Colorado’s Hemp Program Must Change to Fit USDA Rules

Most hemp farmers across the country got a big boost when the United States Department of Agriculture released its first round of industrial hemp regulations earlier this week; the new rules took effect today, October 31.

“I applaud the USDA for moving forward on hemp rulemaking and recognizing hemp production as an agricultural activity,” Senator Cory Gardner said in a statement after the regulations were announced. “Legalized hemp has the potential to be a major boon to agricultural communities across Colorado, giving farmers another viable and profitable option for their fields.”

But for farmers in states like Colorado, where hemp has been an established crop for almost five years, the new rules might not seem so progressive.

The language of last year’s Farm Bill, the measure that legalized hemp, permits states to submit plans for their own hemp regulations, follow the USDA’s regulations, or ban hemp production altogether. While the Colorado Department of Agriculture has indicated that it will submit a new hemp plan to the USDA in 2020, the state ag department had already implemented its own plan long before hemp was legalized federally late last year, and under that plan, Colorado became of the largest hemp-producing states in the country.

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Shawn Hauser, a hemp attorney with Vicente Sederberg, says that Colorado will have to alter some of its hemp regulations to align more closely with the USDA regulations, and that could mean tighter rules for this state’s farmers. Under the new, USDA-approved regulations, Colorado hemp farmers are likely to face stricter testing requirements for THC levels, she says, and have less opportunity to mitigate hot hemp, or plants that test above the federal government’s maximum allowable level of THC (0.3 percent) in industrial hemp.

“The way the federal regulations are set up, they’re going to affect every state significantly. Testing and sampling, specifically, are different from what most states have in practice,” Hauser explains. “Federal rules are pretty strict with requiring hot hemp to be destroyed by a DEA agent. There is no opportunity for remediation or correction.”

The new FDA rules do allow a “measurement of uncertainty” for farmers, which could let plants reach as high as 0.5 percent THC and still be considered acceptable by the USDA. However, industry supporters and farmers alike have been pushing for a 1 percent THC limit for some time.

Colorado farmers are currently given a couple of weeks to lower plants’ THC levels if they test too high, but hemp’s legalization and close connection to marijuana has spurred concerns of increased black market marijuana activity among law enforcement in certain states. Hauser suggests that states like Colorado and Oregon — both of which have legal and established marijuana industries — are better prepared to deal with such concerns, but she adds that more evolved markets are better prepared to roll with federal changes, too.

“Colorado and other states, because they’re mature and have gone through these trials, kind of understand there is a need for remediation,” she adds. “But because Colorado has one of the most mature industries, some of the hemp markets have anticipated these changes.”

Federal hemp regulations that mandate 100 percent of hemp harvests to undergo THC testing would likely require more CDA staff, Hauser says, as this state’s agriculture department only has enough bandwidth to test about 25 percent of hemp crops right now. Further, the USDA rules call for such testing to take place at labs certified by the Drug Enforcement Administration — and there aren’t many.

And if hemp farmers lose their crops because of high THC levels, there’s little that could help them in the form of insurance, as the new federal crop insurance program for hemp isn’t likely to cover high THC levels, according to industry representatives.

Although the USDA rules are officially implemented today, the rules are only for the interim and will be replaced in two years; states have a year to either comply or send in their respective proposals for hemp regulations. The CDA’s Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan (CHAMP), a committee created by Governor Jared Polis to advance hemp policy in Colorado, will send the state’s hemp proposal to the USDA within the next few months in hopes of fully complying with the USDA by the 2020 farming season, according to Hauser.

“There are some areas for improvement, especially around testing, disposal and sampling,” Hauser says. “There is a public comment period — it’s incredibly significant for legalized hemp farmers — so it’s more important than ever to engage with the industry.”

One of Colorado’s largest hemp brands doesn’t see the USDA’s changes as a hindrance, welcoming the long-awaited federal guidance. According to Derek Thomas, vice president of business development for Veritas Farms, the USDA’s regulations will usher in a more defined and legal marketplace nationwide, which in turn will help Colorado’s hemp industry grow.

“Inside of the Colorado ecosystem, not much is going to change. Colorado has had a very robust legislative framework from the onset, and a lot of states have replicated that model,” he says. “Not a lot in Colorado will change too much. However, outside of Colorado, things like interstate commerce will see a lot less restriction from the federal government.”

With the USDA nearing completion of its hemp regulations, Thomas says the next domino that must fall is held by the Food and Drug Administration, the federal body responsible for regulating products with CBD and other cannabinoids derived from hemp. Currently, the FDA views CBD as an illegal ingredient for products meant for human and animal consumption, but admits that the agency lacks resources to enforce the policy as the largely unregulated CBD industry booms.

