Although not as sexy as other bills pushing for dispensary tasting rooms or public pot lounges, one proposal approved by the Colorado Legislature this session could push the state's hemp industry to new heights if approved by Governor John Hickenlooper. Known as the "hemp foods bill," HB 1295 would create a registration system for companies that make industrial hemp and hemp-derived CBD products such as cosmetics and food items in Colorado, so they would no longer be considered "adulterated."
While most consumable hemp products are sold without much interference in this state, there's no clear language in the Colorado Constitution or other statutes that explicitly allows for that, and some advocates worry about a regulatory or law enforcement crackdown on the hemp industry. To ensure that that won't happen, the majority (but not all) of the hemp industry pushed this measure for over two years, finally watching it pass through the General Assembly by a wide margin in 2018.
We recently spoke with proponent Veronica Carpio, founder of hemp industry group Grow Hemp Colorado and owner of a hemp-infused coffee company, about the bill's potential impact.
Westword: What does being deemed "adulterated" do to food and other products infused with hemp? How does it affect hemp and CBD businesses?
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Veronica Carpio: "Adulterated" means illegal and not allowed or approved for human/animal use or consumption. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration enforcement, all hemp and CBD products that are not exempted items in the Controlled Substances Act are illegal. They have been and remain very clear on this position, regardless of claimed Farm Bill "protections," although Colorado clearly disagrees with this position via the clear language in the hemp foods bill. There are real legal consequences under federal and state law regarding adulterated ingredients and products. Under the new law, none of our hemp products or businesses will be in violation of state law, provided the finished product contains 0.3 percent THC or less.
How would this bill impact Colorado's hemp industry?
It provides both clarity and protections for our existing and rapidly expanding hemp industry here in Colorado. We would have a clear and all-encompassing definition for hemp products for human use and consumption after our state Pure Food and Drug Law comes into effect. Hemp products, like CBD, tincture, etc., would be defined as food — not a drug, not illegal, adulterated or mislabeled, and not a public health or safety concern.
Colorado is the leading hemp state in the nation, and we have once again shown great forward-thinking with this bill's objectives and accomplishments, even if it's in conflict with the current federal position. The hemp foods bill has also put further protections, under criminal code, in place for our industry from potential harm due to unforeseen consequences by FDA-approved cannabinoid "drug" makers, like GW Pharmaceuticals.
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Would hemp products being shipped out of state still have to be deemed adulterated?
The hemp foods bill only affects products made and/or sold within our state. Yes, products will still be considered adulterated once they leave Colorado, although the hope is for all the other states to adopt the bill's language. That could provide us the ability to ship to other states legally and stop products from being seized, as well as other benefits in the future, too.
Does the bill do enough? What else can be done to protect and advance Colorado's hemp industry?
The bill is a great start for a solid foundation and ensured success for our booming Colorado hemp industry. More always needs to be done, and will be over the next few years, but the goal will always be to treat hemp like corn or carrots. Any new law or regulations should benefit the whole, not just a select few.