Canadian farmers, retailers, clothing manufacturers, business people, union
officials, and environmentalists have a new reason to look forward to the
passing of the millennium: it looks like the federal government won’t get
around to lifting the ban on commercial hemp until sometime around the
Since the Liberals green-lighted experimental hemp culivation in 1994,
a tiny handful of farmers have received licences from Health Canada to
grow the crop, but for research purposes only. Last year, eight grow permits
were given out, and a total of 36 acres of hemp were raised ? none
of which went towards commercial use.?
The government’s insistence on only giving licences for research remains
a major frustration for hemp activists and farmers, eager to reactivate
Canada’s once thriving commercial hemp industry, which was closed down
by federal fiat in 1938 after the passage of the Opium and Narcotics Control
Act. Still, the fact the Liberals are now willing to consider legal commercial
hemp production, after decades of government indifference to the idea,
is grounds for cautious optimism among Canadian hempsters.?
The Secret Committee?
The Grits have formed a government “hemp team” charged with sorting out
regulatory policies for the possible relegalization of commercial hemp.
The team consists of Jean Peart, hemp spokesperson for Health Canada, unnamed
officials from the ministries of Justice and Agriculture, the RCMP and
industry figures. Exactly who these people are is apparently a government
Peart has refused to give out the names of anyone on the committee, claiming
that doing so would result in their being unduly harassed by the public.
Faceless bureaucrats indeed. She explained that she would forward all information
and contacts to the other committee members, but that she was also “very
hard to get a hold of.”?
Ruth Shamai, owner of the Natural Order environmental store and the only
person in North America to receive state funding for hemp research, has
been invited to meet with the federal “hemp team” in March for discussions.?
Shamai says Peart indicated to her in previous convervations that commercial
hemp licences won’t be given out until at least 1999, if not later. Peart,
who recently appeared at the Vancouver Hemp Symposium, has been tight-lipped
about specific government plans concerning hemp.?
“Peart couldn’t give me a date when C-8 (the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act) would be proclaimed,” notes Shamai. “This seemed a little weird…the
government’s dragging its feet on this.”?
C-8, which passed
the House of Commons June 20, 1996, legalizes the sale of hemp stalk and
fibre. Until C-8 is put into force, hemp clothes and products remain technically
Shamai has heard reports that the Liberals are considering adding rules
to C-8 that would eventually allow commercial hemp to be grown. According
to Shamai, the government is not planning on moving hemp licensing to Agriculture
Canada ? a long standing demand of hemp activists ? because
such a move would entail changing the Act itself.?
Not surprisingly, Peart could not be reached for comment.
Auto Workers for
While the mysterious federal “hemp team” ponders the government’s next
move, pressure to loosen regulations on commercial hemp continues to build.?
The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), at the urging of union president Buzz
Hargrove, have come out strongly in favour of legalizing commercial hemp.
The CAW’s interest in hemp was sparked by a desire to create new jobs and
a healthier environment for industrial workers.?
“The automotive industry is very concerned about (cancer causing) chemicals,”
states Mark Parent, of the Windsor, Ontario CAW Environmental Council.?
For good reason,
Prior to World War Two, about one in 25 annual deaths in Canada could be
attributed to cancer. Today, roughly one out every three people get some
form of cancer in their lives, a statistic Parent attributes to, among
other things, an industry switch-over to a fossil-fuel based economy. Hemp-based
lubricants, and even car parts, would be considerably safer to handle than
chemicals based on fossil fuels, he explains.?
A CAW petition of 10,000 names supporting legal hemp was presented to the
House of Commons last year by Susan Whelan, daughter of former Minister
of Agriculture, Eugene Whelan.?
The CAW has received letters of support from luminaries such as Farley
Mowat and David Suzuki, as well as cross-board support from “MPs, MPPs
and private and public sector unions,” states Parent.?
Parent, who says the response to the CAW’s hemp campaign has been almost
entirely positive, has been asked by union officials to contact his American
counterparts in the United Auto Workers union. This would be a timely move
as the US seems to have finally caught on to the potential of hemp.?
This February, a government panel in Colorado voted in favour of a measure
allowing that state to grow an experimental patch of industrial hemp. Three
other states – Missouri, Hawaii and Vermont – introduced similar hemp legislation
in 1996. Hemp bills are also expected to be introduced in Illinois, Iowa,
Kentucky, Oregon, South Dakota and Wisconsin this year.?
Canadian hemp activists note with some pride that the recent flurry of
hemp legislation in the US occurred only after Canada took the first step
in allowing industrial hemp to be grown again.?
“Canada has been the United States’ testing ground for hemp,” states Martin
Moravcik, a Manitoba hemp entrepreneur who grew a research hemp crop last
Canadian hemp activists hope that Canada will maintain our slender lead
over the United States. Like two turtles in a race for salvation, Canada
and the US are striding towards hemp at a snail’s pace. Canada is posied
to become the first of the two nations to relegalize commercial hemp, something
that will likely happen at the end of this century or early in the next.?
For more info…?
? Jean Peart
of Health Canada can be reached by phone at (613) 954-6524;?
fax (613) 952-7738;