Island hemp industry growing with legalization of cannabis
Province predicts more jobs and greater opportunity for Island farmers as industry evolves
Some Island hemp producers are cashing in on the legalization of cannabis.
A B.C. company recently announced the purchase of just over 200 hectares (500 acres) of harvested hemp flowers and leaves (chaff) from P.E.I.
Chris Wagner, CEO of Emerald Health Therapeutics, says the transaction was possible because of forward-thinking farmers.
Until recently, it was only legal to harvest, store and sell the seed, fibre and stalk of the hemp plant. The flowers and leaves were not permitted to be harvested or sold, and would go to waste.
"What these farmers did was say 'We're going to take a risk,'" Wagner said.
So we'll be taking that hemp that used to rot in the ground and creating very, very valuable products from it.— Chris Wagner, CEO, Emerald Health Therapeutics
"The farmers said, 'We're going to set up our equipment and set up our facilities so we can harvest and store the flowers.'"
Emerald Health Therapeutics extracts CBD from hemp flowers and leaves. CBD is a compound in marijuana and hemp which does not produce a high or intoxication according to Health Canada.
The company says CBD can help with everything from treating pain and anxiety to helping with sleep.
Health Canada says it is being studied for possible therapeutic purposes.
Using the whole plant
With the new federal policy on cannabis coming into effect and a regulation change by Health Canada allowing the harvest and sale of the entire hemp plant to licensed processors, Island hemp farmers have a chance to get more for their crop.
"They have all this hemp, and we have all the technology to extract the goodness out of it and put it into pills, and we have the ability to sell those in Canada and around the world," said Wagner.
"So we'll be taking that hemp that used to rot in the ground and creating very, very valuable products from it."
Neither Emerald Therapeutics or the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture will divulge the names of the Island companies involved in the transaction.
'Couldn't harvest the entire plant'
Agriculture Minister Robert Henderson said the province worked hard to make sure hemp crops planted in spring wouldn't be wasted come fall — even though legalization wasn't slated until mid-October.
"Back in July it was identified to us, with the legislation not coming into effect until October 17th, it would be a shame for those harvesting in September that they couldn't harvest the entire plant," said Henderson, adding his department brought the issue to federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay.
"So that's when we implemented the changes and now allowed them in September to harvest the whole crop."
On Aug. 10, Health Canada announced a revision to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act which meant harvesting the whole plant was permitted — but it couldn't be sold until Oct. 17.
Henderson credits the farmers for seeing the potential of the hemp industry on P.E.I. — and believes opportunities to expand will continue to emerge now that restrictions around cannabis have changed.
"Obviously it's a bold move by the federal government to pursue this option," said Henderson.
"Now it's a matter of each of the provinces and each individual operator to take advantage of that."