Thebaine poppies should be legal to grow for narcotics, farmers tell Ottawa

The federal government is being asked to unravel red tape to allow farmers to cultivate a type of poppy that is currently illegal to grow in Canada.

Canada imports $600M of the poppy varietal each year from Australia and Europe

Ottawa is being asked to approve the cultivation of thebaine poppies, shown in this undated handout from API Labs, near Lethbridge, Alta. The thebaine poppies do not have the addictive qualities of opium poppies but can be used in pharmaceutical products. (API Labs)

The federal government is being asked to unravel red tape to allow farmers to cultivate a type of poppy that is currently illegal to grow in Canada.

Thebaine poppies don't have the same narcotic properties as opium poppies and are processed into pain relievers such as morphine, codeine and oxycodone.

Canada imports about $600 million worth of thebaine each year from Australia and Europe as the poppy is not available anywhere in North America.

API Labs of Lethbridge has been doing tests and would like to build a $120-million processing plant.

Supporters suggest thebaine poppy crops could put a lot of green into the pockets of Canadian farmers and manufacturers.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley sent a letter to the federal health minister earlier this year expressing her support.