For more than 20 years, Canada’s hemp farmers have been seeding and harvesting a crop that has grown to become, by some reports, the second largest of its kind in the world. Canadian hemp production is primarily for food and industrial use. But things are changing …
New hemp regulations in Canada have recently made it easier for hemp farmers to unlock the potential of their crop to grow a new medicinal opportunity: CBD.
Hemp farmers, a new breed, are imbued with a sense of passion, purpose, and love.
Frances “Franny” Tacy is all about the love. She’s your cool cousin who does quirky things on that farm outside of town—you know, the place with “LOVE” painted on the rustic barn that hosts baby goat yoga. Tacy is a former pharmaceutical exec (known then as “the hippie in high heels”) who turned rogue. She’s also working with The Utopian Seed Project to reintroduce native crops that bring back heritage strains of everything from okra to beans.
In 2017, she started growing hemp on Franny’s Farm, a 33-acre labour of love. Today, she says
“Our farm is this incubator for ideas that come to fruition that have never been done before.”
When Tacy switched gears in her career, from pharma to farm, she already had a farm in an area renowned as being one of the most biologically diverse in the country. So, reasoned Tacy, why not make deep ecological <and> social vitality possible by revitalizing agriculture? Why shouldn’t hemp be the vessel through which community health would meet planetary health?
“It’s why I’m so in love with this plant,” Tacy enthuses. “Hemp fits the model … of sustainability and regenerative agriculture. It’s the only plant that we know of that can feed, clothe, shelter, and provide medicine.”
Tacy sees the big picture. Every hemp farmer I’ve talked with is like that. A certain esprit de corps. A definitive vision of a world filled with better alternatives.
Frederick Cawthon ditched his corporate management career but still wields his MBA like the whip of a lion tamer. He’s enticed investors, built a team of veteran growers, and employs dozens of farm workers to work his 85-acre hemp farm.
Michael Bowman also fills a dual role as farmer and advocate. He planted his first hemp field in 2014 and quickly became an activist. Inside the corridors of power, he was dubbed “Mr. Hemp.”
Bowman says seed and chemical companies drive most decisions for corn and soybean farmers—what to plant; when to apply chemicals; where to deliver harvested crops.
“What is magic about this plant,” he says, “is it opens the right side of your brain. You start thinking about all the things you could do with it. You look at all the interesting products and great labels. People really feel more in charge, feel like they really can create with this plant. There’s very little option to do that within the traditional agriculture world.”
Bowman’s son graduated from an agricultural school but didn’t hear the siren song of returning to the family farm—until Dad planted hemp.
“We’ve got to reinvent ourselves again in these rural areas,” says Bowman. “This is one way we can do it.”
Upstream, hemp farmers see the potential of hemp to nourish people, maintain family farms, and revitalize rural communities. Downstream, they see hemp’s capacity to disrupt every industry that builds everything in your house right now—from building materials and plastics to fuel and medicine. It’s all possible, and it all starts with their work. Their love.
“The feeling that you get out there brings me back to my childhood; it’s like being one with nature,” says Cawthon of the times when he gets out in the fields. “There’s a blessing in that silence, because you can think out there—and when you have your hands working on something, there’s a peace that comes from that.”
C of A: radical transparency for CBD
A hemp CBD product might have a QR code on the label (or otherwise on its website) directing you to analytical test results showcasing quality—aka a certificate of analysis.
We spoke with Holly Johnson, PhD, a pharmacognosist with more than 20 years of experience, to get the inside scoop on how to interpret a certificate of analysis. (Call it a “C of A” if you want to use insider lingo.) These are her top tips.
- Check the date—is the report specific to the bottle in your hand or just an example of the types of testing the company generally performs?
- Look for “total THC” levels (also sometimes called “max THC” or “potential THC”)—this should be below 0.3 percent.
- Beware of “THC free” or “zero THC” claims. Such claims mean the THC levels are too low to be detected in these tests, but this does not mean a drug test might not pick up any THC.
- Look for very little CBDA. CBDA can convert to CBD, but you want true, not potential, CBD.
While there’s some debate over these terms, in general, a broad-spectrum hemp extract has been processed to remove the THC, so there’s less than 0.01 percent THC in the finished product. In a full-spectrum extract hemp extract, none of the compounds have been completely removed.
Basically, a full-spectrum hemp extract will likely house a bit more THC than a broad-spectrum one, but both will be under the legal threshold of 0.3 percent THC, and both will contain CBD. The more important difference? A full-spectrum hemp extract will have <all> of the cannabinoids and all the aromatic terpenes in hemp, not just the select few present in broad-spectrum extracts. That’s because a full-spectrum hemp extract must “emulate the plant it came from, including all phytochemicals,” says Tim Gordon, board member of the Hemp Industries Association.
Ethan Russo, MD, a leading CBD researcher, has posited that full-spectrum hemp is more potent as “a phytochemical factory” and thus has higher therapeutic value thanks to what has been called the “entourage effect.”