HEMP – a Viable Industry for Belize?
Belize will soon see the establishment of industrial hemp production. The Attorney General’s Ministry has been working on the legal framework that will help to regulate the industry. But, hemp, like its relative marijuana, is not without controversy. Some quarters believe that hemp, like marijuana, may have negative effects on humans. But supporters of the hemp plant say that is not so. In fact, they argue that there is a growing demand for hemp products. Reporter Andrea Polanco tells us more in the following story.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
Hemp, like marijuana, comes from the cannabis family of plants. This, according to hemp proponents and researchers, makes it a misunderstood plant. Cannabis contains a type of chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This THC has a number of effects on the body, including psychoactive effects, meaning it gets you high. So, people often believe that like marijuana, hemp can make you high. But hemp only contains zero point three percent of the THC, where as Marijuana can contain from five to thirty percent of THC. So, one hemp advocate wants to educate Belizeans about this plant.
Life Griffith, C.E.O., XICHEL Hemp Consultants
“There is a lot of people that is misinformed about this indigenous plant that is helping people in the health industry; not the get high industry. So, it is two different types of industries we are talking about.”
In Belize, it is legal to plant hemp. And in the coming years, it is expected to become an industry, as laws will be put in place to regulate industrial hemp production. It will be a business, that according to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, where even small scale hemp farmers will be able to reap the benefits:
Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: September 21st, 2019]
“A bright spot is certainly going to be the start of the new hemp industry, not marijuana, hemp. Global fascination with hemp, thought by so many to contain almost magical healing properties. There is a global belief about these magical properties of hemp, so that means that our country, with ideal growing conditions, will be excellently positioned to take advantage of the limitless world market. It is a market for the export of both raw hemp and the hemp based medicinal products that so many foreign investors are lined up to manufacture in our country. And in furtherance of this administration’s gospel, we have ensured that the little man, the small farmer, is not going to be left behind. Thus, licenses will be given to growers that wish to cultivate as little as one acre.”
The hemp plant is being used across the world for a range of purposes, including clothing, food, beauty, fuel, biodegradable products, health, and industrial items. Hemp research sites say that there are thousands of commodities and household items made from hemp, unlike marijuana. Marijuana, which is often referred to as hemp’s cousin, is just used for medicinal and recreational purposes and because of the THC; it is used for smoking, vaping or in edibles. Kaiden Chatcham shares some of the many applications of the hemp plant.
Kaiden Chatcham, V.P, Xichel Hemp Consultants
“One of the great advantages and great benefits of this plant is that nothing actually goes to waste. The hemp plant produces seeds that are rich that have been used for food and cultivated and harvested for foods since the beginning of time. It’s rich in omega threes, amino acids, protein and fibre. The actual fibre from the plant is used to make rope, biodegradable plastics, clothing. There’s building material called hemp-crete. There’s CBD oil, there’s bio-fuel. There is a myriad of uses for this plant.”
And because of the increasing applications of this plant, as well as the demand for the products, the Caribbean region is also interested in looking into what this industry can do for the region.
Shaun Baugh, Programme Mgr, Agric. & Industry Dev., CARICOM Secretariat [File: October 1st, 2019]
“Hemp on the other hand, it presents an opportunity for us in a very unique way. Our traditional crops are experiencing some challenges now and hemp uses a large amount of land. So we need to now look at what are the real opportunities that can be had from that and in particular the larger member states that have the landmass—we are talking about Suriname, we’re talking about Belize here and Guyana and also Jamaica to a lesser extent. How can these member states participate in this growing and new industry?”