News Source: Lower Island News, edition-October/November 2009
WILL A HEMP-TEXTILE ECONOMY EVER BE ON THE HORIZON IN BC's ECONOMIC FUTURE?
Independent Journalist Diane Walsh sits down with local businessman Bill Findley, owner and operator of the clothing store, Hemp and Company, located at Fort and Government, to learn more about an initiative that’s been currently underway in the city of Victoria and, beyond. Promoting the viability of the popular public discussion “What could be the merits of a textile-hemp-economy developing in BC” Mr. Findley explains once again [to his avid listeners] the ins and outs of the concept.
But - this time - the message is louder and clearer with added sanction of local politicians and wide-ranging community supporters.
To be sure this is not just talk.
It’s a turn-of-events that has the said aim to advance the conversation to: committee form.
This initiative, which is primarily in dialogue-stage, is intent on increasing a grassroots, broadly “NDP-leaning” supported action - with an aim - to commit and realistically research new economic ideas for the province of British Columbia. [NDP = New Democratic Party].
And, thus rekindling the base on the left.
Of course it would make sense that this momentum would be in solidarity with and be respecting of the efforts of LEAP. As well as being in line with the stated NDP position on the decriminalization of marijuana.
www.leap.cc: is the accessible on-line activist group defining itself as “current and former members of law enforcement who support drug regulation rather than prohibition”.
Yet at the same time the discussion can be quite separate from these other components. Hemp-made clothing and other hemp products such as moisturizer lotions or oils will not harm your children, attract the police or alter your state of mind. Purchasing clothing made from hemp is entirely unrelated to marijuana drug use. Hemp products are legal to sell in Canada. There are a number of stores in Victoria lawfully retailing hemp-made products.
So let’s hear from Bill Findley of Hemp &Company Store giving readers a snapshot of what may be on the horizon: a real and radicalized change in thinking - more constructively - about British Columbia’s ‘potential’ as a manufacturing Hemp-Textile Economy.
Is this one of its true economic options?
Lower Island News: What steps have to happen before you and/or other Canadians could consider 'setting up' a hemp plantation in BC? Specifically, what are the rules at the moment governing growing Hemp for use in textiles and cosmetics?
Bill Findley: at present it is possible to farm industrial hemp in Canada, but one needs a license from the Federal Government and must plant a minimum of ten acres. Under the current Health Canada regulations, all persons dealing with industrial hemp must be licensed. This can involve a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork including a criminal check.
Hemp farmers are required to hire a provincially designated professional to do field sampling and THC testing before harvesting.
For more details go to http://www.gov.mb.ca/index.html
LIN: What are the obstacles or stumbling blocks from your perspective?
Political will is absent. H&C presented a petition in Parliament via Denise Savoie in 2008 advocating for the setting up of a hemp manufacturing plant. In further discussions with Denise she said that MP's are not interested because they think it supports drugs. In other words, they are not educated on the thousand uses of this marvelous plant.
LIN: Where do Canadian businesses currently get their Hemp product(s)? Interesting fodder for future discussion may be, where the plant (for textile-use) is being currently grown, and where, for example, does the fabric have to travel in order to eventually get to Canada. Only to be sold be sold here at a premium!
But for now, please draw a picture for us of how things are now and how they could be different, i.e. better for Canada and our home economy (I mentioned clothing previously, but the market could also include other hemp products as well such as creams and lotions which already sell enormously well in BC.
I know because, I buy them, and I see the stock is very limited and often needs replenishing. Not too mention that it’s rather expensive (and not unlike buying organic food products - in this interim stage – in the change-over to better farming practices as a whole society).
BF: The current growing of industrial hemp in Canada dates back to 1998 only. The manufacturing of textiles from this plant is limited in Canada because we do not have manufacturing capacity. So 90% of hemp textiles come from China (no stoppage of using it for 2,500 years!) and the other 10% from Romania and Poland and other eastern European nations.
In Canada, hemp seeds are widely available and when hulled are sold for food. They are high in protein and omega 3, 6 and 9 - so are very desirable for nutrition. The seeds crushed into oils are also used for foods but also for body care products (soaps, creams, shampoos - the same omega content make them ideal for skin care.
