Hemp (Cannabis sativa L) has been grown many centuries for the fibre produced in its stems and for hemp seed, a source of vegetable oil.
Hemp and marijuana are the same genus and species (Cannabis sativa). Hemp is the fibre producing strain while marijuana is the narcotic strain of Cannabis.
In all cultivars of marijuana and most cultivars of hemp there’s a drug known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that’s produced by the plant. A THC level of 0.3 per cent has been adopted in Canada as the concentration that separates non-narcotic strains from narcotic strains.
The commercial production of low-THC fibre hemp is permitted in Canada under licenses and permits issued by Health Canada.
Numerous regulations are in place to ensure that growers grow only low-THC hemp. These provisions restrict the sources of hemp seed and require official testing of THC levels.
Industrial hemp is low-THC hemp grown for the strong fibres in the stems, the seeds and the oil in the seeds. Hemp fibre and hemp seed are used in the production of a wide range of goods including food products, personal care products, animal bedding, textiles and structural materials. The fibres of industrial hemp are made up of the bast fibres. They are strong, woody fibres used in the manufacturing of ropes and fabric. The hurds, which are less fibrous, are used in the manufacturing of paper products and composite building materials.
The majority of hemp production is used domestically. Because only small amounts of hemp are traded between countries, world prices are very sensitive to changes in the supply available to the global market.
Hemp markets could benefit from increased consumer demands for biodegradable products, health foods, and “tree free” paper. However, at this time, increased consumer interest in purchasing natural products hasn’t reversed the decline in world production of hemp.
Referenced: Gov’t of Alberta Source: Agdex 153/830-1. Revised June 2000