Lon­doner eyes op­por­tu­ni­ties with hemp com­pound CBD

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - LOCAL NEWS - DALE CAR­RUTHERS

Mike Hodg­son sees a green rush com­ing. But un­like most en­trepreneurs flock­ing to cash in on Canada’s recre­ational mar­i­juana mar­ket, Hodg­son is go­ing down a dif­fer­ent path.

The Lon­doner is open­ing a plant in St. Thomas to ex­tract cannabid­iol (CBD), a com­po­nent that doesn’t get you high, from hemp plants.

Hodg­son, pres­i­dent of GreenLeaf Pro­duc­tions, sees mas­sive po­ten­tial in CBD, a com­pound be­ing touted for its po­ten­tial to treat ev­ery­thing from anx­i­ety and seizures to in­flam­ma­tion and pain.

He’s in the process of con­vert­ing a former tool-and-dye plant on Bar­rie Boule­vard into a 12,000-square-foot ex­trac­tion fa­cil­ity.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s move to end its 95-year pro­hi­bi­tion on mar­i­juana last month also al­lowed hemp farm­ers to be­gin sell­ing the flow­ers from their plants to be pro­cessed for CBD oil, a move wel­comed by the hemp in­dus­try.

But Canada’s hemp farm­ers still face a hur­dle that their coun­ter­parts south of the bor­der don’t have to deal with, Hodg­son said.

Cana­dian hemp farm­ers are al­lowed to choose from fewer than 20 strains of the plant, all of which have low con­cen­tra­tions of CBD, typ­i­cally be­tween 1.5 and four per cent. Amer­i­cans hemp grow­ers, how­ever, can choose from a wider se­lec­tion of strains, some con­tain­ing up to 20 per cent CBD.

Hodg­son wants the gov­ern­ment to al­low Canada’s hemp grow­ers to plant strains with more CBD.

“If Canada doesn’t loosen up those strains, I think that the Amer­i­cans will take the whole CBD mar­ket in North Amer­ica,” he said. “They’ll be a pow­er­house in­ter­na­tion­ally, too.”

Canada is among the top hemp pro­duc­ers in the world — around 55,000 hectares of the crop is farmed an­nu­ally — with the bulk of the op­er­a­tions con­cen­trated in Al­berta, Saskatchewan and Man­i­toba. Hemp is also pro­duced in On­tario, Que­bec and the Mar­itimes.

Af­ter Hodg­son’s plant opens in the spring, he plans to sell CBD oil to li­censed mar­i­juana pro­duc­ers and work with mi­cro-grow­ers on ex­trac­tion, but he ul­ti­mately wants to make CBD-in­fused ed­i­bles and part­ner with bev­er­age com­pa­nies, many of which are thirsty to get into the emerg­ing mar­ket.

“We’re look­ing at be­ing able to mod­ify or do what they re­quire of the CBD,” he said.

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