Larimer County Sheriff Clamps Down on This Weekend's NoCo Hemp Expo

Larimer County law enforcement seems to be taking its cues from Nebraska lately. A month after Sheriff Justin Smith headlined a lawsuit aimed at Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, alleging that the state violated federal law by passing Amendment 64, his department has decided hemp is a public menace as well.

Morris Beegle began organizing his Second Annual NoCo Hemp Expo, which is scheduled to take place this weekend at the Loveland Ranch Event Center, months ago. However, two weeks ago, he was told by Ranch officials that exhibitors couldn't bring hemp plants or germinating seeds. The Larimer County Sheriff's Department said the presence of hemp would violate federal law— Amendment 64, and its distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana, notwithstanding

"The Sheriff's position is that it's still Schedule 1 and illegal on the federal level, and he can't tell the difference between a hemp plant and a marijuana plant or a hemp seed and a marijuana seed," Beegle says.

According to Beegle, he was told the presence of live hemp plants and seed could "jeopardize millions of dollars in grant money the county receives from the federal government."

"To me, that's just a big smoke screen," he says.

Beegle says canceling or rescheduling the event this late was out of the question because of the short notice, and that he lays no blame at the Ranch, which he says has been extremely helpful in the matter. But Larimer County's position, he adds, is simply anti-business and anti-cannabis. He's considering holding the next NoCo Hemp Expo somewhere else.

"I'm more than happy to look at Boulder County, Denver County or Adams County to move this thing [next year]," he says. 

This isn't the first time Smith's office has embraced a controversial interpretation of the law. Before leading the lawsuit against Hickenlooper, he publicly stated his department wouldn't enforce any potential gun-control laws from the federal government, calling them "unconstitutional."

The Second Annual NoCo Hemp Expo will take place on Saturday at 10 a.m. with many of the vendors, exhibits and speakers promised, including U.S. Representative Jared Pollis.

The Ranch Events Center, Larimer County Sheriff and County Attorney could not be reached for comment.

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell