Friday, April 20, 2018

Sorry, Hemp-Based CBD Still Isn’t Legal in Canada

By Andrea Kovarcsik

Most mornings, Lorraine Crawford wakes up with a stiff, painful body. The Toronto resident and fibromyalgia patient relies on cannabis oil to help alleviate her pain. Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue throughout the body. “The combination oil helps me sleep at night,” says Crawford, “and if I wake up stiff, I’ll take the oil in the morning just to help me get through the day.” It also means she can enjoy taking her dogs, Ruby and Luna, for a walk in her Rexdale neighbourhood.
Since her diagnosis in February, Crawford has joined a few fibromyalgia support groups on Facebook. She says that these groups have been helpful, but that they can also become marketplaces for people to tout their wares and spread misinformation. “I don’t like seeing people in pain being taken advantage of,” says Crawford.
One product that can leave many confused is CBD-rich hemp oil, which some sellers allege is legal to produce or import into Canada.

The buzz about CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis, alongside its sibling tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD does not have the same psychoactive properties as THC, but it does have therapeutic analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. The CBD molecule is the same regardless of whether it comes from marijuana or from its botanical cousin, hemp. And this is where the confusion seems to originate. If CBD oil from marijuana is legal by prescription, surely CBD oil from hemp is as well… right?
Under Canada’s Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR), hemp seed oil must contain no more than 10 parts per million THC and no CBD. At the same time, the production of products or derivatives from whole industrial hemp plants, not just the seed, falls under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), not the IHR, or the Narcotic Control Regulations (NCR). And the ACMPR do not include hemp as a source of authorized cannabis products.
“Hemp as a medicine has never been approved in Canada,” says Jennifer-Kelly Larry, president of CBD Strategy Group, a brand strategy firm serving the cannabis industry.
“There are no documents under any of the ACMPR stating that CBD hemp products can be found in legal licensed producers (LPs) and are available for purchase.”
In other words, drugs containing any form of cannabis are currently restricted to prescription-only access, since it is still a controlled substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). However, any legal hemp-based products you might find in a retail store are permitted because they meet government regulations.
So, if you stumble upon a hemp-based product that claims to contain a high amount of CBD, it is either a restricted product that has slipped through the system or doesn’t contain enough CBD for therapeutic value.

Can I import hemp-based CBD from the States?

Another source of confusion is that many American states allow the sale of hemp-based CBD, despite restricting all other forms of cannabis. But just because you can get legal hemp products in the U.S., doesn’t mean you’re allowed to bring them here.
“This is a challenge I imagine many Canadian citizens have because they may come across polished, beautiful websites selling these products,” says Larry. “But until the government passes the Cannabis Act, if individuals choose to purchase hemp products from such websites, they are living in the grey zone.”
Be wary of anyone trying to sell CBD-rich hemp oil, as only hemp seed oil – with less than 0.3 per cent THC and no CBD – is currently authorized for retail sale. If you are researching medical cannabis or already have a prescription, make sure to ask lots of questions.
“I’ve found that ‘snake oil’ sellers usually get really defensive,” says Crawford of the sellers in her Facebook groups. “Two in particular were trying their hands, and now both have been absolutely quiet since they’ve been found out. The more experienced members of these groups will question these sellers immediately, but the sellers won’t answer any specific questions.”
It’s an exciting time for cannabis in Canada, but it’s crucial for individuals seeking cannabis therapy to do their research and talk to licensed professionals. THC and CBD are still controlled substances and can only be procured through a prescription, which must be filled by a licensed producer.

The future of hemp-based CBD in Canada

Hemp is a much richer source of CBD than cannabis, and it makes economic sense to extract CBD from this abundant crop. Currently, Canadian farmers are forced to destroy the leaves and flowers of their hemp plants. But this will all change when the Cannabis Act comes into effect, likely in the late summer or fall of 2018. Once enacted, hemp farmers will be able to sell their crops to licensed producers for CBD extraction.
For consumers like Crawford, regulating both hemp and cannabis-based CBD under the same set of rules will provide some much-needed clarity.
“It’s my hope that younger and older generations can have access to medicines that will allow them to live their lives and not get stuck on the couch from opioid-based medications,” says Crawford. “Cannabis can help a lot of people, the legal way, without them getting duped.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Wilk Bill Streamlines Production of Industrial Hemp in California

