Health Canada is considering allowing hemp growers to sell the entire plant.
As the federal government prepares for the legalization of recreational marijuana, regulations surrounding hemp production are also set for change. Under the current cannabis regulations, the sale of the leaves and flowers from the plants is prohibited. Hemp seeds have long been used in the production of food, however Health Canada is proposing the entire plant could be sold. The provision would pave the way for medicinal cannabis products.
Dale Risula, provincial special crops specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture, said the proposed changes creates huge interest in the province.
"Currently hemp for the most part is utilized in the areas including food, fiber, feed and they are looking to include hemp in the natural health products," he said.
The compounds in the leaves and flowers can be used to make cannabinoids (CBD), compounds which help provide pain relief and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Risula said researchers at the University of Ontario did a great deal of work looking at the advantages of cannabinoids as a suitable compound for treating people with mental disabilities like schizophrenia.
"What they found is the cannabinoids had no side effects and they really worked well on persons who were experiencing those types of problems," Risula said.
Risula said Saskatchewan is a leader in Canada for seeded hemp. Most of the hemp is grown for food purposes like protein powders or oil for cooking.
"Once this hurdle is cleared and it looks like it will be, that will open up a whole new market to hemp growers allowing them to market their product in a greater area of the world," Risula said.
On Nov. 21, Health Canada launched a public consultation period to gather feedback on the proposed changes.
The public and industry groups have until Jan. 20 to comment.
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell
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