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Money Struggle to open Windsor, Ont. hemp shop due to 'massive confusion' in cannabis industry

13:01  09 december  2019
13:01  09 december  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

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a couple of people posing for the camera: Gingers House of HEMP owners Tiffany Rizok, left, and Melissa Boow, right, officially opened their shop in October at the intersection of Walker Road and Highway 3, in Oldcastle, Ont.© Provided by cbc.ca Gingers House of HEMP owners Tiffany Rizok, left, and Melissa Boow, right, officially opened their shop in October at the intersection of Walker Road and Highway 3, in Oldcastle, Ont.

Opening a hemp-based business for two moms in Windsor, Ont. has involved more than a year of red tape and roadblocks, largely because of the connection to cannabis.

Finding a bank, insurance and a landlord wasn't easy, according to Melissa Boow and Tiffany Rizok, and nearly forced them to give up trying. The owners constantly had to explain that both hemp and marijuana are cultivated from the cannabis sativa plant family, but that hemp contains virtually none of the elements of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound found in marijuana that can lead to inebriation.

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Cannabis (/ˈkænəbɪs/) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. The number of species within the genus is disputed.

Due to the complexities that arise from selling a product that is federally prohibited, most players in the merchant services system simply refuse to work with the cannabis industry . This is one of the fundamental causes of confusion in this area. The position of the networks can be particularly opaque.

"Everybody's scared and not realizing that there's a difference," said Boow. "For every step you take forward, you take two steps back fighting. It's not fair. It shouldn't be like this."

Inspired by the environmental benefits of hemp, both women kept pushing forward even after realizing "nobody really wanted to play with us." Their business, Gingers House of HEMP, opened in October at the intersection of Walker Road and Highway 3 in Oldcastle, Ont.

"We sell clothing, we don't sell marijuana," said Rizok. "We literally found our bank account a day before our store was to open."

The two sell a variety of hemp-based items, including clothing, dog collars, leashes, lotions, as well as food products.

Health Canada does have industrial hemp regulations, which require growers to be approved and licensed before setting up shop.

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After the hemp plant is harvested, the seed and the stalk's fibre can be sold to make other things. Then it becomes "somewhat unlicensed," according to Trina Fraser, a partner at Brazeau Seller Law in Ottawa, who has a specialty in cannabis law.

"There's no specific regulation of those parts of the plant from that point on," said Fraser.

Health Canada confirmed that products made using parts of the hemp plant, such as the non-viable seeds or the stalk fibre, can be legally sold through a wide variety of retail channels.

"I suspect what the issue would be is the massive amount of confusion out there over how we regulate cannabis." - Trina Fraser, cannabis lawyer in Ottawa

"For example, fibre from stalks can be used in making paper, textiles, rope or twine and construction materials, while grain from industrial hemp can be used in food products, cosmetics, plastics and fuel," said Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge, media relations officer.

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Fraser said she wasn't necessarily surprised to hear some businesses, with any sort of connection to cannabis, are having a hard time finding willing partners.

"I suspect what the issue would be is the massive amount of confusion out there over how we regulate cannabis, and I use that in the umbrella-term sense, which would include hemp," she said, adding that the confusion is likely why many are nervous.

Landlords, for example, have the discretion to choose tenants as long as they aren't being discriminatory under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Fraser said.

a person sitting at a table in a room: Gingers House of HEMP sells hemp-based items such as lotions, food products, clothing, mattresses, pillows, bags, as well as dog leashes and collars.© Provided by cbc.ca Gingers House of HEMP sells hemp-based items such as lotions, food products, clothing, mattresses, pillows, bags, as well as dog leashes and collars.

"And this certainly wouldn't be one [example of that]," she added.

Given the current climate and stigma surrounding the cannabis industry, Boow said she will shelve plans to open a cannabis cafe. That's what initially prompted her to open Gingers House of HEMP, which would have served as an entry point to "play the game," she said — referring to the government's regulation of the industry.

Boow said hearing stories of how the cannabis plant can be beneficial kept her going.

"We wanted to have an in somewhere so that we're able to make a difference," she said. "The difference that we're making now might not be huge, but it's something."

Boow said her shop is just as much for selling hemp products, as it is about educating the community and reducing the stigma around cannabis.

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