Press Release

Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Antelope Valley, announced Tuesday the passage of his Senate Bill 1409 (SB 1409) by the Senate Committee on Agriculture.
The measure updates current law to streamline the production of industrial hemp in California and allow California farmers to grow and produce non-intoxicating hemp for commercial and industrial uses.
“California represents the largest consumer market for hemp materials in the nation and we are currently in position to take advantage of a great opportunity,” said Wilk. “I am proud that today the committee recognized that opportunity and voted accordingly to approve a bill that will allow California farmers the opportunity to diversify their operations, conserve our valuable water resources and create thousands of new jobs.”
Industrial hemp is an agriculture crop that is grown and processed throughout the world for thousands of consumer and food products including alternatives to fossil fuel and wood products.
“California laid the groundwork for an industrial hemp industry when it enacted Senate Bill 566 in 2013 which conditionally approved an industrial hemp pilot program,” said Wilk. “Unfortunately, Proposition 64 essentially undid much of the progress made under previous efforts by in large part failing to differentiate this industrial commodity from its psychoactive counterpart, cannabis.”
Senate Bill 1409 brings California’s hemp laws up-to-date by allowing the pilot program to proceed as intended and by bringing the definition of industrial hemp in line with reality. Wilk added that the federal government has also initiated efforts to bring industrial hemp laws in to the 21st century by removing it from the federal controlled substances list and that measure will compliment his bill if it is successful in congress.
“This bill and the industry it aims to help establish represent a potential boon for California farmers, businesses, residents and for our environment,” said Wilk. “California is prepared for industrial hemp; we have a market for it across our economic sectors, an appetite for it in our farming community and investors ready for the opportunity to support hemp operations that would employ a hungry workforce. It’s time we take advantage.”
SB 1409 is double-referred and will now be heard in the Senate Public Safety committee.

New Belgium’s new hemp beer is on tap now. Except in Kansas. Here’s why.

By Alicia Wallace

Beer aficionados and hemp advocates across the country can now toast a pint of New Belgium’s Hemperor HPA.
Except in Kansas, where the craft brew — like hemp — is banned.
New Belgium announces The Hemperor HPA hemp beer. (photo provided by New Belgium Brewery)
New Belgium announces The Hemperor HPA hemp beer. (photo provided by New Belgium Brewery)
The “hemp pale ale” three years in development blends hemp and hops for an earthy take on the traditional India Pale Ale. It’s available now on draft and will be released nationwide in bottles in late May.
Hemp as a beer ingredient remains largely taboo, as federal guidelines restrict certain parts of the cannabis plant from being used as an ingredient in beer. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the government’s gatekeeper for beer labels and formulations, has final say on any brew that wands to add hemp or its byproducts.
The TTB won’t approve formulas or labels for products that contain controlled substances, said Tom Hogue, the agency’s director of congressional and public affairs. “TTB defers to (the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) in its interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act.”
But Colorado-based New Belgium found a work-around: The Hemperor adds hemp hearts, part of the plant legalized by the 2014 Farm Bill, and is brewed with a proprietary process utilizing compounds from other materials that emulate the aromatic terpenes found in hemp.
The formulation passed the TTB’s test, but the Hemperor’s realm won’t include include Kansas anytime soon.
“Because the beer had a trace of hemp in it, it is not allowed in Kansas, and the registration request was denied pursuant to an opinion issued by the Kansas Attorney General,” said Rachel Whitten, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue.

A natural pairing, denied

Kansas aside, The Hemperor’s coronation has been relatively smooth compared to the roll out of other beers incorporating components of the cannabis plant.
Take the case of Dad & Dude’s Breweria in Aurora, Colo. The brewpub received TTB approval for a beer featuring hemp-derived, CBD-rich extract in June 2016.
But the family-run operation’s grand plans for its General Washington’s Secret Stash came to a screeching halt six months later, when the DEA filed the notice for an impending rule maintaining marijuana, hemp and their derivatives as Schedule I substances.
The TTB deferred to the DEA and revoked its decision on Dad & Dude’s.


