Because hemp is classified taxonomically as Cannabis sativa, Canada’s hemp production is regulated by Health Canada. Producers and manufacturers who want to work with hemp must obtain licenses from Health Canada in Ottawa.
In order to grow hemp or manufacturer hemp products you must have a license. Health Canada's "Industrial Hemp Licensing Application Guide" is located online here.
Producers are only allowed to plant certified seed – there is no “common” seed. All hemp planted must be an approved variety, all of which have less than 0.3% THC in them in field.
It is a requirement of Industrial Hemp Regulations that all commercial hemp crops be planted using only Certified Seed. Seed saving and the use of Common Seed are currently NOT allowed under current regulations. Seed Merchants must provide valid Certified Seed Tags to Farmers: Farmers and Processors must be able to provide valid Certified Seed Tags to Inspectors on request. Keeping good records on seed sure helps protect quality in the hemp industry, acting as a check against the emergence of less than desirable genetic traits, such as THC content, population of males and the protection of valued genetic ones, such as oil, protein, and EFA content.
The Canadian Industry initially grew varieties that were imported and were of European origin. In recent years, Canadian plant breeding programs have developed a number of high yielding cultivars that are suitable and adapted to a wide range of growing conditions.
While hemp has a reputation for being easy–to–grow, harvesting the taller, high fibre yielding varieties has been challenging for some operators. In regards to fibre, industrial infrastructure to process the fibre is just being established. However, there is no lack of facilities for processing the seed. While fibre hemp has large potential, hemp production to date has necessarily been geared on the seed side.
There are no registered pesticides associated with hemp, and the crop can be grown chemical free. The market is very sensitive to this issue. A good part of Canada’s hemp production is Certified Organic. The highest seed yield recorded to date has topped 2000 lbs per acre; an average yield is between 600–800 lbs an acre, but rising. Farmers and researchers are working on optimum crop rotations that would give hemp the best yields and promote healthy soil for the future. Ongoing breeding programs are also working on boosting yields.
This guide provides information on the application process and requirements to obtain an industrial hemp licence from Health Canada under the Cannabis Act and the Industrial Hemp Regulations.
It is strongly advised to apply for licensing at least 3 months prior to planting or beginning any other activities that require licensing.
It is important to note that not every activity that involves industrial hemp falls within the scope of the Industrial Hemp Regulations. A good example is the extraction of CBD or another phytocannabinoid from the flowering heads, leaves, and branches of the plant; this activity falls under the Cannabis Regulations and requires a cannabis processing licence. Therefore, before applying for a licence, the applicant should first determine whether an industrial hemp licence is the appropriate licence for the proposed activities.
Health Canada has issued a Section 56, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act exemption to producers of Industrial Hemp in an effort to simplify the license application process for the 2017 growing season.
On November 21, 2016, Health Canada issued a Section 56 Class Exemption in Relation to the the Industrial Hemp Regulations (Exemption). The Exemption better aligns regulationof industrial hemp with the demonstrated low publichealth and safety risks of the crop. The Exemption is an interim measure to simplify the license applicatoin process as the Government moves forward with its commitment to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.
Please refer to Section 56 Class Exemption in Relation to the Industrial Hemp Regulations for more details, including the terms and conditions of the Exemption.
Click the documents below for detailed information.
Full information about the Hemp Regulations can be found
Health Canada Hemp Office
Industrial Hemp Section
Licences and Permits Division, Office of Controlled Substances
Drug Strategy and Controlled Substances Programme
Healthy Environments and Consumer Ottawa, Ontario
Hemp Office numbers:
Phone: (613) 954–6524
Fax: (613) 941–5360
Field Sampling and Testing is a requirement for some hemp crops. Increasingly, cultivars are being exempted on an annual basis. Please check with Health Canada when applying for your license whether you are required to have your crop sampled and tested.
Contracts and Marketing: For best results, growers are advised to seek a production contract. CHTA also maintains a list of surplus grain for new buyers.
There is great interest nationally in fibre uses. However fibre production opportunities are closely tied to processing capabilities which are very limited. Interesting markets under development include non wovens, composites, building materials, animal bedding, pulp and paper products. Textiles represents a technically challenging scenario ˜ but thanks to R&D, “Dirt to Shirt” production in Canada may soon emerge as an opportunity.
A rising demand for alternatives to wood and synthetic fibres, as well as high costs of petroleum products, points towards hemp’s future potential in a variety of industries and applications.
Each plant is made up of approximately 30% bast fibre, 60% hurd, and 10% chaff.
Fibre production includes unique challenges and processes. Some of these include:
Retting is the process of separating hemp’s outer bast and core fibres. As a form of controlled biological decomposition, retting is a hands-on process that involves leaving swathed fibre in the field, which is then turned to advance the even decomposition of fibre. Retting weakens the chemical bonds of the fibre allowing decortication. Enzyme based and water retting are two others methods that have been used. Poor retting can impact fibre quality and fibre yield and is a challenge for new growers.
Good quality decortication is a challenging process and research is ongoing into machinery and other methods to reduce the cost of this traditionally mechanical process. Steam explosion, detergents, force methods and ultrasound are other possible methods for decortication. The quality of fibre separation determines what markets can be entered. The principle manufacturers of decortication lines are located in Europe.