Veritas has deals with national drugstore chains to sell its CBD-infused lotions and topicals (products that are legal under FDA standards), but Thomas says that finding national carriers to sell its CBD tinctures and edibles is much harder in the current landscape.

“The big piece that is lingering now from the federal government is the FDA,” he says. “Most national chains are sticking to the wait-and-see model for guidance form the FDA, but we’ve seen a lot of regional retailers take interest in CBD ingestibles as we wait.”


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Ask a Stoner: Smoking Hemp Buds

Dear Stoner: Are hemp cigarettes or joints a thing? Like, all hemp?
Justine

Dear Justine: Smoking hemp is turning into very much of a thing, as well as a headache for law enforcement. Since the feds legalized hemp late last year, state and local prosecutors have had to drop hundreds, if not thousands, of low-level marijuana cases because of how hard it is to tell the two plants apart. (Hemp is supposed to have under 0.3 percent THC, but that measurement takes weeks and resources to verify.) And police are getting pissed off about the similarity, because it’s forcing them to back off marijuana enforcement, even in states where pot is still illegal, like Texas.

Checking out the plants at Veritas Farms, a hemp cultivation in southern Colorado.EXPAND

Checking out the plants at Veritas Farms, a hemp cultivation in southern Colorado.

Jacqueline Collins

But are people actually smoking lots of hemp flower? Not as much as the concentrate, but the short answer is yes. High-CBD hemp buds, which look strikingly similar to pot, and hemp cigarettes are now sold in smoke shops, CBD stores and even online, while rolling papers and blunt wraps made of hemp leaves are sold by the bagful at dispensaries. Hemp-marijuana spliffs are even a thing, too. Welcome to 2019.

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Send questions to marijuana@westword.com.


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MMJ America Founder Launches Hemp and CBD Company

A new hemp and CBD company has hit Colorado retail outlets, and the founder has a familiar name to Colorado marijuana. Jake Salazar, the founder of Denver dispensary chain MMJ America, has moved on to launch Solari Hemp, a line of hemp and CBD gummies, lotions, gel capsules, tinctures and more.

Solari co-founders Salazar, Colin Gallagher and Myorr Janha spent over a year planning their new company, from designing the product lines to having the right genetics in place for a successful hemp crop.

“We founded the company on the vertical integration model,” Gallagher says. “We wanted to create a company with real partnerships, so our farmers are our equity partners, and we have strategic partners in different parts of the company.”

Through a vertical integration model, Solari Hemp has partnered with fourth-generation farmers who are currently manufacturing products from hemp grown over 150 acres of farmland in Eaton and Longmont. The company has control over every production step from seed to shelf, including cultivation, extraction and manufacturing. Solari will also sell wholesale industrial hemp to other infused-product manufacturers, as well as white label for other brands.

MMJ America Founder Launches Hemp and CBD Company

Courtesy of Solari Hemp

“It’s the most efficient and cost-effective way to produce a quality product and offer it to consumers at an affordable price,” explains Salazar.

The founder and former CEO of MMJ America, one of the first medical and recreational dispensary chains in Denver, says he sold his share of the company and left a little over two years ago. According to Salazar, there is greater opportunity in the hemp industry.

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“I wanted to get away from the traditional marijuana industry and dive into something more cutting-edge,” he says. “Hemp is this gateway to clinical studies, and has different types of cannabinoids that can help people that aren’t as prominent in the marijuana industry.”

Legal approval from the feds and easier state regulations than legal pot has doesn’t hurt, either. Unlike state-licensed marijuana businesses such as MMJ America, Solari Hemp can sell its products online and even ship them across state lines. And by focusing on familiar wellness items like lotion and gel capsules, the brand believes it can reach even more consumers.

“People use vitamins or supplements on a daily basis,” Gallagher says. “We wanted to create a line of products that people would feel comfortable with and have at least some prior experience with. The goal was to gear the brand to cater to everyone and anyone trying to better themselves.”

Solari products are now sold online and at health and wellness, pharmacy, convenience, tobacco and grocery stores across the country, according to the company.


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How to Grow Mass Scale Hemp in a Light Deprivation Greenhouse

The mainstream cannabis cultivation has taken over the hemp industry by storm, especially after many countries legalized weed. Hundreds of hemp cultivators now have greenhouses in their garden where they grow high-quality cannabis that they sell in local markets. But, when it comes to mass-scale production, one of the techniques that work wonders is the light deprivation method. Wondering how the flowers will grow without light? Here’s how the system works.

Hemp Cultivation Using Light Deprivation Technique

One of the advantages of the light deprivation method is it allows the farmer to alter the lighting schedules of the plant. This helps to force the plants into making buds as soon as possible. With the growing demand for hemp in various countries, the light deprivation method comes as a boon to meet such high requirements.

