Botanically, hemp is classified as Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabaceae). Cannabis is a diverse plant species including more than 500 different varieties. Marijuana plants are distant cousins. Under regulations hemp is defined as having less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana is the most common form of cannabis available in the USA and can vary widely in potency from less than 1% to 20%. Because of this low level, hemp is unsuitable for drug and therapeutic purposes. THC is by the plant’s epidermal glands and is not produced in the hemp seed.
While hemp has a reputation for being easy–to–grow, harvesting the taller, high fiber yielding varieties has been challenging for some operators and needs the correct potting soil conditions and fertilizers to grow.
Hemp plants will grow to 2-4 meters tall without branching. Industrially growing Hemp is grown quite different from medical marijuana growing, even though they are both cannabis plants. Hemp plants are cultivated inches apart to produce plants with tall stalks, while pot plants are short and spaced a few feet apart to produce bushy, THC-rich flowers and leaves. Moreover, they are harvested at different times. Those growing Marijuana cull male plants to prevent fertilization of the female plant. Unfertilized females produce more THC, making it attractive as a drug (sinsemilla). In contrast, hemp production typically seeks fertilization to produce seeds.
Hop (Humulus lupulus) is cultivated for its flowers that contain aromatic substances used in the production of beer. Its young shoots are used as vegetable. Different subspecies of hemp (Cannabis sativa) are cultivated for the production of fiber, as a source of cheap oil, for the nutritious seeds, or to produce recreational, sacramental, or medical cannabis.
Both hops and cannabis contain antimicrobial substances. This is why hops extract is used in natural deodorants. Cannabinoids in cannabis are effective at killing MRSA, a drug-resistant bacterium.
Since 1998, Canada has grown industrial hemp for seed and for fiber. Canadian farmers and businesses are interested in the growing business of hemp as it realizes its potential to produce healthy food and environmentally friendly products, including paper, textiles, bio-composites and sustainable building materials.
As a fast–growing annual, hemp is a renewable, reusable and recyclable resource. Changing environmental stigma in the world’s business community is helping to turn these green attributes into a valued quality.
Hemp is Federally Regulated
Canadian Hemp production was officially discontinued in 1938. In 1994, Health Canada began issuing hemp research licenses again. In March 1998, Health Canada allowed commercial production of the crop under a licensing system. In countries where hemp is grown as an agricultural crop, the police have experienced no such burdens. In fact, there are over 30 nations on the planet currently growing industrial hemp. These include Canada, Australia, England, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Russia, and China.
Growing Marijuana is now legal in Washington and Colorado, though it is against federal law. 18 states and DC have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana.
Hemp is classified taxonomically as Cannabis sativa and Canada’s hemp production is regulated by Health Canada. 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.
In regards to fiber, industrial infrastructure to process the fiber is just being established. However, there is no lack of facilities for processing the seed. While fiber hemp has large potential, hemp production to date has 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.