Hemp farmers in Colorado could be asked to pay annual fees of at least $200 and submit to inspections to make sure they’re growing industrial hemp and not marijuana, according to regulations proposed by Colorado agriculture officials.
The proposed rules, announced Wednesday, will be submitted next week for approval by commissioners of the state Department of Agriculture. The Denver Post reported that farmers will be asked to pay $1 an acre in addition to the $200 annual fees.
Industrial hemp, marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin, already is under limited cultivation in Colorado, though it defies federal drug law. Hemp and its oil-rich seeds are used mostly in foods, cosmetics and textiles.
Hemp production was made legal last year when Colorado voters also decided to defy federal drug law and allow recreational marijuana for adults.
In August, the U.S. Department of Justice said the federal government would generally defer to state marijuana laws as long as states keep marijuana away from children and drug cartels. The memo didn’t even mention hemp as an enforcement priority for federal drug agents.
Hemp advocates at a public meeting in Lakewood said the crop’s potential is great. But they said development might be slowed by the plant’s continued illegal status under federal law.
That will create problems for farmers in procuring hemp seed to start their crops, speakers said.
Christopher Boucher of San Diego-based US Hemp Oil said his company plans to build a facility to process hemp-seed oil in the San Luis Valley. The plant initially could employ six to eight workers and grow to 50 or 60 employees, depending on the acreage planted in Colorado.
But he said the facility can’t start until farmers have assurance that they can buy starter seeds. Because of the federal ban on nonsterile hemp seeds, growers could in theory face criminal charges or have their foreign seed shipments confiscated by U.S. Customs agents.
Barbara Filippone, owner of Glenwood Springs-based EnviroTextiles, said she has plans for two Western Slope factories to make hemp-based industrial products.
“Colorado is the ideal location for market development based on location and logistics,” she said.