Multiple Harvests In One Year

Imagine yielding four to five harvests in a greenhouse within one year. That’s only possible if you follow the light deprivation method. You should also use a high-quality greenhouse, like the ones manufactured by Full Bloom Light Dep. These come with auto-light facilities so that you can change the lighting conditions and improve the speed at which the plants grow.

If you start sowing seeds in early May, your first harvest will be ready by the end of July. That’s the spring to mid-summer harvest that many farmers consider the best time to grow cannabis. However, you can sneak in another harvest between mid-summer and autumn. Sow seeds immediately after the first harvest and collect the yield by the end of October. This period is also known as natural harvest time.

Better Bud Quality

Compared to commercial hemp farmers growing cannabis outdoors, the bud quality of the hemp growing inside a light deprived greenhouse is far better. If you have multiple light dep. greenhouses, you can increase the yield significantly. This will help to produce better quality buds than the ones you find outdoors. Farmers who grow hemp outdoors can only get one harvest. But, you can manage to get up to five using the light dep. method. It not only increases the overall production but also ensure high-quality bud.

Reduces Catastrophic Failures

Every farmer has a fear at the back of their mind that maybe their crops will experience a catastrophic failure due to bug infestation or heatwave. While this is not impossible, you still have another harvest that can make up for a considerable loss. That is why multiple harvests are better than one. And, that is another reason why the light dep method in a greenhouse is the ideal way to grow mass-scale hemp. When you spread your harvest outdoors, you can’t control catastrophes like heatwaves and extreme rainfall.

So, if you are planning to expand your hemp production, don’t fiddle around with other techniques. Follow the light dep. method religiously, and you should see a satisfactory yield at the end of July and October. But, make sure you grow inside a high-quality greenhouse that supports light dep. technique.

Shane Dwyer
Author: Shane Dwyer
Shane Dwyer is a cannabis advocate who isn’t afraid to tell the world about it! You can find his views, rants, and tips published regularly at The 420 Times.

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Nation’s Largest Hemp Processing Plant Opens in Colorado

Colorado City, a town of fewer than 2,500 in southern Colorado, will soon be home to up to 50 million pounds of hemp, now that a massive hemp-processing facility is open for business.

Paragon Processing opened a 250,000-square-foot hemp-processing facility on Wednesday, August 29. Not only does the company say that the new facility is the largest of its kind in the country, but it could help bring 250 new jobs to Colorado before the end of the year, with a number of them located in Colorado City.

According to Paragon co-president Matt Evans, the facility will produce a variety of hemp extractions through isolation and distillation techniques, and soon will be processing around one million pounds of the plant each month. By the end of the 2019 harvest season, he wants to see that total hit two million pounds.

“With the legalization of the 2018 Farm Bill, the production and interstate transfer of hemp has increased the demand for both hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products, and we aim to propel the industrial hemp manufacturing efforts in order to confidently answer this call,” Evans says in a statement announcing the new facility.

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Colorado legalized hemp in 2012, when the state’s voters approved recreational marijuana, but the federal government didn’t come around on hemp until late 2018, when Congress passed the Farm Bill. With a six-year head start on the majority of the nation, Colorado quickly jumped to the top of the list of states farming industrial hemp. However, hemp business groups have continued to call for more testing and processing facilities in the state. Paragon’s operation, located in a former Columbia House Records space and a Kroger distribution center, does both.

Now that more states are focusing on hemp, Colorado lawmakers point to the southern part of this state as a key destination for new hemp farmers and businesses. Rural areas with agricultural experience, such as Pueblo County, have welcomed both the marijuana and hemp industries, using them to help climb out of the steel and housing recessions, with moderate success.

Governor Jared Polis’s administration has pushed for looser regulations on hemp farmers and businesses in order for this state to maintain its top spot in the hemp industry. During a recent speech at a hemp and CBD industry conference, Polis said that hemp farming was part of his rural economic initiative, and that he’d like to raise Colorado’s current 62,000 acres allotted for hemp farming by 20 percent.


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How CBD Hemp Oil Helps Your Body Regain Balance

In case you haven’t noticed, CBD products are taking this country by storm. More and more people are learning about the valuable characteristics of the hemp plant and the many cannabinoids which make this plant so popular within the alternative wellness community. 

Buying straight from the shelf is outdated, chemicals are out and natural organics are in and CBD hemp oil is paving the way for this new lifestyle into homes all across the country. If you’re still on the fence about CBD oil and the validity it can bring your daily wellness routine, we want to share some facts with you that could change your mind about this product and help you begin a healthy regimen of this popular hemp plant ingredient.

CBD Oil Activates Your Endocannabinoids

As discussed in the CBD isolate vs Full Spectrum article, you understand there are certain upsides to using hemp oil on a regular basis. One of the positive outcomes of this plant is what the author mentioned as the “Entourage Effect”. This effect explains the entire CBD oil product as a whole because it describes the end result of the full spectrum product of the hemp plant. 

