The Colorado-made hemp flag that flew over the Capitol in Washington on the Fourth of July has made its way back to the Centennial State. And today -- which is known as Colorado Day, in commemoration of the day on which the state officially joined the union in 1876 -- the hemp flag flew at the Colorado Capitol.
The goal, says hemp advocate Mike Bowman, is to have the flag travel around the United States and fly at the capitol buildings of every state that wants it. "Maybe it'll end up at the Smithsonian," he says.
Bowman came up with the idea to make a flag from hemp fiber while pondering an amendment to the FARRM Act proposed by U.S. Representative Jared Polis. The amendment would allow universities to study hemp, and Bowman thought it would be illustrative to have Polis hold a hemp flag during the debate on the measure. When he couldn't find any for sale on the Internet, he turned to several local hemp advocates to make one. They did, and after Polis brandished the flag on the House floor, the congressman was able to have it flown over the Capitol.
At 2 p.m. today, several of those advocates and others were on hand to witness the cannabis-derived stars-and-stripes ascend a flagpole on the Colorado State Capitol Building grounds. Once at the top, it flapped briefly in the wind before the state's official flag-raisers brought it back down. (Apparently, that's how Colorado does it, the advocates were told.)
Hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa that contains little to none of the psychoactive ingredient THC found in marijuana. Nevertheless, the federal government does not distinguish between hemp and marijuana and considers both to be illegal. Hempsters see it differently. They argue that hemp is a useful plant that can be made into food, fuel and fiber and was once an important domestic crop. Legend has it that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag from hemp.
Coloradans paved the way for resurrecting hemp when they passed the pot-centric Amendment 64 last November. The amendment directed lawmakers to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp by July 1, 2014. Lawmakers beat that deadline in May when they approved a bill to set up a process to register hemp farmers with the state. An advisory committee now has until March 1, 2014 to come up with that process, after which farmers will be able to start growing.
A handful of other states have also legalized hemp, though it remains outlawed on a federal level. Bowman reports that Vermont and Kentucky, which are among them, have already expressed interest in having the flag flown there.
"It's a media opportunity to talk about the importance of hemp," Bowman explains.
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