Not all fibre is created equal. End users require fibre to meet specific parameters in order to be usable. Examples include fibre length, cleanliness and modulus. There are currently no uniform sector standards, so in practice, fibre standards are developed between processor and end user.
Hemp bales are bulky in volume. As a result of their bulk, transportation distance from field to processor are limited by economics and economically, can only be transported a limited distance from field and factory.
Collection, transport and storage of fibre can greatly affect fibre quality and final yield at plant. Hemp processing plants must also evaluate the land base they are drawing their fibre from.
Which fibre ?
As has been said, hemp has two kinds of fibre, bast and core, which are used in very different applications. Generally speaking, the inner, wood–like core fibres go to “low end” uses, such as bedding and hemp concrete while the outer bast fibres go to more demanding, better paying and demanding technical markets. One economic analysis of hemp industry fibre development is that both kinds of fibres must be produced and sold in parallel ˜ therefore growth of low end markets, must proceed in pace with the development of higher end markets.
At current levels of production, hemp fibre cannot economically compete with other waste fibres, such as straw or wood, to create certain products, such as biofuels and fiberboard. Rather, hemp’s value will likely be recognized first in technical products that demand specific fibre quality, such as replacing fiberglass in modern manufacturing.
The best fibre quality comes from hemp that has been produced as dedicated fibre and not allowed to produce seed. So–called dual use hemp crops, involving both fibre and grain harvested from the same crop, may be an attractive scenario for hemp oilseed/grain producers, but is should be recognized that the higher end fibre markets may be closed to them.
Valuation of hemp fibre can range between 50$ to 500$ and up a ton, depending on quality.
One of the challenges of the modern hemp industry is that because of prohibition, hemp was deprived of capital and time needed to develop the infrastructure to process the harvested raw material into usable raw material. Compared to other resources, we are playing catch up.
Harvested hemp seed is referred to as “grain” to differentiate from Certified Seed (for planting) and consumer ready processed seed. Marketing unprocessed hemp seed or grain is not allowed as per regulations. All grain must be rendered non viable in some way before it enters the consumer marketplace.
Note that latitude is a factor that will influence attributes of seed. Some field research has indicated that hemp seed grown at higher latitudes will have a higher Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) content as well has a tendency to have lower THC levels. This is because hemp is a daylight sensitive plant.
Under Canadian regulations, finished food products must contain less than 10 parts per million of THC. This is held as a safe and generally undetectable amount. However, market considerations may require even more strenuous reductions in THC content.
Seefor more information. Breeding programs and improved cleaning regimens will also reduce THC levels.
Hemp seed has a thin shell and must be handled with care, in harvest, transport and storage. Cracking the seed shell will turn the valuable oils rancid and inedible. Similarly, any processed oil is bottled and capped with nitrogen to avoid rancidification. Processors, marketers and retailers must pay attention to shelf life and stability and have accurate best–before dates.
Do note that prices for grain fluctuate. As of time of writing (winter 2007–08) conventional hemp seed was selling for between 0.45–0.60 cents a lb/FOB cleaner. Certified Organic seed was selling for 0.85 cents a lb/FOB cleaner.
Because of Essential Fatty Acids, sterols, tocopherols, proteins, dietary fibre, micronutrients and other elements that are beneficial to human health, hemp seed and hemp seed derivatives have very attractive marketing benefits in the modern marketplace.
Canadian food labeling regulations are changing and for the better. Processors and Marketers are advised to keep abreast of, and the developing .
Each of these schemes allow for different kinds of content and health claims.
Other forms of voluntary labeling may be desirable such as Certified Organic and Kosher Parve. Canada is developing acurrently most Certifiers active in Canada also certify to the .
As a new crop, hemp markets are under constant development. It is reasonable to assume that any new crop can take 15–50 years for market to develop.
Currently, the principal hemp markets are for hemp seed. Hemp seed attracts commercial interest because of high protein and excellent Essential Fatty Acid profile. Most Hemp seed whether in seed, oil, flour/powder or and in finished foods goes into the health food and nutraceutical sectors. There is also a growing market in cosmetics and bodycare products for hemp oil.
Hemp is following the international growth trend for Certified Organic products.
There is a low paying birdseed market but there is also marked competition from overseas sources and alternatives to hemp seed. The potential for domestic pet/vet markets is very promising; as well, the potential for feed cattle, poultry, and fish is significant. Hemp is not yet approved as a commercial feed under domestic feed regulations.
Currently, much of the hemp market is in the USA. As the US does not permit hemp farming, there is a large captive market for Canadian production south of the border. Coupled with strong future in the US, there is a growing market at home in Canada. Awareness about hemp is rising, because hemp is used in many quality products and helps contribute to the health of people, farms and communities. Some companies active in the sector have reported a 20–40% growth of businesses over the past few years. Retail sales of all Canadian–derived hemp seed products are now estimated to be as high as $20–$40 million USD annually.
So where are the Hemp (Seed) Markets? Health foods, Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals; Ingredients; Natural Body Care and Cosmetics, Birdseed and Pet/Vet markets.