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Colorado's Class Of Hemp Farmers Could Blossom

Luke Runyon
KUNC and Harvest Public Media

  Colorado’s class of aspiring industrial hemp growers could grow even further under new state rules that went into effect June 11, 2014. Hemp is grown for its seeds, fiber and oil and has nearly undetectable amounts of THC, the intoxicating compound found in high concentrations in its more controversial cousin, marijuana.

Under an initial set of state rules that have now been amended, hemp farmers were bound to a two month registration window, where they had to tell the state where they were growing hemp and how much they expected to harvest.

State lawmakers didn’t like that constraint and now hemp farmers only need to register 30 days before planting, at any time of year.

“They’ll now be able to take their time and think about where they want to plant, how much, if they can get seeds and not necessarily be tied to that narrow window. So it could increase the number of registrations that we have throughout the year,” said Ron Carleton, deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

A federal ban on the plant still exists, even though the most recent Farm Bill told farmers and university researchers that it was OK to experiment with hemp. Carleton said his department is working with drug enforcement officials to find some way to import viable hemp seed for Colorado growers. American hemp seed stocks have disappeared in the decades since it was banned.

More than a hundred hemp growers made it within that two-month window earlier in 2014, securing state approval to grow on about 1500 acres. Top counties with industrial hemp growers are Weld, Boulder, Larimer and Delta.

As KUNC’s managing editor and reporter covering the Colorado River Basin, I dig into stories that show how water issues can both unite and divide communities throughout the Western U.S. I edit and produce feature stories for KUNC and a network of public media stations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada.
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