Dear Herb: Will it be easier to grow hemp after cannabis is legalized?

Industrial hemp won't get you high, so will the government make it easier to cultivate after legalization? Herb says 'Yes... but also, no.'


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Dear Herb: Do you think that after legalization, laws surrounding the cultivation of hemp will loosen?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/03/2018 (1771 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dear Herb: Do you think that after legalization, laws surrounding the cultivation of hemp will loosen?

Currently, the average Jane/Joe can’t grow their own hemp for food or fibre purposes unless he/she obtains a hemp cultivation licence.

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

It seems to me that once weed is legal, these licences will become completely arbitrary not only for citizens, but also for farmers. — Hempen Hope

Dear Hempen Hope: In short: yes, the laws around hemp cultivation are set to loosen — but not quite to the point where any Canadian will be able to legally convert their backyard into a hemp farm.

For those who don’t already know, hemp and cannabis are the same plant. (You could say hemp is cannabis, but cannabis isn’t necessarily hemp.)

Cannabis plants grown for drug purposes are exclusively female plants, specially cultivated for the enormous buds that teem with the cannabinoid goodness we all know and love.

Hemp, on the other hand, is cultivated for all the other parts of the plant: its fibres are incredibly strong, its seeds are tasty and nutritious, and hemp oil has a number of industrial applications.

Smoking hemp won’t get you high, though: in Canada and many other places, hemp is legally required to have no more than 0.3 per cent THC by weight in its leaves and buds. (You might be interested in reading our interview with the Canadian government scientist whose research helped inform that limit.)

Hemp farmers in Canada will still require a license from the federal government after cannabis legalization. (Associated Press/P. Solomon Banda)

Back to your question, Hempen Hope. As you said, Canadians need a hemp cultivation licence to legally grow industrial hemp right now. Health Canada’s proposed cannabis regulations show the government is planning to continue that practice.

From my reading of that document, you wouldn’t need an industrial hemp licence to deal with certain aspects of the hemp plant, like “non-viable seed(s)” or “mature stalk(s) without any leaf, flower, seed or branch.”

But you’d still need a licence to actually cultivate the full plant from seed to harvest.

The government is planning to ease some of the restrictions on industrial hemp cultivation, however. For example, the proposed regulations would eliminate certain THC testing requirements for hemp seeds from approved hemp cultivars, as well as loosening current security restrictions for cultivators of industrial hemp so that, for example, hemp can “be stored under the same conditions as other agricultural products.”

Last week, Health Canada said Canada’s hemp industry “expressed strong support for the proposed regulatory requirements for licences to cultivate industrial hemp.” (That makes sense to me — incumbent industrial hemp producers already have the licences they need, and the fact that the government plans to maintain some restrictions on hemp cultivation reduces the odds of an enormous influx of new entrants to the hemp market.)

Anyhow, the bottom line is, you’ll still need a government licence to legally cultivate industrial hemp after legalization.

If you really want to cultivate hemp at home after legalization, I suppose you could grow up to four hemp plants instead of drug-type cannabis plants, assuming provincial law allows it. That’s not much hemp, though.

Alternately, you could wait and see how the government’s final regulations on industrial hemp shake out, and then apply for a licence to grow industrial hemp. At the very least, the new regulations might mean the licensing process will be a bit easier than it is right now.

Got a question about cannabis? Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he’ll look into it.  Email or to submit anonymously, fill out the form below. Please include an email address if you’d like to be notified when Herb answers your question:  


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