“I know the government is supposed to be slow, but this is too slow,” Kim Shukla told me over the phone.
A professional agrologist and representative for the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA), Kim told me about how already established commercial farmers bring hemp into their crop rotation.
After ten years of moderate success, the CHTA offered Health Canada suggestions on how to remove bureaucratic redundancy.
But the group found Health Canada’s response not only slow but literally unresponsive.
Since most farmers can continue to grow corn, wheat, canola, or soybeans — the government-added costs to hemp often aren’t worth the trouble.
One issue farmers have are annual criminal record checks for simply farming the commodity.
Another problem is that farms can’t utilize the whole plant. Kim spoke to the missed opportunities in the supply chain.
The third issue was that current THC testing requirements were above and beyond what was necessary.
Kim said that in 1998 when this was all new, it made sense for Health Canada to err on the side caution.
After all, hemp is cannabis, and so Health Canada required farmers to excessively test their crop, despite hemp containing lower amounts of THC.
With over 10 years and no evidence of criminal diversion or threats to public health and safety, these testing requirements were deemed inessential by the industry community.
Farming hemp already included THC testing, Health Canada was demanding it one too many times, and on the farmer’s dime.
These changes have been asked for since 2006, but all requests have been completely ignored.
Kim speculated it might have been the top-down approach of the previous Conservative government.
“Agriculture was not a priority for that government,” she said.
Eventually, in 2013, a committee of red-tape cutters ripped through the bureaucracy, forcing Health Canada’s hand.
So now Health Canada is in the preliminary stages of its regulatory “services” while the hemp industry awaits.
But, as far as any changes the Liberals might get to, “We’re not throwing stones just yet.” Kim understands that streamlining hemp regulation is not a top priority for either Health Canada or Justin Trudeau.
Maintaining that, “Hemp won’t change the face of farming,” Kim hits the nail on the head.
Only individuals decide to introduce hemp into a farm’s crop rotation, and unless there is demand and a rational regulatory process, there will be no incentive to farm hemp.
Diversifying hemp and incorporating it into our daily lives requires more than streamlining current rules, it requires a renaissance in our thinking about markets.