Once the hemp plant undergoes the extraction process, the plant oil contains all of the natural ingredients and compounds which are found in the hemp plant. That’s over 80 cannabinoids and terpenes working together to form this “entourage” in your body. This group of natural characteristics work together to create a healthy alternative lifestyle in the CBD hemp oil user through the marriage of an important activation in the human body called the endocannabinoid system.

The ingredients and compounds inside the hemp plant are what scientists call “phytocannabinoids” and the study of their chemical effect on the body revealed several webs of receptors throughout the human body called “endocannabinoids”. Endocannabinoids are the human body’s own form of cannabinoids. When the phytocannabinoids of the CBD hemp plant begin to interact with the endocannabinoids of the human body a magical symphony starts to take place, and it is music the human body is made to listen to.

One of the most interesting things about this Endocannabinoid System is the multiple receptors it has throughout the bodies neurological pathways and the other various pathways in the gut. The endocannabinoids (eCBs) are the transportation agents of the endocannabinoid system and are produced throughout the body which communicate with these receptor agents. The entourage effect is essential to helping the endocannabinoid system create the best atmosphere inside the human body to give the user a delightful experience and boost their alternative wellness as well.

There are two important eCBs drifting throughout your body, one of which is called anandamide which is a Sanskrit word meaning “joy” or “bliss”, also known as the “Bliss Molecule” by scientists. Anandamide can be interpreted without having to understand too much about what it does, a bliss molecule definitely doesn’t mean angry, and it has often been associated with a runner’s high feeling as well. The other important eCBs is called 2-AG and is responsible for our emotional state of mind and helps maintain cardio health. 

CBD Supports a Healthy ECS

While these eCBs are very important messenger traits of our ECS, the CB1 and CB2 receptors are just as important in maintaining a healthy ECS within our body. In order to maintain this healthy balance, it is crucial to understand the ingredients inside your CBD hemp oil and how it can help you stay on track. 

Not only does hemp oil produce valuable ingredients like CBD (cannabidiol), but it also produces other treasures such as CBN. CBN, or Cannabinol, could resemble CBD to the layperson, but doctors and scientists understand this powerful compound also works well to maintain a healthy structure inside. 

Compounds like CBC, which are said to not only bind to the CB receptors but also other receptors in the body as well, and THCa, also called Delta 9 and the non-psychoactive characteristic in THC has valuable properties. All of these ingredients work together to pull a more balanced state and it happens because of the entourage effect which is made available with products like full spectrum hemp oil. 

Newbies: Is Your CBD Oil Not Working?

Participating with CBD oil means you are playing the long game with your body, which is smart. If you are new to CBD oil and have taken it religiously for a week, but have yet to experience any of these positive outcomes, don’t worry. Scientists agree that when you experience CBD on a consistent basis (sublingually more than orally), it could take anywhere from 4 – 6 weeks before your body begins to re-establish that balance you are looking for. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as you already know, which means stay loyal to your CBD regimen. You too will begin to see the value in activating your body just like millions of others have.

In Conclusion

People who are interested in establishing a balanced lifestyle and a more holistic outlook to their daily routine should look no further than CBD hemp oil. The characteristics in this product alone are enough to help your body regain the harmony it needs to correspond with natural ingredients more positively. Our body was made to be symbiotic with plants and other natural resources. We have it in our genetic makeup to receive CBD oil effectively, why more people are not discovering this about their body is appalling. You be the change you want to see in your own wellness. CBD hemp oil is a great way to start.

Shane Dwyer
Author: Shane Dwyer
Shane Dwyer is a cannabis advocate who isn’t afraid to tell the world about it! You can find his views, rants, and tips published regularly at The 420 Times.

Marijuana & Cannabis News – The 420 Times

Why This Decades-Old Skincare Line is Now Farming Hemp

“My whole life lately seems to be about hemp,” says Lily Morgan. And for good reason: The founder of Colorado-based skin care company Lily Farm Fresh Skin Care has owned and operated eighty acres of farmland to supply her own production in Keenesburg, Colorado, for over thirty years, Now nearly 90 percent of it is devoted to hemp.

Morgan, who also owns an additional 170-plus acres spread throughout the state, has been making cleansers, moisturizers, toners, lip balms and other products for her certified organic skin care line since 1986. But she’s recently shifted, jumping on the CBD bandwagon and growing hemp for her new CBD-infused line of therapeutic lotions.

A relatively new addition to the skin care industry, CBD lotions, balms and patches are used to alleviate muscle, joint and nerve pain, as well as inflammation; Morgan thinks those products can also treat redness, puffiness and irritation. The Lily Farm team is currently finalizing the formula for a CBD cream that targets joint and muscle pain, and plans to eventually sell an expanded line of CBD-infused skin care — hopefully in Natural Grocers, which already carries Lily Farm non-CBD products.

