By Whitney Phillips, Greeley Tribune
It has been three weeks since the Colorado Department of Agriculture began accepting applications from residents wanting to grow hemp, and the state agency has thus far given the go-ahead to 21 applications — five coming from three businesses that want to grow in Weld County.
Under regulations that took effect this year, the state department of agriculture is tasked with registering farmers who grow hemp, which is contrived from the cannabis plant. Unlike marijuana, it doesn’t contain enough THC to be used as a drug.
Ron Carleton, the state’s deputy commissioner of agriculture, said farmers have shown a great deal of interest in the crop, which doesn’t require as much water as others and has a wide variety of uses, from fiberglass to cooking oil to fabric.
The U.S. is the world’s No. 1 importer of hemp, and Colorado hemp enthusiasts — including farmers young and old from across the state — see economic opportunity in being the first ones in the nation allowed to grow it.
Via The Cannabist
The New York Times wrote Thursday about Colorado’s “marijuana refugees”: Families who uprooted their lives to the move to the state when it legalized pot because the drug has crucial medicinal effects on their children’s illnesses. “I put what fit in my car and drove out here,” Marisa Kiser, whose toddler, Ezra, has had seizures almost since birth, told the Times. No one could have predicted that the state’s legislation would create a community-in-exile of more than 100 families who help look after one another’s children, trade medical tips—and even, in some cases, shared their first Thanksgiving dinner in this new land.
Colorado’s new law is reaping other changes, too, among them the first legal crop of hemp that America has seen in nearly 60 years. Hemp is a cannabis plant, as is marijuana, but it contains almost none of THC, the component that gives pot its potent effect. Still, hemp—which can be used in “products from rope to auto parts to plastics, shampoo to vitamin supplements”—has paid for the stigma attached to its sister-plant: Though it is legal to buy and sell hemp in the U.S., growing and harvesting it have been prohibited. In every state that discusses legalization, hemp’s economic potential comes up: Data from Canada’s legal hemp industry suggests the crop yields revenue of $390 an acre, and the Hemp Industries Association estimates that products from the forgotten cannabis already constitute a $500 million industry in the U.S., according toThe Denver Post. “I think that once people see the value of hemp, it'll become a no-brainer,” said farmer Ryan Loflin, the Colorado man who has already planted 60 acres of the plant.
Though Colorado’s law legalized hemp farming, and the state is in the midst of craftingregulations for the plant, the federal government could still go after hemp farmers like Loflin. “Federal law does not permit the sale or import of nonsterilized seed suitable for growing,” writes the Post. “It's the hemp farmer's equivalent of what recreational-marijuana activists call 'the year of the magical ounce' —a reference to the unanswered question of how people can obtain marijuana for current legal use before state-permitted retail facilities open in 2014.” As momentum grows behind marijuana legalization, hemp legalization may develop its own tide, and the economic argument may make it an easier sell; last February, a handful of Democratic representatives introduced a hemp bill into the U.S. House of Representatives—and even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced his support. For now, though, Loflin seems to be the only farmer willing to flout the federal mandate. “You have to be willing to bet the farm," admitted Tom Murphy of the pro-legalization group Vote Hemp in an interview with The Miami Herald.
Like pot, hemp has a following in part for what it represents. Because it requires lesswater and land to grow than cotton, it has long been a favorite of the environmental movement, and has become not only a tool but a totem of sustainable and healthy living. On the flip side, hemp may have a hard time shedding the suspicions of the traditional farming community. “We're a conservative bunch around here,” a Colorado banker said when asked about funding hemp farms. “I imagine we'd probably stick with our core crops of corn and milo and wheat.” But old dogs can learn new tricks. He added: “In a few years, who knows what might happen?"
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.