Hemp growing legal right now? No, says Colorado Department of Agriculture

Is it legal to grow hemp in Colorado? Like, right now?

That's a complicated question -- and one that the Colorado Department of Agriculture is trying to clear up in a statement issued this week: "Amendment 64 did not authorize the immediate cultivation of hemp. It instead directed the General Assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp. This they have now done."

So can farmers start planting? Not yet.

Ron Carleton, the state's deputy commissioner of agriculture, admits that there's "considerable confusion" about whether pot-centric Amendment 64, approved by voters in November, authorized the immediate growing of hemp, marijuana's sober sister. "We've been getting a lot of questions about, 'What does this mean?' and 'Can I start cultivating now?'" Carleton says.

As noted above, the answer to that second question is "no." Amendment 64 merely directed the state legislature to "enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp" by July 1, 2014. Lawmakers beat that deadline earlier this month when they approved SB 241, a bill that requires the state Department of Agriculture to put in place a process to register hemp farmers by March 1, 2014. Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill into law, though he has not yet done so.

Here's the rest of the department's statement, which quotes Carleton:

"This legislation delegates to the Department the responsibility for establishing registration and inspection regulations and to have the rules finalized by March 1, 2014. The bill also creates an advisory committee to help the Department in developing the regulations. The measure is now awaiting action by Governor John Hickenlooper," [Carleton says].

"Once SB13-241 becomes law, we will begin the rulemaking process, working in consultation with the advisory committee. While we will work diligently to complete this process as quickly as possible, it is unlikely that we will have rules setting up a registration and inspection system in place until early 2014.

"The General Assembly ... has made it clear that cultivation, for either commercial or research and development purposes, is not authorized unless the prospective grower first registers with the Department. That will not be possible until early 2014 as we do not expect the registration program to be in place before then."

Individuals with questions concerning the upcoming rulemaking process may contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture at (303) 239-4100.

Continue for more on the confusion around growing hemp.