Lauve testified in favor of the bill, as did Parker, who'd met McKinley in 2008 through an acquaintance who thought the lawmaker might be interested in hemp; they also brought in Hunter, who gave scientific testimony about the benefits of using crops to clean soil.    The lawmakers had a lot of questions. How do you know that hemp will actually clean the soil? How much water does this so-called wonder crop need? Does eating hemp get you high? What if a teenager tries to smoke the stuff? And, most important, is growing hemp legal?

"No," McKinley told the House committee, "but we're not growing it. We're studying it."

The hemp proponents admitted that there wasn't much science on the subject of hemp and pollutants, primarily because no one can grow the crop in the U.S. They explained that eating hemp doesn't get you high, and that if you grow it near marijuana, the hemp will actually cause the pot to go to seed, effectively ruining it. As for the water requirements, Hunter said that Canadian and European data shows that hemp needs twenty inches of rain per year, which isn't much more than parts of Colorado receive.

Lynda Parker has rallied hemp activists around the state.
Mark Manger
Lynda Parker has rallied hemp activists around the state.
Jason Lauve helped write a bill that created a ten-year pilot program to study industrial hemp.
Mark Manger
Jason Lauve helped write a bill that created a ten-year pilot program to study industrial hemp.

The bill passed and was signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper on June 4, 2012, five months before Amendment 64 would pave a legal pathway for hemp, making Colorado the first state to authorize a so-called hemp phytoremediation study.

In order to grow it, though, the pilot program needed a laboratory. Enter Ben Holmes, a 48-year-old horticultural wizard and entrepreneur who's been involved in a wide range of ventures, from Internet startups to financial publishing to his latest business, Centennial State Distributors. In a nondescript industrial building in Lafayette, Holmes studies how best to grow cannabis and then shares his expertise with medical marijuana growers for a fee.

"I work on fundamental problems with cultivation," he says, and recommends ways for growers to increase their yields.

Last year, he was at the State Capitol to meet with his state senator on the issue of marijuana seed cultivation when he ran into Senator Williams while waiting for the elevator. The two struck up a conversation, and when he told her why he was there, she told him about her work for hemp — which eventually led to Williams's introducing Holmes to Parker. "I remember telling her, 'I want to be involved,'" Holmes recalls. "The next thing I know, my name was on a list and I was involved."

One of the main obstacles to growing hemp is that there's very little seed available, since the U.S. market has been virtually eliminated. Holmes has a small amount of a few different strains, including an Italian fiber strain and two hemp-oil varieties; the seeds, he says, were given to him as gifts. "There's a very active trading community in seed," he explains.

Holmes is curing the seed so that it will be ready to plant in the spring, when he plans to grow a hemp plot outdoors in order to increase his seed stock. Once he's done that, he'll have enough of a base to do a real phytoremediation study using soil contaminated with gold-mining waste. Hunter has already done a very small-scale study with four plants to see if they would grow in the polluted soil. They did. Hunter and Parker have also collected soil that was scorched by the Colorado wildfires with an eye toward testing whether hemp will grow in it.

While Holmes says he's not blind to the legal risks of growing cannabis, he believes it can be done in a way that's respectful and won't attract attention. "I'm concerned with how we can utilize this crop," he says. "It's hard to impeach someone for being honest and curious."

Holmes isn't being paid for his work with hemp. He sees it as a "citizen effort," a way to help the greater cannabis cause. But there could be something in it for him, too. Eventually, he hopes to sell the seeds he develops directly to farmers and home gardeners through a retail store. "I'm interested in developing good, clean seed strains," he says.

And soon, thanks to Amendment 64, cannabis seeds could be in high demand.

******

Hemp was almost an afterthought in the drafting of Amendment 64.

For six months, a committee met weekly to carefully craft the language that would end up on voters' ballots. "The process was very intensive," says medical marijuana attorney Brian Vicente, one of the amendment's primary authors. "Every word was debated."

But none of those words had to do with hemp. In fact, there weren't even any hemp advocates on the committee, a circumstance Vicente attributes to the laser-focus on marijuana. "It was almost haphazard when we said, 'We've done all this work on marijuana. What should we do about hemp?' No one really had any ideas."

So Vicente created a very general clause that requires lawmakers to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp by July 1, 2014 — a year after the state must start issuing licenses for recreational pot shops.

And just like that, hemp was on its way to becoming legal.

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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 editortopcommenter

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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