After a 60-year ban on the production of Cannabis sativa, Canada launched its hemp industry in 1998, when Health Canada, the government department responsible for public health, licensed commercial production.
Growers now have more than 60,000 acres in production, according to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance.
Farmers are required to use certified seed, and seed saving is not allowed. The country's plant-breeding program developed high-yielding varieties for different growing conditions and uses. About 500 varieties are available.
Growers have found the crop needs 12 to 15 inches of rain or irrigation. It is drought-resistant after six weeks, but its mass is reduced. Also some high-fiber varieties, which can grow up to 16 feet tall, pose challenges in harvesting.
Advantages that growers have found in the plant: It bonds heavy metals in soil, its deep taproot provides soil aeration following shallow-rooted row crops, and it works well as a green manure crop.
On its website, the Canada Hemp Trade Alliance described some of the uses of hemp:
* Food: Lactose-free "milk," salad dressing, protein powder, dips and nutrient bars.
* Feed: Supplements for cows, horses and chickens.
* Clothing: Often blended with cotton or linen for stretch and softness.
* Cosmetics: Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bath and massage oil, moisturizing cream, lip balm, soap (both bar and liquid).
* Industrial: Molded composites for car parts and construction materials, carpet, erosion control blankets, composite reinforcements and fillers, hempcrete (alternative to concrete), fiberboard, insulation, recyclable paper, biomass as alternative fuel.
-- Steve Brown