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Parker was working as a sales representative for U.S. West's Yellow Pages when she first became interested in hemp in 1996. She took a political science course at the University of Colorado at Denver that required her to follow a bill through the state legislature. Searching for an interesting one, she came across a bill introduced by then-state senator Lloyd Casey that would have legalized hemp in Colorado. At the time, she didn't understand the difference between hemp and marijuana — but either way, she figured the debate would be lively.

She was right. The bill passed the Senate but died in the House after the federal Drug Enforcement Administration came out against it. But a seed had been planted in Parker's head, so after retiring ten years later, she decided to look into the issue again, especially since many people feel that hemp is an environmentally friendly renewable natural resource.

"I thought, 'Okay, if the environment is what I care about, what is the one single thing that I can do on my own, aside from my own daily decisions like paper-or-plastic, that can have the most impact?'" Parker says. "And I knew that I had to get behind hemp."

So with the same friendly persuasiveness that made her a good saleswoman, she threw herself into hemp, learning about its varied uses, its history and its legal struggles. Through a contact at the Canadian consulate in Denver, Parker began holding informational sessions for legislators and law enforcement about Canada's success with the crop.

She volunteered in the office of then-state senator Suzanne Williams, whom she'd met years earlier when they were both part of the anti-war group Beyond War, to learn more about how the State Capitol works. She also traveled to Canada to see their industry up close.

Part of what makes Parker such a convincing spokeswoman is that the 63-year-old grandmother is exactly the opposite of whom you'd expect to be singing the praises of a plant that is almost always associated with pot. "I'm not coming from the marijuana side," she explains. "My counterpart in New Mexico says, 'I looked at your picture on your website, and you look like Miss Chamber of Commerce,'" Parker says. "Works for me."

In 2010, Parker and Williams decided to draft a bill to put in place simple regulations for Colorado farmers to grow hemp, but their timing was off. Colorado was undergoing a medical marijuana dispensary boom, and lawmakers were scrambling to regulate the industry. Amid that reefer madness, Williams realized that the hemp issue would be lost or misunderstood.

Instead of a bill, they settled for a resolution — a series of "whereas"-es defining hemp as cannabis that contains less than 0.3 percent THC and declaring that it should never have been banned in the first place. Hemp, the resolution says, is "a versatile and valuable agricultural commodity" that can be "dry-land farmed" and has the potential to create new jobs. The resolution didn't change any laws, but urged Congress to remove barriers to farming hemp.

But Williams and Parker weren't the only ones interested in hemp. In October 2011, Lauve, the medical marijuana activist, got curious about Occupy Denver and decided to set up a tent with the protestors. He happened to pitch it right next to former state representative and agricultural champion Wes McKinley, who was also supporting the Occupy movement.

By then, Lauve was already famous in certain circles for having been the first medical marijuana patient in Colorado to be acquitted of pot possession charges. Lauve uses cannabis to relieve pain from a 2004 skiing accident that broke his back. In 2008, the police raided his house and found more than two pounds of weed. But in August 2009, a jury found him not guilty, concluding that Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana in Colorado, allows medical marijuana patients and their caregivers to determine how much cannabis is medically necessary.

A bearded 42-year-old with a shy smile, Lauve says the trial changed his life in good and bad ways. The public exposure caused him to lose his home and his job as a graphic-design professor, but it also encouraged him to start Cannabis Health News magazine. "The fear has been ripped away," he says, "and honestly...it's the DEA, it's the federal government, that turned me into who I am today — just like any other person who realizes we can make a difference."

At Occupy, Lauve discussed hemp with McKinley, a rancher whose political career got started after he served as foreman on the grand jury that famously examined the Rocky Flats plutonium trigger-making plant near Boulder. "I talked about how Chernobyl had demonstrated that hemp could absorb heavy metal toxins," Lauve says. "That has always interested me, and knowing that hemp has a very high resistance to frost and drought" made the plant seem even more attractive. Two weeks later, McKinley invited Lauve to his office.

"So I roll in, and there are two attorneys and his assistants...and he's like, 'Okay, we're going to write a bill today,'" Lauve says.

The bill authorizes a ten-year pilot program to study whether industrial hemp could remove pollutants, such as metals and pesticides, from contaminated soil and water in order to make the soil "more conducive to crop production." It specifies that the hemp for the study is to be grown at a "secure, indoor growing site" and tasks a seven-member committee with writing a final report to include how quickly the hemp plants sucked up the contamination, where in the plant the contaminants settled, and how best to dispose of those plants.

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14 comments
wethepeople65
wethepeople65

The original US flag :hemp fabric.The Constitution :printed on hemp paper, textiles needed to help win WW2;also hemp.

rsteeb
rsteeb

Washington specified "INDIAN hemp"-- do you know what that is?  Look up W.B. O'Shaughnessy and learn.  Low-THC, my eye!

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editor

I'd love to publish some of these comments in our print Letters to the Editor section -- ideally with the author's full name. if that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

rebeldor
rebeldor

Yet another reason I am proud of my write-in vote for Ron Paul, with Gary Johnson as his VP.  Sure better than the two drug warriors for whom the 50% of the country who even bothered voted.

brianstripling
brianstripling

I once wrote a paper in college about hemp and I gave a speech about it too. This was back in the early 1990's and i got bad grades for content even when the assignment was to write about anything. I put a lot of work into the paper but now after 20 years I feel vindicated but I never graduated from college because they really were not looking for people who thought or wanted to think outside of the box.  I would love to get into the hemp industry . I live in an agricultural community in Texas and I think its ridiculous that we dont grow hemp. Especially when people are on government assistance and out of work.  What a waist in so many ways. 

hemp1
hemp1

Colorado has a chance to be a national leader in the new movement.  Hemp could do great things for our state.  www.coloradohempcompany.com

Dave Adams
Dave Adams

Probably not most American's are ignorant fools when it comes to hemp.

Hempstress
Hempstress

Dannnng Westword got me doing the quadruple posts...ooops

Hempstress
Hempstress

If anyone is interested in moving this historic hemp legislation through in Colorado, please donate to Hemp Cleans at www.hempcleans.com We will be hosting Colorado's first HEMP LOBBY DAY at the Capitol on MARCH 20th. We will have amazing hemp businesses like Evo Hemp, Envirotextiles, Dixie Elixers, THC Magazine, HIA/Vote Hemp, Hemp Hoodlamb, JR carpentry and Johnny Hempseed, of course DR. BRONNERS and many, many more supporting the bill and educating the public on how hemp is wonderful and growing industry that needs to be allowed to fully flourish and operate in a free market. At the end of the day this is about our economic FREEDOM.

In the meantime, you can also check out HIA's website where they have a petition to lobby our Congressman and Senators on a national level to pass HB 255 the Industrial Hemp Farming Act.

IndustrialHemp
IndustrialHemp

...Industrial hemp right now is a political football with the Democrats of Kentucky holding back on endorsing the plant for agriculture. Seems the Dems aren't getting their slice of the pie.

Kudos to Senators Rand paul and Mitch McConnell for their foresight in ending the over 80 years of lies regarding hemp and shame on the Democrats of Kentucky who could care less about the farmers in their State. They will be remembered come election time...

HB420
HB420

Cannabis and hemp are the exact same plant botanically speaking.  The only difference is one variety has been bred to produce high levels of THC and other cannabinoids and one was bred to produce copious amounts of fiber.  Marijuana is a slang word that needs to be dropped from the lexicon along with "pot" and "stoner"

kevin_hunt
kevin_hunt

@rsteeb Many historical references allude to the medicinal properties of 'Indian Hemp'.

 
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