant in Lloydminster to work with more of the (hemp) plant which is great. This is super, but if you were going to get guys to grow it, it needs to get out of the red tape business of farming and health and get it into agriculture. This is why the hemp industry has been working on this for so many years. The United States has it under each state regulations office like marijuana. They have started to grow hemp more in the United States in individual states. Canada is not growing as much as they were because of the red tape and the restrictions. This is a fantastic agricultural product and we need to get that developed because we have great agricultural people who want to produce it. We’re now moving into the plant in Lloydminster of working with the research to develop it as more products using more of the plant. Well, we need to change the regulations so they can grow more of it.”
This item reprinted with permission from The Taber Times, Taber, Alberta