DENVER - Hemp is one of the newest crops to legally take root in Colorado. Once the newly-passed federal farm bill becomes law, though, those roots could go even deeper.
"Industrial hemp is used in thousands of products, ranging from automobile parts to soaps to nutritional supplements to clothing," Congressman Jared Polis (D-Boulder) said.
Rep. Polis helped add a provision to the farm bill, which allows universities and agriculture agencies in states like Colorado to grow hemp for research without worrying about committing a federal crime.
"This provision in the farm bill allowing CSU and other universities to do industrial hemp research is a really important first step to make sure that we have a crop that is free of any narcotics-- that is readily growable in all conditions here in Colorado-- and can be processed in consumer products to help replace all the imports we have today from other countries," Polis said.
"I think the ability of our land grant universities to be able to do some research with regard to hemp, I think, is huge," State Representative Jerry Sonnenberg (R- Sterling) said. "It's one of those extra tools that we have available to us, to grow."
Rep. Sonnenberg said another bonus is the fact that hemp doesn't use as much water as some traditional crops, making it attractive to farmers dealing with Colorado's drought issues. Yet, some challenges remain.
"The other thing is to try and get seeds to actually grow hemp," he said. "Right now, the Justice Department is still weighing in and saying 'no, it's still illegal from us. So, we're not going to allow you to import seeds or do those types of things.'"
That is why supporters say the provision is critical to allow universities to research and experiment with growing their own seeds and possibly launching a new industry in the state. Colorado State University released a statement about the hemp provision.
"As a land grant institution with vast expertise in agriculture, Colorado State University is watching closely to see when language in the Farm Bill results in the policy changes needed to permissibly cultivate, research and conduct other activities related to growing industrial hemp in the US," said Mike Hooker, Executive Director, Public Affairs and Communications for Colorado State University. "Once new federal regulations concerning industrial hemp are issued, Colorado State is poised to help explore the possibility that hemp could become an important crop in Colorado."
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