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Hemp growers still waiting for acceptance

Posted on July 24, 2000

BURFORD, Ontario — Larry Davis doesn’t discourage easily. That’s why he’s still planting hemp, even though he knows he won’t make any money.

“You start with a clean field,” he says, “plant the seed and basically walk away.”

Although the farmers say hemp is incredibly easy to grow they also admit it’s almost impossible to sell. Davis is still storing last year’s crop, just waiting for a buyer. But at least he’s still in the business. More than 200 Canadian farmers have bailed out, just three years after industrial hemp became legal to grow. The number of hectares planted this year fell by more than two-thirds over last year.

The problem is not enough Canadian processors. People like Geof Kime. He turns hemp into fibre for animal bedding, even car parts. He built the business from scratch. He even invented the technology. But before he can buy more hemp from the farmers he needs investors so he can expand. “For them to go to that next level we need to see capital invested into the infrastructure for processing hemp in Canada.”

It’s all part of reviving a dead industry. Until the late 1930s, Canada’s hemp industry was thriving. The crop could make cloth, rope, paper and oil, but all of that ended abruptly in 1938 when hemp was banned as part of the international war on drugs.

It’s the association with marijuana that hemp advocates are still trying to shake. Even though there are no psychoactive ingredients in hemp it looks exactly like its controversial cousin. American farmers are still not allowed to grow it and in Canada police keep a close watch on all hemp operations, and all plants are regularly tested.

But Larry Davis, and many others, still believe in it, and that’s why he’s still growing it. “Other growers are asking me when can I get into it and where can I sell it. And I say “just slow down a minute, we have to get this thing growing first.” It’s just a baby. It’s in its infancy and we have to have a processor in order for this to have some value to it.”

In the meantime Davis is studying the plant and doing his homework, so he’ll be ready to take advantage of the hemp opportunities – when and if they ever come.

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