EDMONTON - Canada's small hemp industry is growing like a weed, but still faces some hurdles because of its illegal and potent cousin, marijuana.
This week, farmers, scientists, health food experts, retailers and fashion designers are meeting in Edmonton to celebrate hemp and discuss how to help products derived from the plant to blossom on world markets.
Kim Shukla, executive director of the Canadian Hemp Trading Alliance, says production in this country is forecast to almost double by 2015.
"That will translate to about $100 million to the Canadian economy," she said from her farm near Steinbach, Man. "Saskatchewan is by far the leading province, followed by Manitoba and Alberta."
Both hemp and marijuana stem from the Cannabis sativa plant family, but hemp contains virtually none of the elements of the THC compound found in marijuana that makes people high.
The 200 or so growers across the country are all licensed by Health Canada and can only plant seeds that have been approved by the federal government.
Canadian hemp growers are more interested in filling food bowls than bong bowls.
Hemp is filled with nutritious Omega 3 and 6 and is used to make breakfast cereals, pretzels, protein powders, salad dressings and lactose-free milk.
Fibre from the hardy plant is made into building products, paper and clothes. Hemp oil is used to make cosmetics.
Shukla said Canada's main market for hemp products is the United States, where the federal government has been leery of approving cultivation of the plant because it looks similar to marijuana.
But U.S. officials have no problem with Canadian-grown hemp products. Demand for health food and other products derived from the plant is high.
"Everyone is much more conscious about their health," she said. "That is a market that hasn't even nearly reached what the potential is."
The hemp business is downright respectable in Canada.
Alberta's agriculture minister is to open the convention and trade show today and the federal government plans to make a funding announcement in support of Canada's growers.
Related on HuffPost:
The conservative former Fox News host is known for going on rants, but who would have predicted <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=210" target="_hplink">this tirade</a> against the failure of marijuana prohibition? “I think it's about time we legalize marijuana... We either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars or we legalize it, but this little game we are playing in the middle is not helping us, it is not helping Mexico and it is causing massive violence on our southern border... Fifty percent of the money going to these cartels is coming just from marijuana coming across our border.”
The notoriously cautious former White House chief of staff, who urged President Obama to stay away from polarizing issues and take a middle-of-the-road approach, <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=176" target="_hplink">pushed through</a> a money-saving marijuana decriminalization law after becoming mayor of Chicago. “We have police officers...arresting people for 10 grams, 11 grams, 12 grams. A huge amount of time dedicated to that. Then, they go to court. That means they're not on the street fighting gangs, fighting gun violence... I think [the decriminalization proposal is] a smart change because I want our police officers focused on serious violent crime.”
The Republican governor of Texas and former presidential candidate doesn't fancy himself a fan of marijuana, but does <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=71" target="_hplink">support</a> consistently applying the principles of federalism and states' rights, even when it comes to medical marijuana laws. “[If] you want to go somewhere where you can smoke medicinal weed, then you ought to be able to do that.”
The Majority of Americans
You wouldn't know it from the way so many national politicians act like talking about the marijuana issue is some kind of dangerous "third rail" of politics, but polls from respected firms Gallup and Rasmussen both <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/about.php" target="_hplink">show</a> majority support for legalizing marijuana. Gallup has been polling the marijuana legalization question for 40 years but found majority support for the first time in 2011, with 50 percent of voters in favor and just 46 percent opposed. Rasmussen reports that 56 percent support legalization.
While not a supporter of legalization per se, the Fox News host <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=199" target="_hplink">says</a> he simply doesn't care whether people use marijuana in the privacy of their own homes. This puts some distance between his vision and current law, which allows for police to enter the homes of peaceful marijuana users who don't bother anyone else. These raids, which are sometimes conducted on the wrong houses due to misinformation, often lead to death for people and dogs shot by police. “My philosophy is if you want to smoke marijuana in your basement, I don't care. I'm not going to get a search warrant and kick your door in. I think that's foolish... But...if you get behind the wheel of a car, if you sell the dope to my kid, if my kid sees you smoking...I then will demand that the authorities protect me and my family from you, the marijuana smoker in public. Am I wrong?”
Juan Manuel Santos
The president of Colombia, a country that is one of the U.S.'s most important allies in the "war on drugs," is probably one of the last people you would expect to call the entire global approach to drug control a failure and to support having a conversation about legalization, but that's exactly what he's <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=60" target="_hplink">doing</a>. “A new approach should try and take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking... If that means legalising, and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it.”
The Republican former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate is known for speaking her mind, but did you know that she <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=55" target="_hplink">thinks</a> cops have better things to do than bust people for marijuana? “We need to prioritize our law enforcement efforts, and if somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm, then perhaps there are other things that our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems that we have in society that are appropriate for law enforcement to do.”
Who could be more mainstream than this legendary Grammy Award-winning singer? Following the tragic death of Whitney Houston, Bennett <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=74" target="_hplink">urged</a> the legalization of all drugs -- not just marijuana -- to better protect the health and safety of drug users. “I'd like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs -- so they'll have to get it through a doctor, not just some gangsters that just sell it under the table.”
While many HuffPost readers may disagree vehemently with Koch's politics overall, particularly his support for the Tea Party, you may be surprised to learn that he is a funder of the criminal justice reform group Families Against Mandatory Minimums and that he <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=89" target="_hplink">supports</a> decriminalizing marijuana. “I have friends who smoke pot... It's ridiculous to treat them as criminals.”
Over the years, the Christian televangelist has said some things that many HuffPost readers may find wacky, but his position in <a href="http://marijuanamajority.com/?id=47" target="_hplink">support</a> of marijuana legalization is completely sane. “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I've never used marijuana and I don't intend to, but it's just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn't succeeded.”
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/alanasise/6847095796/" target="_hplink">Flickr: alana sise</a>
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/billward/110338154/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Bill Ward's Brickpile</a>
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gerbache/2260207829/" target="_hplink">Flickr: gerbache</a>
Also legalized possession by non-medical users. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dok1/520845832/" target="_hplink">Flickr: dok1</a>
Legalized for medical use.
District Of Columbia
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigberto/2770838680/" target="_hplink">Flickr: ~MVI~ (off to coron)</a>
Legalized for medical use. Flickr: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dougtone/7749689644/">Doug Kerr</a>
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ricardo_mangual/6006230817/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Ricymar Fine Art Photography</a>
Legalized for medical use. <a href="www.flickr.com/photos/indywriter/2683524563/" target="_hplink">Flickr: indywriter</a>
Passed ballot initiative for legalized medical marijuana in 2012.
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kayoticblue/213316452/" target="_hplink">Flickr: ckay</a>
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/csbarnhill/2633187564/" target="_hplink">Flickr: csbarnhill</a>
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/http2007/4699361533/" target="_hplink">Flickr: http2007</a>
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulflannery/4021996652/" target="_hplink">Flickr: psflannery</a>
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/everyskyline/3134662783/" target="_hplink">Flickr: michaelwhitney</a>
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/d-powell/2099638403/" target="_hplink">Flickr: digging90650</a>
Legalized for medical use. Also decriminalized possession of less than one ounce.
Legalized for medical use. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bryanalexander/6129117/" target="_hplink">Flickr: BryanAlexander</a>
Legalized for medical use. Also legalized possession by non-medical users. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rose_braverman/6924724331/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Rose Braverman</a>