“Why not?,” she asks. “I mean, we already have the lab, and I’m going to have all the hemp I could want.”

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Morgan didn’t dive into the hemp trend immediately. After visiting a hemp symposium and offering her farm as a cultivation site for experienced hemp farmers, Morgan partnered with a hemp grower who had the equipment and expertise to cover that much ground. Without her partner, whom she declines to name, she would not have been able to grow more than a few acres of hemp for personal use, she says. But with her partner’s equipment, originally made to harvest tobacco but retrofitted to tackle hemp, Morgan was able to mass-produce hemp for CBD products that she had already been concocting for personal use.

Despite being a seventh-generation farmer and having a grandfather who also grew hemp, Morgan never thought she’d be participating in the CBD craze. She once tried incorporating store-bought hemp oil in her products, but found that it quickly made them go rancid. In the past, friends had suggested that she start growing marijuana or hemp\, but because both were still federally illegal, she felt it wasn’t worth the trouble.

A snippet of Morgan's extensive Keenesburg property.

A snippet of Morgan’s extensive Keenesburg property.

Cleo Mirza

But after the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp farming on the federal level, Morgan rented out one of her other farm properties to hemp growers. Upon mentioning that she had trouble sleeping to her new tenants, they offered her a sample of CBD tincture. Initially, she was hesitant, insisting she didn’t want to take anything that would make her feel high. After the growers explained that CBD isn’t intoxicating but might improve her sleeping, she decided to try it.

“I hadn’t slept that well in, like, 45 years. So I took it, and I put it in some of my creams, just for me. And I started using it for neck stress and shoulder pain, and I saw a big change,” Morgan says. “And then I started reading everything, testing formulations and making them for myself.”

Now Morgan is using her story to convince others to give CBD a chance. She’s even planning a hemp festival this fall on her Keenesburg farm to promote industry networking and hemp education.

Morgan sees the negative stigma around the cannabis plant as the greatest obstacle to normalizing hemp and CBD use. “A lot of people my age don’t want to go to dispensaries. I don’t,” she explains. “So I think a lot of people my age will be really slow to try it. I was pretty darn slow. I was not enthusiastic about [CBD] until I tried it.”

Now she’s changed her tune, and believes others will follow.

“People are saying that it is going to boom and then bust, but I don’t think so. The hemp farming is going to be exponential, but so is the demand — because everybody is talking about it, people that you wouldn’t suspect,” Morgan says. “But it still does have that affiliation with its cousin, and a lot of people just don’t want anything to do with that. But it’s not marijuana; you can’t get high off of it. That’s fundamental to me.” 


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How a Hemp Flag From Denver Made U.S. History on July 4

It’s been six years since Colorado native Michael Bowman pulled off a monumental coup for hemp on the Fourth of July. With the help of Jared Polis — a Colorado congressman at the time — Bowman briefly raised a Denver-made American flag above the United States Capitol Building on July 4, 2013.

That flag was made from hemp fibers, which were federally illegal at the time. Six years later, hemp is now federally legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, and Bowman has co-founded his own publicly held hemp venture.

But for Bowman, it all goes back to that historic moment in 2013.

“This, my friends, is what the beginning of the end looked like. We were winning the war,” he says. Still, it wasn’t easy to get his hands on a hemp flag; in fact, he had to rely on some quick work from his Colorado friends to get the job done.

At the time, Bowman was in Washington, D.C., lobbying for hemp and supporting then-U.S. Representative Polis with hemp policy reform. While he watched Polis debate a colleague over a hemp amendment one day inside the Capitol, Bowman spotted a flag flying overhead. Inspiration struck: Aware of a rule that allows members of Congress to request that flags be flown briefly over the Capitol building and returned to their owner, Bowman mentioned the idea to Polis. Polis was in, and Bowman was on the hook for a hemp-made American flag on quick order. So the man known among friends and industry peers as “Mr. Hemp” got busy creating one.

He first enlisted Adam Dunn, a Denver resident and founder of the hemp-based clothing company Hemp Hoodlamb; Dunn purchased the fiber in Manitou Springs and brought it to his showroom in Denver. Sheldon Reid of the Graffitee Factory screen-printing company imprinted the stars and stripes, and Dunn’s mother finished the job with her sewing skills.

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Colorado hemp lobbyist Samantha Walsh, an influential figure in Colorado hemp legislation then and now, shipped the flag overnight to Bowman — just in time for Polis to hold it on the House floor as he advocated in favor of an amendment allowing institutions of higher education and state agricultural departments to produce hemp for academic research. Polis’s amendment passed on June 20, 2013, making history as the first federal hemp legislation passed in eighty years.

