Sixty years ago, the federal government outlawed hemp farming and brought to an abrupt end the cultivation of a plant that had been grown in Canada since the arrival of the earliest settlers. A much-employed member of the Cannabis genus, hemp’s only crime was that it closely resembled its mood-altering and lucrative cousin, marijuana.
Marijuana is still illegal, of course, but times have changed, laws have been adapted and growing hemp, Cannabis sativa L., is no longer a criminal act. Last summer, fields across the country yielded the first commercial hemp harvest since 1938. Canada has rejoined the 25 other countries — including France, China and India, all of whom never stopped growing hemp that produce the plant for such diverse products as paper for Bibles, the door lining of luxury cars, fibre for textiles, and nutritious hempseed oil.
In the March/April issue, the story of hemp’s comeback. Writer Phil Jenkins traces its return, from the moment in 1994 when a southern Ontario engineer and a tobacco farmer sowed, in an experimental plot, the first North American hemp in two generations.
Copyright © 1999, Canadian Geographic. All rights reserved.