Hemp: New law lets farmers register year-round to grow crop

The industrial hemp growing registration period is open again -- and it will stay that way year-round from now on, thanks to a bill passed by lawmakers earlier this year. The bill, which was signed into law on May 31 and is on view below, removes the annual May 1 registration deadline for farmers wanting to grow newly legal industrial hemp. A rule issued by the state agriculture commissioner last week now simply requires farmers to register with the state thirty days before they intend to plant.

"It really turns this into year-round registration," says deputy state agriculture commissioner Ron Carleton. While he figures that farmers planning to plant outdoors will still register in the spring, the new rule makes it easier for those who wish to plant in greenhouses and the like. "It facilitates indoor as much as anything," he adds.

The bill also sets up an industrial hemp grant research program to provide funds to Colorado colleges and universities to "conduct research to develop or recreate strains of industrial hemp best suited for industrial applications.

"The purpose of the research," the bill continues, "may include growing industrial hemp to provide breeding strains to aid Colorado's industrial hemp program and to create Colorado strains of industrial hemp."

The program is not yet funded, however; Carleton says it will be up to lawmakers to decide how much money to allocate for the program in the future.

To help facilitate that research, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has registered with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to import hemp seeds -- with the caveat that the seeds can only be used by the department itself or by state colleges and universities conducting research under a provision in the federal Farm Bill that allows for it. Private would-be hemp growers say getting viable hemp seed is the biggest barrier to establishing a thriving industrial hemp industry. Because the plant was illegal to grow for so many decades, there is very little seed stock available in the United States.

Carleton recognizes that the availability of hemp seed is a challenge, but he says getting a DEA permit to import seeds for university research is a step in the right direction. "We're happy that at least we're able to take that first step," he says. "It's short of what everybody would have liked to have seen. This is all occurring in steps, really."

Read the full text of the new law regarding hemp registration below.

Marijuana Deals Near You

Bill Concerning the Oversight of the Industrial Hemp Program

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Inside Michael Hancock's plan to divide Denver's pot-tax revenue."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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