4

Marijuana: Industrial hemp study bill approved, but hurdles remain

^
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

With the passing of HB 1099 yesterday, which creates a soil remediation study using hemp as the filtering agent, Colorado could be the first state in the nation to grow industrial hemp since the late 1930s.

But passing the bill was just the first obstacle. Actually implementing the plan might be more tricky.

The bill becomes law on July 1 and would require the chairs of the agriculture, livestock and natural resources committees of both the state house and the senate to appoint a task force made up of a soil expert from a Colorado university or college, an expert in radioactive material detection and leeching, an expert in phytochemistry, a horticulturist and three Colorado residents "educated and interested in the specialized use of industrial hemp."

The committee would chose a site or sites totaling no more than 500 acres. Ideally the site would be heavily contaminated, similar to the former Rocky Flats nuclear-weapons plant, though no site has been selected currently (note: we earlier incorrectly reported that the site would be at Rocky Flats). No word on exactly where the seeds for the hemp plants would come from, either.

The pilot study would last ten years, and the bill requires a final report within six months of the end of the program on the amount of contamination removed by the plants, the amount of contamination found in the actual plants and what things need additional treatments to be cleaned. The report would also help establish a baseline standard for cannabis phytoremediation levels.

But there are several hurdles to overcome. Among them is language in the bill that requires the money for the pilot program be kept in a bank or credit union that has insurance through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Because all forms of cannabis are illegal at the federal level, that could be a problem.

*Update 5/11/2012: As noted in the comments below, the final language of the bill allots all money used for the soil remediation program to the state general fund and then issued through the Colorado Department of Public health and Environment instead of using FDIC-insured banks. From the bill:

"The committee shall transmit all private and public moneys received through gifts, grants, or donation to the state treasurer, who shall credit the same to the hemp remediation pilot program cash fund ... The Moneys in the fund are subject to annual appropriation by the general assembly to the department of public health and environment for appropriation to the committee for the direct and indirect costs associated with implementing this article."

Bill author Wes McKinley acknowledged the banking issues in an interview with Westword back in February. But he said that it was still worth moving the bill forward."Hemp was the basic agricultural crop of our country at one time," McKinley said at the time. "It provides food, fuel, fiber, oil. All of our ropes and sails were made of it at one time. But because of special interests, it was outlawed."

But there are other obstacles, including getting federal approval. Colorado isn't the first to pass hemp cultivation bills. California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, West Virginia and Vermont all have passed bills allowing for industrial hemp cultivation. However the cultivation would require a DEA license, and so far there are no states that have received approval.

More from our marijuana archive: "Marijuana: House Bill 1358 fails in Senate, THC DUI not dead yet?"; "Marijuana: 25 dispensaries' closure to protect "students," not just children"

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.