Talking about hemp comes easy to Keith Jones, the new president of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance. He’s been growing industrial hemp at his farm in southern Alberta for more than 20 years.
But Jones still talks about it like great discoveries and opportunities await.
Hemp Industry Daily recently caught up with Jones to talk about the challenges and opportunities in the Canadian hemp market, the prospect of Mexico joining the legal hemp industry, and what Canada could learn from the U.S.’s recent foray into producing and selling a plant that remains an enigma to many.
What are the biggest issues around hemp that Canada is addressing right now?
One is opening up market opportunities and commercial activity in the hemp fiber side. So using hemp straw and hemp stocks for a whole range of products.
In hemp feed, actually providing hemp to both livestock and companion animals.
Finally, the full-fraction space, which includes phytocannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes and a whole range of other healthy fractions of compounds that can be derived from the hemp plant.
Canada changed its law a couple years ago to allow its hemp producers to make flower products. But they have to be sold in the marijuana system. How many are doing it? Do you see CBD flower taking off as it has in the U.S.?
I know last year the information we received from Health Canada in November at our annual conference is there was 82,000 kilograms of hemp flower that had been sold, provided by hemp farmers to businesses for extraction purposes. And we see it continuing to grow and expand.
A big part of of the challenge is, right now, the distribution of any phytocannabinoid products is only through the licensed dispensaries in Canada. So that limits the growth opportunity in the short-term. But there is going to be a fairly large opportunity as our regulators understand how to more appropriately regulate phytocannabinoids that are non-intoxicating.
What are your thoughts about the Mexican government considering legalizing hemp and marijuana?
We’re actually working with a number of other countries opening the door for broader acceptance of hemp, both from a market perspective and a production and processing perspective.
It’s really exciting to see markets all around the world starting to liberalize and open up and start to really appreciate what the hemp plant can bring from a health and nutrition and safety perspective and a self-care perspective.
How has U.S. hemp production in recent years impacted Canada?
It’s actually helped. In fact our exports are up because we’ve actually seen greater acceptance and an opening to hemp for food. So that’s increased. That stuff led to an increase in exports of Canadian hemp foods to the U.S.
There’s also been pretty robust exports of planting seed from certified varieties of industrial hemp in Canada. That’s also greatly increased our Canadian exports. And when the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill came up, we saw a good jump in exports when that happened, and we’ve experienced another good jump in exports in 2018 and 2019.
What can the U.S. learn from Canada – and what can Canada learn from the U.S. – about each country’s experience with hemp legalization?
I think Canada has learned a lot about hemp for food production, and of course a leading Canadian company was the first to get self-affirmed GRAS status – generally regarded as safe – for their food products from hemp, and the entire hemp industry in the U.S. is learning from that.
Another thing the Canadian industry has done a good job of is getting stable, certified hemp varieties that meet global standards for stability and agricultural production. And that level of standardization has helped our industry tremendously.
The U.S. is still struggling now to reach a level of standardization and certification of what is actually planted as hemp. In Canada we don’t have any issues with destroying hot crops because we only grow, and we’re only licensed to grow, varieties that are certified as industrial hemp that do not produce above 0.3% THC. So that’s one of the things the U.S. might learn from Canada.
From the U.S., Canadians are learning a lot about what consumers are looking for in CBD-based products and other phytocannabinoids — what product forms, what product delivery systems. There’s been tremendous work done by U.S. entrepreneurs and U.S. companies and very credible U.S. actors that provided good, safe products for self-care, for a variety of uses for CBD products. So Canada is learning a lot from the U.S. on how to create good products for consumers.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Ivan Moreno can be reached at [email protected]