The brewpub’s saga was included in the Hemp Industries Association’s challenge of that DEA rule. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard oral arguments in the case in February, and the fate of the federal rule now rests in the hands of a three-judge panel.
“Given the evolution of laws and the broadening of the definition of industrial hemp since then, it would follow logically then that TTB’s policy, too, should evolve accordingly, but is what remains an ongoing issue today,” said attorney Ryan Malkin, who specializes in alcohol and cannabis issues for the Hoban Law Group, the Denver-based firm representing the hemp industry in its case against the DEA.
A number of breweries have contacted Hoban Law to inquire whether they’d be able to legally make a beer using cannabis or its byproducts, according to the firm.
And that’s not just craft operations. Large-scale brewers have also shown interest in making beers with marijuana or hemp byproducts, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, Malkin said via email.
It’s a natural pairing given the similarities between hops and cannabis with respect to flavor and aroma profiles, he said.
“Some brewers have even submitted formulation and label applications to the TTB,” he said.

Beer with a story — and a cause

The Hemperor was conceived over a beer tour.
A couple of plant genetics researchers from Colorado State University were visiting New Belgium’s Fort Collins, Colo., taproom and started chatting up the staff at their hometown brewery.
The university is one of several research institutions delving into the hemp plant, discovering its potential in agriculture and industry, a result of Colorado’s 2013 industrial hemp program and the enactment of the Farm Bill.
As the academics took in the smells and flavors from the hop-laden beers, they spoke of the unique aromas coming out of hops’ biological cousin, recalled Ross Koenigs, New Belgium’s research and development specialist.
He hopped in a car for a whiff of CSU’s hemp greenhouse.
“Sure enough … the smell was absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “It really blew us away.”
New Belgium scoured the state of Colorado’s hemp farms in search of interesting hemp species and a cultivation outfit with enough scale to supply the brewery’s national distribution needs. Koenig found a couple of choice species, brewed up some experiments and then took the formulation to the TTB.
The federal agency deferred to to the DEA, which views cannabis flower and leaf as Schedule I substances, and New Belgium’s application was denied.
“Basically, what we had to do was find a bit of a work-around,” Koenigs said.
New Belgium The Hemperor HPA hemp beer
New Belgium announces The Hemperor HPA hemp beer. (photo provided by New Belgium Brewery)
That work-around involved looping in some buddies in olfactory technologies and learning to emulate the actions of hemp terpenes without actually utilizing the forbidden parts of the plant.
New Belgium is keeping many details of that proprietary process close to its vest, but Koenigs said the Hemperor’s R&D efforts were unlike any beermaking efforts that came before. For instance, the terpene emulation work had to occur off-site, as the federally illicit plant could not be brought onto the brewery’s premises.
New Belgium supplemented the hemp hearts — which added a spiciness — with a combination of hops to generate the green, citrusy vibe and the resinous nose.
“Certainly, we took quite a bit of time just to actually get it right and actually get it to scale,” Koenigs said. “(It was) close to nine months to a year to make sure the brewing technicals were all buttoned up.”
New Belgium did consider adding a “0” to the Hemperor’s April 2 launch, but officials didn’t want to stray too far away from the heart of the issue: using the beer to advocate for the larger cause of hemp.
New Belgium partnered with Hemp 4 Victory and GCH Inc. to help lobby for federal legalization of industrial hemp.
New Belgium is never one to shy away from a cause, and saw an opportunity to use its standing as a powerhouse in craft beer to bring attention to the cause and virtues of hemp agriculture, along with the need to modernize laws that hinder the plants cultivation and uses, Koenigs said.
If those federal laws change — be it via Rep. James Comer’s (R-Ky.) Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) plans for the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 — more New Belgium hemp beers could be on the way — maybe even in Kansas.
“We’re locked, loaded and ready,” Koenigs said. “We just need somebody to tell us we can legally do it.”