In the future, the development of manufacturing to turn the stock of the plant into fibre would ease the necessity of bringing the fabric from overseas. It would create not only farming jobs but also manufacturing and garment creation jobs. Much better for our local economy.
LIN: Why it is the way it is now? i.e. BC being void of textile hemp plantations. Is it due to political forces/economic factors? Lack of information? Stigma?
BF: I would say that the stigma attached to hemp has kept the politicians from getting behind this potential economic boon. Money spent currently on "infrastructure" by the federal government could go a long way to providing jobs in farming and manufacturing on a permanent basis.
LIN: Who are the key activists groups in Victoria?
For the use of industrial hemp the activist groups are the clothing designers who are opting for using hemp in their production, the soap and body care producers who use hemp and the retail stores who sell these products. In Victoria, the best selection are the group of retailers who jointly advertise as The Green Collective www.greencollective.ca It is a group of 12 locally owned shops with environmental concerns as part of their business ethic.
(a) For marijuana usage the activists are Hempology 101 www.hempology.ca
(b) and Philippe Lucas' group The Vancouver Island Compassion Society www.thevics.com. [For those who don’t know] Philippe is a Green Party member and currently a councillor for the City of Victoria.
LIN: What is the link between the people fighting to Decrim MJ (marijuana) and the people advocating for a reasoned and legitimate “Hemp Textile Economy in BC” - one day in the future?
BF: There may be a link of philosophy. H&C works with Hempology 101 in education about hemp textiles and we supply them with clothing for their t-shirt and hat sales. But in general there is no great union of the two camps. The cannabis camp is about health and freedom and the hemp camp is about the other 1,000 uses of the plant.
LIN: Describe in detail how you see things developing? Comment on the 'green' aspect of Hemp, etc.
Environmentally, the advantage of hemp as textile and food is that it is capable of growing in Canada in most climatic zones on marginal land and without chemical treatments for pesticides. Many farmers are 100% organic in Canada. Our country is climatically incapable of growing cotton, the most used "natural" fabric. But cotton is also the heaviest user of agricultural chemicals. Polyester and nylon fabrics are "man-made" i.e. they are made from oil.
LIN: What precise actions need to be taken to open up the opportunity to manufacture hemp products in Canada, specifically BC?
BF: We require the political will to advance the production of locally grown hemp and manufacturing. Hemp is not marijuana and there should not be the detriment of needing a license to grow a plant. More education in agricultural schools would likely turn on more farmers to this crop. Secondly, we need assistance of governments and banks to kick start the manufacturing aspect.
LIN: Do you think that media focus and public attention on this aspect of things might be one way of advancing the mission of the decrim lobby? Push it forward but in a way that is more subtle and pro-active? Perhaps a less stigmatized route...for the end-game to be achieved?
BF: Politicians are fearful that they are advocating drug usage if they support industrial hemp. If they would get over this hurdle and support hemp, then perhaps they could take the next step of decriminalizing MJ. My bet is that decriminalization of pot will come before the easing of the growing of hemp. That is because hemp is far down the list of topics for the media to deal with - it’s not as "sexy" as pot as a story.
For more information on how to get involved in the discussion about textile-hemp potential, contact: Bill Findley directly at: email@example.com
H&C store: www.hempandcompany.com
Additional Info-Background on Law Enforcement Against Prohibition: (LEAP) is a prestigious group currently working in both Canada and the US to decriminalize marijuana (and all other street drugs) as a means of reducing the extraordinarily complex and sadly growing gang wars taken over society. Albeit with its Head Office headquartered in Washington DC, LEAP is already a recognized lobby group of sorts, at least in practice in Canada. Representing and including prominent retired and current members of Canadian police departments as well as retired judges and current Canadian senators who favour drug decriminalization. Active members need not necessarily be connected with professions associated with law-making or law-enforcement but rather can join freely online at www.leap.cc. Please stay tuned for LIN’s upcoming exclusive interview with LEAP member, retired detective Tony Smith, for details on mobilization efforts.