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But with a processing licence from Health Canada in their back pocket, Blue Sky’s branched out into culling CBD — or cannabidiol — from the flowers of the plant, a process performed at its extraction facility in Saskatoon.
The scope of its operation and its exhaustive use of the plant sets it apart in Canada, said Potter.
“What makes us unique is the focus on the whole plant — we’re leaving nothing to waste,” he said.
This year’s harvest should yield at least 4,000 kilograms of crude CBD oil, “worth a lot more than that other crude oil,” said Potter.
That other oil industry’s financing side is one Potter spent two decades plying before industrial hemp’s potential, one that had fascinated him two decades ago, “popped back into my head,” he said.
Opportunities presented by CBD’s medical applications are driving the company’s efforts.
According to the Harvard Medical School, CBD has proven effective in treating severe childhood epilepsy, most notably by reducing the frequency of seizures or preventing them.
It’s also shown promise in mitigating sleep disorders and anxiety and in treating chronic pain, it says, though further research on those areas is needed.
Blue Sky says its extraction process can increase CBD’s potency by a factor of five, with enough capacity to handle a crop more than tenfold the size of this year’s yield, or 550,000 bushels a year.
According to Health Canada, 12,000 hectares of industrial hemp were planted in Alberta in 2018 — 38.5 per cent of Canada’s crop.