Colorado’s First Legal Hemp Harvest Since 1957 Is Underway

COLORADO:  Boosters of industrial hemp often fondly refer to the plant as a wonder crop, usable in everything from building materials to batteries to breakfast cereal. Since Colorado voters legalized both hemp and marijuana with the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, hemp advocates have been buzzing about the state’s promise as a manufacturing hub for this dizzying array of products. Yet even as Colorado farmers make history this fall with the first legal commercial hempharvest on U.S. soil in 57 years, it’s unlikely that much of their bounty will go toward the plant’s diverse list of potential uses.

Instead, hobbled by a longstanding federal ban on shipping hemp seed across state lines, most Colorado hemp farmers are squirreling away their seed supply, using this year’s harvest as a source of next year’s supply in an attempt to vastly increase planted acreage in 2015 with Colorado-grown seed stock.

“In an ideal world we’d grow between 1,500 and 2,000 acres of hemp next year, said J.R. Knaub, a 37-year-old farmer in the northeastern Colorado town of Sterling who has been growing corn, sugar beets and alfalfa for the last 20 years and this year planted around 2 acres of hemp. “But getting seed will be the biggest task we have to conquer.”

 

California Hemp Gets Rolling

CALIFORNIA:  Green, twenty-foot-tall fields of research hemp might be waving in the Davis breeze by the next year in a startling breakthrough for California hemp advocates who have been working for decades to grow the plant.

The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 combined with the 2014 federal farm bill has unlocked the possibility of legally growing the ancient food, fuel, and fiber crop. “It’s remarkable. I’m quite thrilled,” said longtime San Francisco hemp lawyer Patrick Goggin. “We had no idea it would come this fast, to be honest.”

Championed by state Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, the California Hemp Act of 2013 authorized hemp farming in California, but only if the federal government allowed it. When the bill passed last year, it seemed likely that hell would freeze over before the feds would ever legalize hemp farming.

But then on February 7, hell froze over. A far-left-far-right contingent in Congress added an amendment to the massive US farm bill exempting research hemp from the federal Drug War if states also allowed hemp. California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a centrist and a longtime opponent of marijuana, opposed the amendment. But “she lost big time,” Goggin noted.