Time to take a serious look at hemp

County of Wetaskiwin MLA says hemp could be crop of the future

Hello Drayton Valley- Devon. With summer upon us, this becomes a very busy time for many of us. I’ve been busy wrapping up business at the Legislature as the spring session has come to an end. Here are just a few of the Wildrose Opposition accomplishments over the past six months: the passing of Bill 202, Protecting Victims of Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images Act, which was introduced by fellow colleague Scott Cyr. Bill 206, Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Amendment Act sponsored by colleague Leela Aheer, second reading passed and the unanimous passing of Prasad Panda’s Bill 505 a motion to end Canada’s dependence on foreign dictator oil in favor of Alberta oil.

June brings the ending of a chapter in many student’s lives and I have had the privilege to attend many wonderful high school graduation ceremonies over the month. It warms my heart to see the many smiling faces of students achieving this first of many accomplishments. You have all worked very hard and should be very proud of yourselves. Congratulations and wishing you all great success in your future endeavors.

Recently I, together with a number of other delegates from within the constituency, attended the 14th international conference of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) in the Netherlands. With Hemp becoming the up and rising star for Alberta’s Agricultural sector, this conference presented a great opportunity to solidify strong contacts, to give our local hemp industry a much needed boost.

In January of this year The Regional Hemp Steering Committee was formed to help drive the industrial hemp value chain within our region. The committee executive consists of: mayor Stephen Lindop of Devon; Dan Madlung, CEO of Bio Composites Group Inc. from Drayton Valley; Bart Guyen, reeve County of Brazeau; Ralph van Assen, mayor of Warburg and 39/20 Alliance member and Barb McKenzie, Leduc-Nisku EDA. Alberta Agricultural specialist Lori-Jo Graham holds an advisory role on the committee as well.

Opportunity is knocking and now is the time to take advantage to not only further our agricultural industry but to provide an alternative resource to help boost Alberta’s economic growth. Since Canada is the only country in North America to have legalized industrial hemp, the demand for production from this natural environmentally friendly plant is on the rise. Approximately 32,000 acres are currently being utilized for cultivating industrial hemp under Health Canada’s authority with a portion of this number including producers within our own region. Presently industrial hemp is being grown for its seed, resulting in the remainder of the plant going to waste.

The Regional Hemp Steering Committee is focused on changing that. Market demand for products created from hemp fiber is growing rapidly within Canada and European countries. We are fortunate to have a facility right here in our backyard that has the ability to develop hemp fiber as well as other natural and synthetic fibers into environmentally friendly products, this being the Bio Composite Group Inc. Some examples of these potential uses are, car parts, biodegradable geotextiles, garden centre products, and biodegradable erosion control products.

The committee is working in conjunction with the local farmers and companies to help guide and facilitate appropriate contracts. Meetings with provincial government ministers are being arranged to discuss potential funding and to supply harvesting equipment for the farmers interested in cultivating industrial hemp. The committee hopes to see over the next three years more decortication plants erected within our region, creating additional jobs.

As we move into the summer please feel free to stop by the office if we can be of service to you.

Mark Smith is the Wildrose MLA for the Drayton Valley-Devon constituency, including much of the County of Wetaskiwin. He can be reached by phone 780-542-3355 toll free 1-800-542-7307, Drayton Valley – Devon constituency office Box 7272 Drayton Valley, AB, T7A 1S5, email draytonvalley.devon@assembly.ab.ca.