HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html The New Choice For Farmers - And It's Legal
Pubdate: Thu, 21 Aug 2008
Source: Community Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 Community Press
Author: Bill Tremblay
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Regional - Cannabis Crops Could Create Financial Highs For Area Farmers.

While marijuana might be the obvious, illegal cannabis cash crop, the
drug's non-munchie-inducing cousin, hemp, could be a viable choice for
local farmers.

John Baker, president and founder of Stonehedge Bio-Resources Inc.,
said Eastern Ontario has the ideal climate and soil to grow hemp crops.

"This crop has potential to be a good reward to the agriculture
sector," Baker said. "It's just the perfect environment for growing

Participants in the sixth annual Eastern Lake Ontario Regional
Innovation conference (ELORIN), held in Trenton Aug. 13-14, were able
to tour one of Baker's Grafton-area hemp farms.

Baker has licences for 19 hemp fields with the majority located in
Hastings and Northumberland counties. He currently is researching the
plant to determine its use as a biomass.

According to his findings, hemp could be a leader in a growing
environmentally friendly economy.

"We can use this as a vehicle to drive this whole new sector," said
Baker, who lives in the Oak Hills area of Quinte West.

Baker believes hemp products will result in profits for farmers and
producers of materials, and benefit the consumer.

"It's a win every way for everyone that is using it," he

Hemp can be used to make bio-masonry and bio-plastic products as well
as food supplements and textiles.

"There are hundreds of uses," Baker said. "They are already using it
in Europe. It is just a matter of bringing it here and actually doing

BMW and Mercedes have started using hemp as insulation in their

Hemp contains minimal amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the
active ingredient in marijuana.

"They could smoke this stuff until the cows come home and nobody would
get high," Baker said. "There is another chemical that would provide a
terrible headache."

However, the two plant varieties look and smell the same. The only way
to tell the difference is through chemical testing. Even potheads
can't believe it's not reefer. Baker's crops have caused cannabis
connoisseurs to temporarily trade their pipes and papers for pruning
shears in attempts to raid his farms.

"In my first couple of years, they probably stole two acres from a 10-
acre site," Baker said.

Growing hemp in Canada is legal, but regulated. It requires a licence
from Health Canada and is controlled by the Bureau of Drug
Surveillance. Plants must have less than 0.3 per cent THC and they are
regularly tested. "The worry is hemp will be used as a blind for other
plant material," Baker said.

While hemp farmers have to find their way through a maze of
regulations, laws in other countries can be used to Canada's advantage.

"That same barrier is what's keeping the Americans out of the market,"
Baker said.

The American Drug Enforcement Agency has its foot firmly in the soil
against U.S. farmers producing hemp, leaving manufacturers south of
the border looking for a source of the plant's products.

"They can't get it unless they bring it on a boat from Europe," Baker
said. "The Americans have no problem with us sending hemp fibre."

The Quinte region's suitable soil and proximity to Toronto, Ottawa,
and the American border could translate into a "huge economic boost."

A connection first must be made between the agricultural and
manufacturing sectors.

"There is no use getting the farm community engaged until we have a
market well-defined and a processing plant that can buy it," Baker

He hopes hemp's possible profits will spark investment interest
throughout the private sector. However, provincial and federal support
will be needed to start construction of the region's first processing

"There is a strong indication this could be a major development for
this area," Baker said. "But we need government assistance to get the
first plant up off the ground."
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