U.S. Senate to Introduce the Legalization of Hemp

By Ed Browne

Hemp legalization

Head of the U.S. Senate Mitch McConnell, has today announced that he will be pushing forward a bill to legalize hemp farming on an industrial scale. 
The Hemp Farming Act 2018 will reclassify hemp as an agricultural commodity as opposed to a controlled substance. It will also allow hemp researchers to apply for government grants to fund their work. Up to now, hemp has been lumped together with cannabis, as far as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is concerned. 
According to Sen. McConnell, this is unfortunate given the 25,000 known applications of hemp; none of which involve using it as an illicit substance. In fact, although hemp looks similar to, and is in the same family as, marijuana, it contains a very low amount of the psychoactive component THC. Marijuana can contain 5% to 35% THC, while hemp contains up to 0.3%. This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to ‘get high’ from it. 
However, hemp does contain a high amount of CBD, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and pain-killing properties. This makes it excellent for medical use. In addition, hemp is often farmed for its fiber, can be used to make clothing, shoes, rope, canvas and more. What’s more, when farmed correctly, hemp fiber can be even stronger than steel, which gives it uses in the automotive industry. 
Ryan Quarles, Commissioner of Agriculture in Kentucky, said of the decision: “I want to thank Leader McConnell for introducing this legislation which allows us to harness the economic viability of this crop and presents the best opportunity to put hemp on a path to commercialization.” Kentucky is currently the leading state in terms of hemp production. 
What does this mean for the industry? For one thing, it could lead to a surge in hemp production as proof of hemp’s economic viability becomes more evident. As far as investors are concerned, there is no reason why hemp farming won’t take the stock market by storm in the same way that cannabis has. One thing is for sure, many people stand to benefit from this new bill, and it will be particularly interesting to see what effect it will have on the US economy.  

The Push to Lift the Ban on Industrial Hemp Is Back, With an Unlikely Leader

By Dan Nosowitz

industrial hemp may become legal
The plant just wants to be loved.

The legalization of hemp as a crop may sound minor, even quaintly of the 1990s, in the wake of the massive economic, environmental, and political ramifications of the next farm bill. But it deserves a look.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell last week announced a plan to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity. This brings up several questions. First: Is hemp really still illegal? Second: Mitch McConnell? The Republican from Kentucky? Third: How did the hemp store near my college campus manage to sell all those scratchy hemp sweaters if hemp has been illegal this whole time?
The ban on hemp is not one of the most pressing agricultural topics today compared to the mergers of corporate agribusiness, millions of acres of land destroyed by dicamba, and climate change making New York City palm trees a possibility. But it is one of the absolute silliest, dumbest bans on any product in the United States, and it’s looking very likely that, with unexpected bipartisan support, hemp will be legalized quite soon.

Industrial Hemp: A Quick History

Industrial hemp is one of the many varieties of Cannabis sativa, same as marijuana, though the two plants look (hemp is tall and skinny; marijuana, stocky and short) and behave very differently. If you’re thinking, “Hmm, how different can they be if they’re from the same family?” keep in mind that Brassica oleracea includes kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Yep, all the same species. Hemp is no more similar to marijuana than cauliflower is to kale. While marijuana contains a high amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives user the high associated with the plant, THC levels in hemp are so small they’re almost undetectable; trying to make a drug out of industrial hemp would be like trying to make a poison from lima beans. (Lima beans contain trace amounts of cyanide.)

Industrial hemp is grown for variety of reasons: its stalk is covered in layers of bark that can be used to make textiles, plastics, biofuel, insulation, and other materials. The seeds are nicely nutritious, not incredibly different from sesame seeds or quinoa, and can be pressed into an oil.
The United States has a long history of hemp cultivation, dating back to before we were actually a country. Thomas Jefferson is widely believed to have grown the crop. The entire species, including marijuana, was first federally regulated in 1937 with a tax, though it was lifted during World War II as the government urged farmers to grow “Hemp for Victory,” owing to the fact that military blockades made it hard to get other fibers. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act again placed the entire species of Cannabis sativa in the DEA’s Schedule 1 category.
But even in 1970, legislators realized that Cannabis sativa wasn’t just for getting a buzz, so the Controlled Substances Act included language exempting certain parts of the plant: the stalk, and the seeds, so long as they weren’t capable of sprouting into a plant, were excused even though the plant itself remained banned. In short: It was legal to possess a hemp stalk and process it in any way you wanted, but you couldn’t grow it. This forced anyone wishing to use industrial hemp to import the raw materials (not a cheap option), a factor that stunted the hemp industry.
Hemp declined in popularity over the next couple decades until it was rediscovered as a pretty useful crop in the 1990s. But since it remained illegal, locals manufacturers wishing to use hemp had to import it from Canada and Western Europe, where it was widely grown. “By the late ’90s, we were all frustrated with having to import hemp from other countries,” says Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a nonprofit dedicated to educating and pushing for legalization of industrial hemp.
Fast forward to 2011. A guy named Jamer Comer runs for the position of Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner and his top priority was the legalization of industrial hemp. Comer actually filed a lawsuit against the DEA for trying to confiscate hemp seeds. It seems kind of far-out for a state that doesn’t fit the hippie-revival tone that can be associated with hemp, but running on the hemp platform worked. Comer won. By a lot.

