During our time in the CBD industry we’ve seen the hemp vs. cannabis debate become a bit of a hot topic. A lot of the information out there suggests that hemp is unsuitable for CBD extraction, and while that can sometimes be the case, the full story is a bit more complicated. From what we’ve seen, hemp remains one of our industry’s great opportunities. Not only is hemp a cost-effective and sustainable source of high-quality CBD, it’s also a great source for minor cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, and CBC.
The Current State of Hemp
As defined by the Industrial Hemp Regulations, hemp is classified as cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC content. It is regulated differently from cannabis cultivars (containing more than 0.3% THC), which are regulated under the stricter Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations. It’s also important to note that hemp seed oil is not the same as CBD oil. Since the difference between hemp and cannabis is a bit of a larger topic, we’ve previously discussed it more here.
The Industrial Hemp Regulations outline a list of approved hemp cultivars that are allowed to be grown within the country. With the CBD industry being relatively new, most hemp cultivars on this list were bred for things like textiles and therefore low in CBD. For that reason, many CBD producers have found it easier to use high-CBD cultivars that aren’t on that list. While that would be a violation of the Canadian hemp regulations, it’s 100% allowed under a standard cannabis cultivation license. The downside to growing under the cannabis regulations? Cost.
Under the current Health Canada regulations, the difficulty and cost associated with a cannabis cultivation license is much higher than that of a hemp cultivation license. This leads to cannabis-derived CBD products being more expensive than hemp-derived CBD products. However, as the hemp industry matures, we expect hemp-derived CBD to become the industry standard.
Developing Best Practices
Since the Cannabis Act only passed in 2018, learning how to farm high-quality hemp for CBD has proven to be a greater challenge than many had assumed. There’s a lot that the farming community had to learn, and as best practices continue to emerge, quality will continue to improve. For example, while outdoor hemp may be suitable for extraction, it would be hard to find outdoor hemp that you’d want to smoke. To date, the best smokable hemp we’ve seen has been grown indoors, with organic soil, under LED lights.
Despite the hemp industry’s potential, farming hemp is not without its challenges. Hemp is known as a bioaccumulator, which means that it pulls up just about everything from the soil it was planted in. This includes pesticides and heavy metals, which remain two of the most common reasons for why a source of hemp would fail Health Canada’s standards. While this has presented challenges for some, it’s created opportunities for those who have prioritized quality assurance and developing best practices.
That said, this is one of the reasons why we think making certificates of analysis (COAs) available is so important. We think that having transparency into the products we’re buying will encourage a higher standard of product quality within the community of CBD brands and suppliers, ultimately leading to better, safer products.
Since the Cannabis Act passed in 2018, the hemp industry has received its fair share of attention. While the farming of high-CBD hemp has its challenges, the potential of the hemp industry remains significant. The barriers to entry for hemp remain considerably lower than cannabis and the cost of production for outdoor hemp is significantly lower than that of outdoor cannabis. As the industry begins to mature and access to high-CBD genetics becomes more reliable, we expect hemp-derived CBD to become an industry standard.