A few weeks later, Polis asked that the Colorado-made hemp flag be flown over the Capitol, and it was raised (fittingly) on the Fourth of July. Not everyone was thrilled with the moment, though. Michele Leonhart, head administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration at the time, reportedly categorized the incident as the lowest day of her 33 years at the DEA while speaking to a sheriff’s group the following January.

Polis had a different outlook. “George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp,” he said at the time. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture produced a Hemp for Victory video in 1942. And today, I am proud that an American flag made of hemp will fly over our Capitol on the anniversary of our nation’s birth.”

Despite Leonhart’s objections, the writing was on the wall for hemp. In December 2018, it was no longer lumped in with marijuana as part of the Controlled Substances Act after the passage of the Farm Bill, a piece of agricultural legislation allowing all fifty states to farm and sell hemp. Although hemp is the same species as the marijuana plant, which is rich in intoxicating THC, hemp is grown to have 0.3 percent THC or less, and doesn’t get users high.

With hemp finally federally legalized, the industry is exploding, predicted to be worth well over $ 20 billion by 2025. Colorado is poised as a national leader in the new trade, leading the nation in farming acreage devoted to hemp in 2017 and 2018 combined, according to farming organization Vote Hemp. And the future has never looked brighter to Bowman.

“We have gone from having to sneak a flag over the Capitol building,” he notes, and “72 months later, we are the number-one state in hemp.”

Bowman, a fifth-generation Colorado farmer who planted his first hemp crop in 2014, is excited about the opportunities that hemp can provide to struggling small and mid-sized farmers and dying farm communities. He was recently invited to sit on two state committees as part of Governor Polis’s Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan (CHAMP) to ensure Colorado’s position as a leader in the hemp industry.

His new company, First Crop, recently brought in $ 2.5 million during a round of public funding, but Bowman believes businesses like his could also help reinvigorate Colorado’s rural communities and save failing farms. “The small- to medium-sized farms, the ones that are really struggling right now, we think there is a real opportunity for them in the CBD oil space,” he says.

But Bowman thinks that hemp has far more potential than just the CBD market. “Hemp is not a one-trick pony; this plant has so much diversity,” he adds, pointing to hemp’s potential in the fiber, feed, seed and fuel markets. He even believes that when grown under sustainable farming methods, hemp could positively affect climate change, sucking CO2 out of the air, absorbing toxic metals and reducing pollution exposure.

These are thrilling times for Bowman, who has been advocating tirelessly on behalf of the plant for nearly twenty years. “Hemp is one of the oldest crops. We can trace this crop back 12,000 years. The last eighty years are an anomaly,” he says. “There have been a lot of people even five, six years ago who said, ‘You’re never going to get this. It’s never going to happen.’”

Since that now-famous Fourth of July in 2013, Bowman’s hemp flag has been utilized as a symbol of activism, touring the nation via Denver native Rick Trojan’s “Hemp Road Trip” and educating the public about the benefits of the hemp plant.

So as we celebrate our nation’s independence, let’s celebrate hemp’s newfound freedom, as well. After all, founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp, Betsy Ross’s first American flag is rumored to have been sewn on hemp, and the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence itself were likely written on hemp paper.


Toke of the Town

Colorado Agriculture Director Has Big Plans for Hemp

Marijuana might win Colorado points, but it’s hemp that will make the state a real winner in this game. As the country’s leader in acreage devoted to hemp farming over the past two years, Colorado has a real head start on the growing industry, and it’s Kate Greenberg’s job to keep us in the lead.

The new director of the Colorado Department of Agriculture is responsible for many things, including overseeing the state’s industrial hemp program, which churns out the plants responsible for all of those CBD products we love so much. But keeping things on course has it challenges, such as looming federal regulations and more domestic competition thanks to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp farming at the federal level.

To learn more about the future of hemp in Colorado, we chatted with Greenberg about her goals for the plant.

Westword: How much did you know about hemp before taking the new job?

Kate Greenberg: I knew very little. I am, like a lot of us in the world of agriculture, on the learning curve. In the policy universe, I had interfaced with hemp through the Farm Bill. In my last life, with the National Young Farmers Coalition, we were working on ag policy though the Farm Bill, and definitely crossed paths with what was going on with hemp. So I was tracking it through the end of 2018, but in terms of what has taken off since the Farm Bill was signed, I think it’s a whole new universe for everyone. So we’re getting up to speed and ahead of the curve as fast as possible as we build a new industry.

How educated are Colorado farmers about science and state laws surrounding hemp?

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In my mind, that’s a bit of a complex question. You’ve got a lot of producers who are growing hemp and probably growing other things. But their livelihood is farming, and they make money off the land. Those farmers get how it works, how hemp works, how hemp is grown and the state regulations they need to follow.

