A field of cannabis plants proved irresistible to thieves who likely mistook the hemp for marijuana and made off with part of Abbotsford farmer Nick Warmerdam’s harvest this fall.
“We had a lot of volunteer help in the middle of the night,” he said.
Low in THC, but high in cannabidiol (CBD), the plants probably didn’t give the thieves the high they were hoping for. “It’s hard to imagine they were stealing it for the CBD oil,” said Warmerdam.
Theft was just one of several problems the farmer had to deal with while trying to grow one of Canada’s newest agricultural products. On Oct. 17, growing hemp for CBD oil became legal along with marijuana cultivation. Hemp plants, like marijuana, contain CBD, but they contain minimal amounts of THC (0.3% or less). The distinction isn’t well-known, and the sight of cannabis growing in an open field was a shock to several passersby who assumed it was marijuana.
“(Cannabis cultivation is) still very new. People don’t really understand it. I’m not sure theft is a problem that’s going to go away any time soon,” said Warmerdam.
The farmer is also dealing with other growing pains. While he is allowed to grow hemp, he cannot legally extract the oil under Canadian law. It must be sold to a licensed producer or processor.
After Warmerdam found a buyer, he learned the product couldn’t be used because tests showed pesticide residue. The level is 1,000 times less than the amount allowable in American-grown hemp and 100 times less than the amount allowable in Canadian broccoli and other vegetables, he said.
“We didn’t spray this on the hemp. It’s something that sits in the ground for a long time. It’s allowable in our food, which doesn’t really make sense.”
Warmerdam is hoping he’ll be able to convince the government to reconsider the rules around hemp production, but for now, his product, which was chopped into little pieces like hay and dried, is in storage.
The farmer admitted growing hemp for CBD oil was a gamble. But it’s one that made sense. In spring, his fields are usually filled with daffodils and tulips. He planted his hemp crop from cuttings in late May and transplanted them into his fields at the end of July. He harvested from late September to early November.
“There’s a demand for (CBD oil), but the red tape is making it difficult,” he said. “It’s putting legal producers at a disadvantage.”