Hemp supporters around the country feel confident this plant is poised to cultivate roots throughout American industry…
The recent approval of Amendment 64 by Colorado’s voters has energized a group of enthusiastic hemp fanatics who can scarcely control their passion for the outright legalization of this flourishing green plant throughout the United States.
And no, we’re not talking about weed. At least not the type that’s high in THC… These leafy green Colorado enthusiasts get their thrills from planting the buzz-free hemp seeds, and watching their usefulness grow.
The planet saving superhero in the cannabis family is a genetic relative to the marijuana plant, while hemp may share similar visual characteristics. One of the primary differences between hemp and marijuana is that hemp contains almost no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that makes users feel that euphoric sense of elevation.
However, hemp more than makes up for its lack of THC – by being an incredibly functional substance which can be utilized throughout American industry; from plastic like panels for automobile exteriors, to useful cotton like textiles…even health foods— hemp has cultivated a strong following.[nggallery id=837]
Hemp supporters around the country feel confident this plant is poised to cultivate roots throughout American industry, now that Colorado past Amendment 64, which allows for hemp’s legal cultivation pending legislative authorization.
As Lynda Parker hits on the topic, her eyes fire up with excitement…
“My friends tell me I’m too evangelical,” says the retired Dex saleswoman. “But there’s hardly a problem in the world that can’t be solved with hemp.”
Rattling off a list of useful applications for the hemp plant…
“Hemp is food, animal feed, fiber, fuel, shelter,” she says. “It cleans the air, the water, the soil. Hemp could be enormous for Colorado because we’re the first state to legalize it.”
Hemp’s most common uses are food products derived from seeds and seed oil. Fiber from the stalks of hemp plants are used in clothing and industrial applications, including as a strengthening agent in concrete.[nggallery id=838]
Parker is part of an early-stage, loose-knit coalition formed to raise hemp’s profile. Other members range from a medical-marijuana activist to a Ph.D. candidate at Colorado School of Mines. Their common thread is a belief that hemp is going to be big — bigger, perhaps, than legal marijuana.
The Colorado Center on Law & Policy estimates that state-sanctioned marijuana sales initially could be as much as $270 million a year, producing state and local taxes of $47 million a year.
Yet a mature hemp industry — from farm to factory to storefront — might be 10 times larger than legal marijuana, backers project.
Could anything possibly dampen the potential of this beneficial botanical?
Well, yes. The federal government for one.
Like marijuana, hemp is still illegal in the eyes of the feds, despite Colorado’s clear electoral mandate to legalize it.
Federal officials have said little about how they will react to Colorado’s new law. Some analysts say it’s unlikely they will target individual users, but the outlook is less certain for federal crackdowns on larger enterprises, such as farm-scale growing.
Hemp backers say that would be an extreme injustice, given that hemp has no narcotic properties. But federal law does not differentiate between the cultivation of hemp and marijuana.[nggallery id=839]
Even in Colorado, the Amendment 64 implementation task force is unlikely to set up hemp regulations until next year because it has its hands full with the complexities of marijuana rule-making.
There are plenty of hemp products on the market — clothing, food, beverages, construction materials. But because of the federal prohibition on growing, all hemp must come from imported sources. Canada is the largest supplier to the U.S.
If Colorado were to establish a hemp-farming industry, it would be limited by a federal ban on interstate transportation of the crop. The harvested hemp would need to stay inside Colorado, where currently there are few major industrial customers.
That limitation does not deter Mike Bowman, a Yuma County farmer and alternative-energy activist. He plans to plant a test crop of 100 acres of hemp, possibly as early as this year, on land typically reserved for corn.
Hemp requires much less water than corn, Bowman notes, thus providing a potential solution to over-pumped aquifers on the eastern plains.
In Canada, he said, hemp is a more profitable crop than wheat. According to the Alberta provincial government, hemp seed production can yield up to $1,000 per acre. Canadian wheat in 2012 yielded an average of $315 an acre.
But the threat of federal intervention in the U.S. and the misperception that equates hemp to marijuana are formidable hurdles.
“If hemp had a different name, it would be a lot easier,” Bowman says.