Industrial Hemp Cannabis Sativa

Industrial Hemp Cannabis Sativa

Canadian Drug Act decriminalizing

The passage of Bill C-8 in June 1996, resulted in the modification of the Canadian Drug Act decriminalizing the low () 9 tetrahydrocannabinol) ) 9 THC Cannabis, industrial hemp. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) came into force on May 14, 1997, replacing the Narcotic Control Act and Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act and was published on March 12, 1998 (Health Canada 1998) to permit the commercial cultivation of industrial hemp in Canada. This put into place the appropriate regulations for commercial industrial hemp production for fiber and grain in Canada for prospective growers, researchers and processors. Thus, in 1998, industrial hemp was again legally grown under the new regulations as a commercial crop in Canada. These regulations allow for the controlled production, sale, movement, processing, exporting and importing of industrial hemp and hemp products that conform to conditions imposed by the regulations. The harvested hemp straw (free from foliage) is no considered a controlled substance. However, any harvested industrial hemp grain is considered a controlled substance until denatured. Therefore appropriate licenses must be obtained from Health Canada for purchase/movement of any viable seed, commercial field production (over 4 hectares), research and processing of viable grain. Any food products processed from industrial hemp seed must not exceed 10 ppm of delta 9 THC.

Health Canada is preparing a new draft for the review of the existing Industrial Hemp Regulations (Health Canada, 2001). To date, this has not occurred. Speculations about new proposed regulation changes include clauses about volunteers, the status and disposal of “hemp dust”, and a new, lower level of allowable delta 9 THC in hemp grain and derivatives. Health Canada is also anticipated in making changes to food labeling laws, all of which will have some positive impact on the marketing of industrial hemp. To date, only the state of Hawaii has had licensed research activities in the United States and no other legal research or production exists in any other US states due to opposition by the federal government.

As of January 1, 2000, all seed planted for the production of industrial hemp in Canada must be of pedigreed status (certified, or better). This means that seed can no longer be imported from countries that are not members of one of the Seed Certification Schemes of which Canada is a member. Canada is a member of two schemes; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and the Development Seed Scheme administered by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies. Most of the seed of approved hemp fiber and seed varieties to be cultivated in Canada is of European varieties and is still produced in Europe requiring importation. Several European varieties have been licensed for seed production under private contracts in Canada. The first registered and licensed monoecious early grain variety (ANKA), bred and developed in Canada by Industrial Hemp Seed Development Company was commercially produced in Kent County, Ontario, in 1999. Certified seed availability of Health Canada approved varieties is published by Health Canada each year. Hence seed cost and availability will continue to be a major production cost (about 25-30%) until a viable industrial hemp certified seed production industry is established in Canada. At this time the following are Canadian bred, registered and certified varieties sold in Canada: ANKA (monoecious/dual purpose), Carmen (dioecious/fiber), Crag (dioecious/grain) and ESTA-1 (dioecious/grain).

THC Management

The Cannabis genus is the only known planet in the plant kingdom that produces Cannabinoids. The produced resin (psychoactive) is characterized in North America as marijuana. The Spanish introduced marijuana into the Americas in the 16th century. The well-known term, “marijuana”, originated from the amalgamation of two Spanish abbreviations: “Rosa-Mari-a” and “Juan-IT-a”; frequent users of the plant at that time. By assimilation, the name “marijuana” in North America refers to any part of the Cannabis plant or extract therefrom, considered inducing a psychic reaction in humans. Unfortunately the reference to “marijuana” frequently erroneously includes industrial hemp. The dried resinous exudate of Cannabis inflorescence is called “hashish”. The highest glandular resin exudation occurs during flowering.

Small and Cronquist (1976), split the classification of Cannabis sativa into two subspecies: C. Sativa subsp. sativa and C. Sativa subsp. indica (Lam.) E. Small & Cronq. on the basis of less and greater than 0.3% (dry weight) of delta 9 THC in the upper (reproductive) part of the plant respectively. This classification has since been adopted in the European Community, Canada, and parts of Australia as the dividing line between cultivars that can be legally cultivated under license and forms that are considered to have too high a delta 9 THC drug potential.

Only cultivars with 0.3% delta 9 THC levels or less are approved for production in Canada. A list of approved cultivars (not based on agricultural merits but merely on the basis of meeting delta 9 THC criteria) is published annually by Health Canada). A Canadian industrial hemp regulation system (see ‘Industrial Hemp Technical Manual’, Health Canada 1998) of rigidly monitoring the delta 9 THC content of commercial industrial hemp within the growing season has restricted hemp cultivation to cultivars that consistently maintain delta 9 THC levels below 0.3% in the plants and plant parts.

Environmental effects (soil characteristics, latitude, fertility, and climatic stresses) have been demonstrated to affect delta 9 THC levels including seasonal and diurnal variations (Scheifele et al.1999; Scheifele and Dragla 2000; Small 1979, Pate 1998b). The range of delta 9 THC levels within low-delta 9 THC cultivars (< or = 0.3%) under different environmental effects is relatively limited by the inherent genetic stability (Scheifele et al. 1999; Scheifele & Dragla 2000). A few cultivars have been eliminated from the “Approved Health Canada” list because they have on occasion been identified to exceed the 0.3% level (Kompolti, Secuieni, Irene, Fedora 19, Futura) and Finola (FIN 314) and Uniko B are presently under probation because of detected elevated levels. Most of the “Approved Cultivars” have maintained relatively consistent low levels of delta 9 THC.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

Hemp vs. Marijuana: Joseph W. Hickey, Sr., executive director of the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association, is quoted: “Calling hemp and marijuana the same thing is like calling a rottweiler a poodle. They may both be dogs, but they just aren’t the same”. Health Canada’s fact sheet on Regulations for the Commercial Cultivation of Industrial Hemp states: “Hemp usually refers to varieties of the Cannabis sativa L. plant that have a low content of delta-9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and that is generally cultivated for fiber. Industrial hemp should not be confused with varieties of Cannabis with a high content of THC, which are referred to as marijuana”. The leaves of industrial hemp and marijuana look similar but hemp can be readily distinguished from marijuana from a distance. The cultivation of marijuana consists of one to two plants per square meter and industrial hemp is cultivated in stands of 100 to 250 plants per square meter and plant characteristics are quite distinctively different (due to selective breeding). The established limits for THC content in the inflorescence of industrial hemp at time of mid pollen shedding are 0.3% (less than 1%) whereas levels of THC in marijuana are in the 10 to 20% range.

Present industrial hemp breeding programs apply strict screening at the early generation breeding level selecting only genotypes with less than 0.3% THC and then select for high fiber, stalk, grain quality, and yield

It is impossible to “get high” on hemp. Hemp should never be confused with marijuana and the genetics for THC and Cannabinoid levels in hemp cannot be reversed even though over several generations of multiplication will creep into higher levels by several percentages, but never into marijuana levels. Feral hemp in Ontario, which has been under self-propagation for 100 years or more has been tested (Baker 2003).

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