Recent History – 1999
June 7, 1999
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
After a series of natural disasters nearly devastated the crop last year, the B.C. Grain Producers Association (BCPA) intends to take another run at growing hemp on a trial basis in area fields. BCPA hemp committee chair Brent Washington said Thursday he’s just waiting for government approval to proceed. He expects to be given the go-ahead sometime this month.
A hailstorm, Round-Up chemicals, uneven frosts and a Lygus bug infestation all contributed to almost wiping out last year’s crop. But Washington said there were some encouraging results from what was left intact. In particular, he said seeds were produced and the no-fertilizer transitional organic crop performed well until the time of the hail.
Although largely a duplication of last year’s effort, a few changes are also planned for the coming season.
“There’s going to be a few different varieties but we’ve basically put together a package similar to what we did last year hoping that this year we at least can get a little bit more accurate information from it,” Washington said.
About 60 three-metre-by-nine metre plots (enough to cover about a quarter-acre) will be planted amongst the fields set aside for agricultural trials. Although planting will start relatively late in the growing season, Washington said that may be advantageous. In other areas, where planting began much sooner, crops grew as tall as 15 feet while the one here reached six feet, and so was more easily harvested.
Despite the setbacks, Washington said growing hemp is the easy part — the challenge is developing markets. “As far as potential down the road, it’s not that great because the hemp market is fairly limited,” Washington said, noting that the hemp store in Dawson Creek has closed down.
But he said there are some promising signs such as a company in Ontario that is producing composite materials made out of hemp for vehicles. “So the next car you buy may have a headliner that is partially of hemp, or some of the molded pieces may be of compressed cellulite from hemp,” he said.
Hemp also presents an opportunity to establish a home-grown textile industry and allow Canadians to break away from a dependency on cotton which is not grown in this country. “But we still need to do some more work to get the average person using hemp cloth and hemp paper and similar things,” he said.
As for the tendency to equate hemp with its close-cousin marijuana, Washington said he hasn’t noticed much trouble in that respect. “Yeah, it looks similar, but I don’t hear anybody using marijuana for anything but smoking; hemp can be used for 20,000 different things.”
There is a trace amount of the psychoactive agent THC in hemp but government regulation requires that it amounts to no more than 0.3 per cent. “And our testing last year showed well below that,” Washington said.