Late last year, the Colorado Department of Agriculture adopted the first industrial hemp rules in the state’s history; producers can begin to register with CDA’s industrial hemp program on March 1, 2014. However, potential registrants should be aware of uncertainties that still exist because of federal law.
CDA’s regulatory role with industrial hemp is limited to registration of growers and inspection of crop. While Colorado legalized the production of hemp, growing it commercially is still considered illegal under federal law. The Department of Justice has issued guidelines that will, if followed, limit the likelihood of federal enforcement against commercial producers. The following issues may cause concern for those interested in growing this crop in Colorado.
•Seed Procurement/Quality—Seed that exists in Colorado may be variable and have unknown THC levels. Random sampling of hemp fields will be conducted. Plant samples testing at levels higher than 0.3 percent THC will be in violation of the Colorado Industrial Hemp Registration and Production Act. Importation of viable industrial hemp seed across state lines and country boundaries is illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
•Pesticides—There are not any pesticides currently registered for use on hemp due to the predominant federal nature of pesticide regulation. The CDA is putting together a limited list of pesticides that could be used without violating federal and state pesticide regulations.
•Federal farm programs—Crop insurance, farm loans and conservation reserve may be jeopardized if industrial hemp is planted; these programs are managed federally.
•Banking—Banks may be reluctant to provide services to hemp growers for fear of being prosecuted for federal laws and regulations violations.
•Processing—Colorado’s industrial hemp rules state that industrial hemp producers must provide documentation of in-state processing as part of registration. It is unknown at this time how many state processing facilities will be available at time of harvest.
Producers must register with CDA by May 1, 2014 for the 2014 growing season. The annual registration fee for commercial production of industrial hemp will be $200 plus $1.00/acre. The annual registration fee for production of industrial hemp for research and development will be $100 plus $5/acre.
The entire rule and additional information on industrial hemp can be found by visiting www.colorado.gov/ag/dpi and clicking on “industrial hemp.”