I think what we’re seeing now is a lot folks who haven’t farmed before, who haven’t made a living off farming, coming into this boom and trying their hands at it. There’s so much excitement and momentum around it, I think a lot of folks are coming in without farming skills. So you get all ends of the spectrum in terms of farming expertise, both on how to grow the plant and how to navigate state and federal rules.

Growers have regulatory uncertainty because it’s a whole new industry, and one thing we’re hearing is that in order to grow the industry to the potential we and our governor would like to see it grow to, it would require more regulatory certainty. In that regard, I think it’s less about educating — even though we still care about educating — than creating that certainty about what they can do within that regulatory framework.

That’s an interesting observation about the inexperienced trying their hands at farming hemp because of how popular it is. Have you seen this boom mentality with any other crops?

I’ve seen it in various ways. I think hemp is unique, because folks are getting into it because they think they can make money. Most farmers don’t get into farming because they see dollar signs everywhere — this is not the business to get into if you think you’re going to get rich. The people I’ve seen and worked with for many years who have gotten into farming years ago got into because they love the land, they love to grow food, they love the place they live, and they love working for themselves. Those are the reasons most people get into ag.

This is a bit of a new territory, because there are dollar signs all over the hemp industry, so you get folks who aren’t in it necessarily for the passion of farming, but for the opportunity to make money.

How does Colorado’s hemp industry compare to that of other states around the country?

Basically, we kick butt. We had one of the first hemp programs in the country, and there’s still only a few across the country. Folks are racing post-2018 Farm Bill to set something up, but we are five years ahead of the curve, having our own hemp program. We’ve got experience with certified hemp seeds, managing registrations and inspections, working with growers and universities, and dealing with the federal government before it was legal.
We’ve got pretty incredible experience in Colorado; our state is set up for it, and our governor is all about hemp. It’s a fantastic time to be doing this work in Colorado, so I think by all accounts, we are ahead of the game. Our intent is to stay there.

I’m glad you brought up certified seeds. How important is a state-certified seed for hemp farmers, whose plants must stay below 0.3 percent THC?

That gets us into “hot hemp” territory, right? The whole premise of this hemp industry is that we’re producing end products that have 0.3 percent THC or less. In order to get there, you need some certainty about the crops that you’re growing. If farmers were just putting in whichever seeds into the ground and grew plants that were above that 0.3 level, there’s no way to have certainty about your crop. Having a certified seed just gives you much greater certainty in that what you plant is something that you’ll actually be able to harvest.

Other aspects of ag have similar things: When you put a carrot seed in the ground, you want to know that you’re getting a sweet carrot in the end. That’s not dissimilar from hemp.

How big of a problem is hot hemp (with THC levels over 0.3 percent) in Colorado?

That’s hard to say. It’s an issue we’re aware of, and one that growers certainly have encountered. It’s something we’re working to solve through our CHAMP [Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan] initiative, which essentially came out of having conversations like this across state agencies, with industries, institutions of higher education and other entities. We ask questions about hot hemp and other options for growers. Before CHAMP, we didn’t have an avenue to figure these things out, so we took leadership in creating a structure that will allow regulatory agencies, industries, Native tribes, learning institutions and farmers to sit around a table and actually develop answers. There are still so many questions about the X, Y and Z of hemp — like interstate transport [and] how the Department of Public Safety can determine what is hemp and what is not. All of those questions finally have a table to sit at.

States like Idaho and South Dakota have banned hemp farming despite federal legalization, citing worries over bad actors who would grow THC-rich marijuana instead of hemp. How big of a concern are bad actors for the CDA, and how do you address it?

That’s why we partnered with the Department of Public Safety. With the CHAMP plan, we’ve coordinated with about ten other state agencies across Colorado, like DPS and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade — so we have advancement and management. DPS is on board to dig into the unlawful questions, because that’s outside of our jurisdiction. So that’s why we work closely with law enforcement to make sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs well.

Hot hemp is an issue in Colorado. We’re not exempt from what other states are facing in terms of black market and illegal grows, but that’s something we lean on our law enforcement partners to address while providing as much help as we can.

CDA director Kate GreenbergEXPAND

CDA director Kate Greenberg

Courtesy of the Department of Agriculture

With more states getting ready to allow hemp and CBD companies within their borders, how does Colorado maintain the leadership it’s had for the past five years?

I think the CHAMP initiative is a big way toward that. It’s a huge, coordinated effort that includes anyone who has a stake in the game across Colorado, but it’s also going to be open-sourced. We’ve been talking to other states that don’t have programs, and are offering our expertise. We don’t see this as something we need to hold on to and keep away from everyone. We’ve got a national and international industry with this now, and we can’t keep it it within closed borders in Colorado. This is going to have to include interstate commerce, and we really see our creativity and desire to bring in thought leaders as ways to continue our leadership.

