Amendment 64 opens doors, legal questions for industrial hemp crop
The Colorado Constitutional Amendment, known for legalizing recreational use of the drug, also changed state laws to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, a crop used for many products ranging from cloth to cooking oil.
But, like marijuana, exploration of industrial hemp production is plagued with questions and uncertainties about the difference between state and federal rules.
The issues, challenges and benefits of growing a different, dry land crop in Colorado will be explored at a workshop in Loveland on Thursday. The Hemp Industries Association is hosting the event, which is supported by the Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union.
“This happens to be a good place to grow it,” said Mick McAllister, spokesman for the Farmer's Union. “With the water problems we're having in Colorado, another dry land crop could be a boon.”
The possibilities are brimming for selling hemp to produce shoes, clothing, bags and even cooking oil, McAllister said.
Not to mention potential benefits to the soil by rotating other crops with industrial hemp, which research indicates could clean pollutants from the soil.
However, there are still risks of violating federal law.
Hemp has been on the federal controlled substance list with marijuana since the 1930s, making it a federal crime to grow. But, one would have to smoke 100 hemp cigarettes in a row to consume the same amount of THC as is found in one marijuana joint, according to McAllister.
The risk of violating federal law, even with a new state law backing production, could prevent farmers from trying the crop because of worries about affecting U.S. Department of Agriculture insurance and other programs, according to information from McAllister.
That is where the Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union is stepping in, hoping to open new doors for agriculture and believing hemp belongs on a list of crops, not drugs.
Members are lobbying Congress to remove hemp from the controlled substance list; a bill to remove hemp from the list is pending as it has been without success every year since 2004, according to McAllister.
Pamela Dickman can be reached at 669-5050, ext. 526, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @pamelalittlebee.