Mitch McConnell Takes Notice

Hemp is a very easy crop to grow, in some ways. It is not particular about climate, it requires zero pesticides, it doesn’t require much water compared to a plant like cotton, and it can grow in all kinds of soil. Kentucky has a nice chunk of fertile soil, but it also has an awful lot of rocky, hilly land where hemp will actually grow just fine. Mitch McConnell, the long-time senator from Kentucky, noticed Comer’s win, and, to his credit, actually took a look at industrial hemp. “He sees that it’s creating jobs in Kentucky, and economic development, and that it’s a good thing for the state,” says Steenstra.
By the time Comer took office, work was underway on what would become the 2014 Farm Bill. McConnell noticed the popularity of the hemp legalization push in his home state, and became an actual force for opening regulation to industrial hemp. The 2014 Farm Bill included, owing largely to McConnell, some new allowances for industrial hemp: it could be grown by universities, state agriculture departments, and states could even initiate pilot programs. It was a foot in the door, and there are now small hemp operations in more than dozen states. As difficult as it can be for any small farmer to get loans for their business, a farmer wishing to grow hemp runs into a brick wall of challenges. Banks don’t want to issue loans to growers of the crop due to its in-between legal status. “The DEA’s stance that this is a controlled substance has led to all sorts of problems, like lack of access to banking, water rights, and property insurance,” says Steenstra.
McConnell’s new bill, which will have bipartisan support from Democrats, would completely exclude hemp from any controlled substance regulation. It would, correctly, insist that hemp is not marijuana.

Who’s Most Against Lifting the Ban on Industrial Hemp Agriculture? Marijuana Growers

A particularly weird thing about the hemp debate is how incredibly un-controversial it is. The DEA opposes it; they won’t confirm this, but it seems likely that their opposition is based mostly on losing funding. Interestingly (especially for anyone who thinks hemp farmers might try to hide marijuana in their fields), it’s marijuana growers who are most against it. Why? Being that marijuana and industrial hemp are the same species, they can cross-breed. But marijuana growers need extremely specific plants (female only, certain breeds), so pollen blowing in from an industrial hemp operation is a threat that could destroy a marijuana grower’s crop.

But on the whole, there’s very little opposition to legalization of hemp. Industrial hemp may not be a world-beater of a crop—as we’ve noted in the past, it removes a lot of nitrogen from the soil, it can be sort of expensive to harvest, and there are more-established and cheaper crops for most of the things you could use hemp for. But still, there is no good reason to ban it. The major player standing in the way of this bill is Chuck Grassley, senator from Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley has given a sort of muddled, not totally factually accurate statement outlining his opposition to industrial hemp; his views include that it is not a viable crop (possibly! But neither is poison ivy, and poison ivy isn’t banned), and that it would be some sort of door-opener to marijuana. “It seems that the main reason hemp is being put forward as a legitimate crop is to promote the legalization of marijuana. That is something I cannot support,” he wrote. He spends the majority of this statement talking about psychoactive marijuana and the dangers of illegal drugs. Grassley is powerful, but very, very few other elected representatives have anything worse than a “who cares?” attitude towards industrial hemp.
“McConnell is in a position to really do something with this, and I think for most members of Congress this is not really a controversial issue,” says Steenstra. “I think we have our best shot yet of trying to get this done.”