Late last month, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law affirming hemp farmers have a right to use their water rights for hemp cultivation, even if the water is held in federal reservoirs.
Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose) introduced Senate Bill 117 (SB117) in February. The legislation confirms that a person with an absolute or conditional water right decreed for agricultural use in Colorado may use that water for the growth or cultivation of industrial hemp if the person is registered by the department of agriculture to grow industrial hemp in the state.
SB117 passed the Senate 34-1 on March 22. The House approved the measure April 24 by a 64-0 margin. Gov. Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on May 21. It went into immediate effect.
Colorado legalized cultivation of industrial hemp along with marijuana in 2013, and created a licensing program for the crop the following year, but the federal government continues to maintain a ban on commercial hemp farming. This has created issues for Colorado farmers trying to utilize water from federal projects for their hemp crops.