With Canadian hemp production down, trade group tears into regulators

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Canadian regulators have failed to recommend changes that would start treating hemp as a normal agricultural crop, drawing sharp criticism from the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA), the country’s leading industry group.

CHTA said a review of the Canadian Cannabis Act by an expert committee under Health Canada is lacking because the panel’s mandate was limited to health and crime considerations. The review, which spends most of its 97 pages on marijuana issues, was released late last week.

Health Canada oversees both the marijuana and hemp industries in Canada, with responsibility for all licensing, seed control, THC monitoring and other key matters.

‘Missed opportunity’

“The expert panel’s limited mandate – focusing on public health and safety, protection of youth, access to medical cannabis, and control of organized crime – and its complete lack of agriculture and food expertise was indicated as the reason they did not step up and provide meaningful guidance,” CHTA said in a press release.

The Committee “missed the opportunity to recommend meaningful amendments to the Cannabis Act and Industrial Hemp Regulations,” according to the CHTA.

“The expert committee kicked the hemp ball down the field,” said Clarence Shwaluk, Chairman of the CHTA board of directors. “The government of Canada must fully recognize that hemp is not adult-use cannabis or medical cannabis, and start treating hemp as a normal agricultural crop.”

‘Further review’ recommended

CHTA said the only meaningful provision for hemp in the expert committee’s report is a recommendation that Health Canada, in consultation with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), should establish and support an expert advisory body to conduct a further review of hemp regulations and recommend the most appropriate regulatory framework.

Ted Haney, CHTA President and CEO, said the Alliance “looks forward to engaging senior officials to develop Cannabis Act and Industrial Hemp Regulations amendments that reflect the absence of public health and safety issues related to hemp, and remove obstacles to industry growth.”

“The ball is now squarely in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s and Health Canada’s court,” Haney said.

Hemp below 2017 levels

In its report, the Health Canada experts noted that stakeholders informed them that “the industrial hemp industry in Canada has been negatively impacted by the legalization of cannabis, with less industrial hemp production and sales today than in 2017.”

“They advocated for a new approach to the regulation of industrial hemp that sees it treated as an agricultural commodity, with changes that would increase the maximum allowable limit of THC in industrial hemp and associated derivatives,” according to the report.”

However, the expert panel said, “We did not have an opportunity to delve deeply into the regulation of industrial hemp, but we recognize this is a topic that deserves careful and detailed consideration.”

Changes sought

CHTA gave a laundry list of requested regulatory changes, including:

  • Moving all produce- and processor-facing hemp regulatory oversight and operations from Health Canada to AAFC;
  • Moving the hemp List of Approved Cultivar (LOAC) registration process from Health Canada to the Canadian Seed Growers Association;
  • Replacing expensive and unnecessary THC testing of all hemp food lots with statistically valid sampling for monitoring purposes;
  • Establishing maximum residue levels for hemp flowers and leaves sold to licensed cannabis processors for the purpose of extracting concentrated and isolated cannabinoids;
  • Increasing the maximum allowable THC in the flowers and leaves in hemp inflorescence from 0.3% to 1.0%;
  • Increasing the maximum allowable THC content in hemp foods from 10ppm to 50ppm in hempseed oil and 20 ppm in all other hemp foods;
  • Allowing tissue culture propagation of hemp from LOAC-compliant parent plants;
  • Exempting all hemp products – except for flowers and leaves sold to licensed cannabis processors – from the Cannabis Act.

Clarification needed

CHTA also said several regulatory issues that have arisen from Health Canada’s confusion between adult use/medical Cannabis and hemp need to be clarified, including:

  • That natural background cannabinoid levels in hemp foods are natural constituents, not contaminants, and not restricted by Health Canada’s prescription drug regulations;
  • Hemp-derived products that do not contain concentrated or isolated cannabinoids are not subject to cannabis restrictions –mixing with other food or natural health product ingredients;
  • There are no maximum regulated non-THC cannabinoid concentrations for any hemp-derived product that has not been supplemented with concentrated or isolated cannabinoids;
  • Processed hemp products with detectable levels of non-THC cannabinoids can be sold in domestic and international markets without restriction.

See: Expert Committee’s report; CHTA’s detailed response

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