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Hemp legislation passes committee vote

Measure wants to use hemp to ‘heal’ contaminated soil chieftain.com

DENVER — For the past few years the Colorado General Assembly has been debating the merits of marijuana as a pain reliever. On Monday, a legislative committee took up whether hemp, pot’s less intoxicating cousin, has healing properties over contaminated soil.

The House Local Government Committee unanimously passed Rep. Wes McKinley’s bill that would establish a pilot program to determine whether drugless hemp mitigates toxins in the ground where they’re grown.

“We’re not sure exactly what it does,” McKinley said. “That’s the idea of this study.”

He said the study would be of a small scale, possibly a few acres, at a site or sites determined by the state. It would begin with indoor experiments.

Witnesses in favor of HB1099 said pesticides on farmlands, heavy metals and other toxins have been proven in other studies to be absorbed by plants such as sunflowers. They testified that hemp could be a superior alternative because it takes virtually no additional water than what is naturally occurring.

Despite the overwhelming vote to pass the bill, lawmakers posed some serious questions about its feasibility.

A legislative researcher testified that growing hemp — even the drugless variety — remains illegal under federal law. A dispensation from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration would be necessary to move forward with McKinley’s plan.

Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, pointed out that the medical marijuana industry has had trouble banking, because many institutions will not accept money from those types of businesses because marijuana is illegal under federal law.

As it is written, McKinley’s bill would require the seed money for the study to be banked at a federally recognized institution for tracking purposes. The legislative analyst said banks could object, but would not be turned off to the extent that they are by accepting medical marijuana proceeds because the study would generate none.

While hemp products ranging from garments to purses and even foods are readily available in many stores, none of the hemp that supplies them is produced in the United States. McKinley said attaining hemp growth to an extent that would change that is not the first aim of his bill.

Next, HB1099 faces a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.

“They’re going to try to kill it,” McKinley said.

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