“My best advice is walk before you run.”
When it comes to the agricultural hemp, Shaun Crew knows more than most about what it takes to be successful. The president and founder of Hemp Oil Canada, he’s been in the hemp business longer than nearly anyone in his country and he’s seen the many hurdles the industry had to overcome since growing returned to Canada.
While industrial hemp returned to the United States on limited terms in 2014, all Canadians have been allowed to grow hemp since 1998, though the plant remains more restricted than other crops. Today, about 100,000 acres of hemp are grown annually in Canada according to experts we interviewed, and hemp is a well-established industry with government support.
Meanwhile, only about 23,000 acres of hemp were grown in the U.S. in 2017, according to a report by Vote Hemp, and the industry struggles with unclear regulations and occasional threats from government agencies and law enforcement.
Both Canada and the U.S. are at a crossroads when it comes to the cannabis plant. Currently, Congress is considering the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act,” which would allow almost anyone to grow agricultural hemp in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Canada will legalize recreational use of psychoactive cannabis next year, a momentous occasion for those who’d like to see full legalization across North America or even beyond. With hemp legalization on the horizon in the U.S., and even recreational cannabis spreading from state to state, we wondered what our country could learn from Canada, and asked experts from both countries for their thoughts.
Canadian hemp industry faced many obstacles after legalization
Crew is cautious about growing hemp in a new market, because he saw the struggles that the industry underwent during its early days. Crew founded Hemp Oil Canada in 1998, very soon after hemp was legalized but, almost two decades later, few other companies remain from that time. Many farmers, entrepreneurs, and innovators had high hopes for hemp back then, and most of those efforts failed due to a lack of infrastructure and the lack of anywhere to market their wares.
“When I got involved with this we had zero market, zero products and zero processes to make those products,” Crew recalled. “We had to basically invent everything right from the get go.”
Geoff Whaling, chairman of the U.S.-based National Hemp Association, agreed with Crew’s assessment. “They had a lot of literal growing pains in the first years.”
As a dual citizen of both the U.S. and Canada, Whaling is in a unique position to guide hemp growth in the U.S. based on the lessons learned to our north. “We are hoping to avoid those challenges as we move forward here in the United States.”
With hemp legalization on the horizon in the U.S., we researched what we could learn from Canada. Learn more about Hemp in Canada