Federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of agriculture concluded their annual conference recently, discussing numerous issues, including the pending legalization of cannabis in Canada.
In addition to cannabis, the meeting, which took place on July 20 and 21, 2017 in St John`s, Newfoundland and Labrador, brought together agricultural ministers to discuss international trade, a new $1.2 billion Strategic Innovation Fund, strengthening Canada's agricultural regulatory framework, fostering indigenous agriculture in Canada, development of a food policy for Canada, and how labour issues are impacting the agricultural sector in Canada.
In regard to cannabis legalization, Ministers are said to have discussed Ottawa's plan to legalize, regulate, and restrict access to cannabis, while identifying considerations for the agriculture sector. While short on details of what exactly was discussed, James Watson, the media relations officer for the public affairs branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, says ministers at the federal, provincial and territorial levels will continue to engage the federal government on the evolution of cannabis legalization, including how it can impact the hemp industry in Canada.
"Development of the legislative and regulatory framework continues and Health Canada, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Justice Canada continue to lead the process at the federal level," Watson told Lift via email. "This includes the development of regulations for cannabis production and industrial hemp. Ongoing FPT engagement is expected to continue throughout the design and implementation of the legalization framework, including further AAFC FPT engagement to occur as the legislative and regulatory process progresses."
Greg Herriott, President of Mettrum Originals (formerly Hempola), who has been growing hemp in Canada since it was first approved in 1997/1998, says he's pleasantly surprised to hear that Agriculture Canada is finally looking at how to manage this crop, which has up to now always been controlled by Health Canada.
"Since day one with industrial hemp," says Herriott "it's always been governed by Health Canada, so Ag Canada coming into the foray and then all of a sudden beginning to talk about provincial and territorial involvement from a regulatory perspective, this is all brand new for hemp.
"It would make so much sense if we could get hemp into Ag Canada and away from the stipulations and strangleholds that Health Canada has on farmers, via licensing, paperwork, etc. So it's surprising, and I think it bodes well. To really grow this crop from an industrial perspective, that is industrial hemp, I think it first of all needs to be under the regulatory framework of Ag Canada vs Health Canada and secondly, make sure that we see some momentum and ultimate resolve in approving hemp as a livestock feed. That will vastly increase the acreage across Canada."
The national acreage of industrial hemp has grown about 25% annually in Canada over the past five years and Canada's hemp seed crop is on track for record harvests this year.
Canada's proposed legal cannabis legislation, the Cannabis Act includes several references to hemp and the streamlining of hemp regulations, including for import and export purposes. What those final regulations will look like is still being debated.
Featured image by Winterforce Media.