Colorado is on the leading edge of industrial hemp production. It started with last year's pot-centric Amendment 64, which also directed the state legislature 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 that created a nine-member advisory committee tasked with helping the department come up with a way to register hemp farmers and inspect their crops. The bill gave the department a deadline of March 1, 2014 to get that process in place.
Some farmers didn't wait, even though the department issued a statement in May clarifying that growing industrial hemp wasn't okay just yet. In September, farmer Ryan Loflin began harvesting 55 acres of hemp that he'd planted in the spring. He finished hand-picking the plants (with help from 45 volunteers!) earlier this month.But for the majority of would-be hemp farmers, the department's regulations will dictate how they move forward. The draft rules allow for the growing of hemp for two different purposes: commercial, and research and development. The regulations differ for each.
Hemp is still illegal at the federal level, though many advocates have taken the federal Department of Justice's recent memo stating that it wouldn't sue to stop states' marijuana laws as a sign that the feds won't interfere with states' hemp laws, either.
The Agriculture Department will host a public hearing on the proposed regulations on November 6.
Continue to read highlights from the draft regulations.