Hemp production is blossoming across Colorado, but when the plants produce too much THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, farmers are required by the state to destroy their harvest.
The requirement can cause farmers to lose thousands of dollars, said Scott Perez, a La Plata County hemp farmer who is helping to update state hemp rules.
“How many farmers can afford to lose $20,000 or $50,000?” he said in an interview with The Durango Herald. Sometimes, farmers turn to the black market to avoid those loses, Perez said.
Southwest Colorado hemp producers asked state officials to take a closer look at the definition of hemp to help protect their crops from destruction at a meeting last week at the Old Fort in Hesperus.
The meeting was held to gather feedback for the Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan, also known as CHAMP. The plan, expected to be finished in May 2020, is expected to help guide and promote the hemp industry.
The document is meant to answer a range of questions for the hemp industry such as: What should be done with hemp that has too much THC? and How can hemp be safely transported across state lines without being seized by local law enforcement?
Hemp in Colorado and nationally is defined as cannabis having less than 0.3% THC. If testing shows a hemp crop has exceeded the THC limit, producers often compost it or till it back into the ground, said Brian Koontz with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Hemp Producer Carl Sheeler, founder of Two Bears Farm, called on state officials to re-evaluate the definition of hemp, because it is “arbitrary.”
The definition is needed because hemp and marijuana are both cannabis and produce THC and CBD at different levels.
Sheeler said he would like to see a definition based on how much THC is required for a user to get high, because some forms of THC are not psychoactive.
“I think it should be determined in a scientific and apolitical setting,” he said.
However, Hollis Glenn, a director of the CHAMP project, said it might be detrimental to the hemp industry to change the percentage of THC hemp is allowed to have because it is aligned with the federal definition.
If Colorado’s definition differs from the federal government’s rule, it could hurt interstate commerce, he said.
Producers were also interested in a way to preserve hemp with too much THC for fiber-based products, such as a paper, they said. Hemp fiber can also be used for building materials and canvas.
Developing a way to take hemp high in THC to market could preserve Colorado as an industry leader, producers said.
“We are a leader in the hemp industry in the nation and we want to continue to be that leader,” Glenn said.
The state is also working on a method to safely transport hemp and to educate law enforcement about hemp so that when law enforcement officers pull over drivers transporting hemp, the hemp isn’t confiscated, officials said.
Hemp is confusing for law enforcement officers because it looks and smells like marijuana, said Lt. Col. Barry Bratt, with Colorado State Patrol.
Right now, drivers transporting hemp should take as much documentation with them as possible to prove their load is legal, he said.
The state will be accepting input on the hemp rules that will govern testing, transportation, processing, manufacturing, banking and other issues until December.
Residents interested in providing feedback online can visit bit.ly/2z5Ppvy or text @champ to 351-34.