Hemp is a Hot Topic in Western Colorado

[May 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage | By Deb Barr]
Courtesy image.

With the trend away from the use of petroleum-based plastics, demands for alternative products continues to rise. Industrial hemp meets many of those demands with more than 2,500 identified uses—from paper, to cosmetics and body care, to CBD-infused products, to building materials. In rural Colorado, hemp is key to efforts to rebuild local economies devastated by the loss of energy-industry jobs. Hemp and CBD products are becoming more readily available and demand is accelerating.

How does hemp differ from marijuana?

Marijuana and hemp plants look alike. The difference is in the percentage of THC, which is determined primarily by the variety of seed planted. Industrial hemp has a THC concentration of 0.3% or less, dry weight. Plants with over 0.3% THC content are considered marijuana. Ultimately, the percentage of THC is determined in the laboratory. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a by-product of hemp, and under Colorado law, must meet the same 0.3% limit. Hemp and marijuana cannot legally be grown together, and to avoid potential criminal prosecution, hemp operations must be registered.

Montrose County was the first county to receive grant funding to study the feasibility of building a hemp processing facility. At the end of 2018, there were approximately 31 registered, industrial, hemp growers in Montrose County alone, with 688 registered growers statewide.

Colorado’s registration process to grow industrial hemp is straightforward, and the process takes about 30 days to complete. Applicants do not have to be Colorado residents, but must clearly define their property with full mapping and GPS coordinates. Details on application requirements, state rules, and compliance regulations can be found on the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s website (https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agplants/industrial-hemp). Application fees are nonrefundable and local zoning regulations may apply.

Sources: West End Economic Development Corporation; Colorado Department of Agriculture