HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Canada May Get Competition
Pubdate: Sat, 10 Jun 2006
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2006 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Angela Hall
Bookmark: (Hemp)


Saskatchewan farmers who grow industrial hemp may have competition 
from North Dakota in the coming years.

About 24,000 acres (9,700 hectares) of hemp was grown in Canada last 
year, with roughly one-third of those acres in Saskatchewan. 
Commercial hemp farming is nonexistent in the United States, where 
the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) doesn't currently recognize the 
crop apart from marijuana.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson is proposing 
rules for the production of industrial hemp, including a requirement 
that producers consent to a criminal background check and fingerprinting.

However, approval from the DEA is still essential. Johnson and 
agriculture commissioners from three other states recently met with 
the agency to make their case.

"We have proposed a number of restrictions and proposed that we would 
oversee them," said Johnson in an interview. "We've made it crystal 
clear that we're not interested in any sort of marijuana program; 
that it is exclusively for industrial hemp."

The proposed rules will be discussed at a public meeting in Bismarck 
on Thursday.

In Canada, the price for conventional hemp has been about 45 cents a 
pound, while organic hemp grain is around 85 cents a pound.

Johnson said farmers in North Dakota also want to take advantage of 
the crop and its potential for profit. "There's no real good reason 
why the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world 
that doesn't allow it to be grown," he said.

Canadian farmers have been growing industrial hemp commercially since 
1998, and the crop is federally regulated under a licensing system.

While industrial hemp varieties are members of the cannabis plant 
family, Health Canada says they contain very low levels of the 
psychoactive ingredient THC. The Canadian government requires that 
only seeds of approved industrial hemp varieties with a THC level 
lower than 0.3 per cent can be planted, with one restriction being 
growers must geographically identify the specific location of their 
fields. Those restrictions are also among the proposed rules in North Dakota.

In Saskatchewan, most of the hemp -- an oilseed and fibre crop -- is 
for the seed market, with the fibre industry still developing in 
Western Canada.

Arthur Hanks, general manager of the Saskatchewan Hemp Association, 
said some uses for the hemp seed include crushing it for oil or using 
de-hulled seeds in food. Another growing product is hemp protein 
powder, he said.

Canada hasn't had to deal with competition from the U.S., but Hanks 
said efforts in North Dakota could actually help producers here by 
further "normalizing" hemp products.

"This just tells me that people are looking at this and seeing it's a 
money-making opportunity, seeing it as a legitimate opportunity."

Tom Murphy, national outreach co-ordinator for Vote Hemp, a 
U.S.-based group that lobbies for the acceptance of industrial hemp, 
said there are years of misinformation about the crop because many 
still relate it to marijuana.

"It's an agricultural product," he said of hemp.

"The ability of the American market (for hemp products) to grow is 
constantly out-stripping the ability of Canada to produce it," Murphy 
said. "It would be nice if the United States were to legalize the 
production of industrial hemp. I think that it might not grow as fast 
here as it has in Canada, but it would help change the message."
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