One way to establish our leadership is getting our state plan into the USDA. We’re in close communication with the USDA to make sure they see us as a partner in this, and that we are a resource. Submitting our state plan is big here, just to make sure our state’s hemp program is still a leader. Another one is the larger CHAMP report, which will show what it takes to grow our hemp industry beyond the Farm Bill. This is a big-vision process. We just closed our stakeholder applications for eight CHAMP working groups, and I think we got about 160 applications.

Local governments are also big partners for us. Towns and counties have a lot of questions about what they can do at the local level. That collaborative nature, creativity, big-thinking and inclusiveness, I think that’s what will set up Colorado to maintain leadership in this realm.

How will the USDA’s new oversight affect hemp farming in Colorado?

There are very specific bullet points that the Farm Bill lays out for states that want to run their own hemp programs. If a state doesn’t want to run its own program, the USDA will do it for you, but that’s not what we’re going to do in Colorado. We’re going to maintain our leadership and direction over hemp. So we just need to hit those bullet points — and we’ve already hit a lot of them — about where we’ve been and where we want to go.

The USDA is doing its own rulemaking around this, as well, so we want to make sure that whatever comes out of Washington, D.C., aligns with what we’ve got going on here in Colorado and enables us to advance our hemp industry as far as possible.

Where does CBD fall into all of this? Does the CDA have any say over how CBD products are regulated?

We don’t regulate or oversee anything having to do with processing, sales or products with CBD. Our jurisdiction pretty much ends with the plant harvest, and then we do THC testing on the hemp. Beyond that, it goes to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That’s another CHAMP partner that helps us not just look at hemp cultivation, but at all end uses of the plant.

How does Colorado’s climate stack up against other parts of the country for hemp growing?

Man, from what I can tell, this place is great for it. We’ve got a lot of indoor grows, as well, but we’ve also got a lot of hail. Everyone’s got their natural disaster of choice, though. But, yeah, our climate and soil are great.
One thing I’d like to also mention is sustainability. It’s a big value for our department, and we’re really thinking about how hemp can help drive sustainability, and really reach those markets that care about sustainability.
Looking at water use — because we’re an arid state — there’s a lot of excitement around hemp for not necessarily requiring a lot of water. I think we need to make sure as we’re building out our industry that we’re taking care of our water and soil, those farming aspects, to make sure we’re still giving back.


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Hemp Companies Call Out Facebook’s Advertising Policy

A coalition of hemp businesses are calling out two of the country’s most popular social media platforms for what they believe are unfair advertising policies. According to the Hemp Industries Association, algorithms lumping the plant into the same category as marijuana have prevented industrial hemp companies from advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

Although the 2018 federal Farm Bill legalized hemp for farming at the end of last year, there’s still plenty of confusion about the non-intoxicating version of marijuana, particularly with traditional media like television. But social media companies — a relatively new form of media — have also frustrated the emerging industry by deleting certain profiles and prohibiting hemp companies from advertising.

“[Facebook] sort of has a blanket over cannabis, and is unable to really differentiate between hemp, which is legal federally, and marijuana,” says HIA executive director Colleen Lanier. “We feel that it’s really unfortunate that Facebook is promoting this artificial intelligence to tell things apart, and they can not seem to get it right for cannabis, especially hemp. We can put a billboard up in Times Square, but we can’t pay for a boost on Facebook.”

Lanier isn’t joking: Since 2015, her organization has been trying to meet with Facebook representatives, but has been unsuccessful. Now the HIA has paid for a digital billboard in New York City’s Times Square that will run daily through August 24, reading “Facebook: Stop Censoring Hemp.”

The Hemp Industries Association's billboard will run until August 24.

The Hemp Industries Association’s billboard will run until August 24.

Courtesy of the Hemp Industries Association

“They ghosted us,” Lanier says. “We recognize it as somewhat of a systemic issue across all social media, but we also recognize Facebook is one of the largest out there.”

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Facebook, which also owns Instagram under Facebook Inc., has held a firm anti-marijuana advertising policy despite social acceptance growing for the plant over the past several years. There are numerous cases of hemp advocacy posts, CBD brand pages, cannabis educational platforms, entertainment pages and medical marijuana groups being suspended, prohibited or banned by Facebook, either in individual circumstances or broad sweeps. Facebook Inc. was recently sued by a cannabis media and education company over its advertising policies, according to Forbes.

Asked about its policies, Facebook tells Westword that the website permits the advertisement of non-ingestible hemp products without CBD, such as clothes and plastics. Hemp-infused food and any products with CBD are still prohibited from advertising, according to Facebook’s media department, but the social media giant is considering the possibility of allowing hemp seeds, hemp milk and hemp oil (without CBD) to advertise on its platforms.

While THC-laden marijuana will likely stay on Facebook’s shit list until federal prohibition is lifted and CBD products are still waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration, industrial hemp companies think that they shouldn’t be stuck waiting.

“Congress has made the most powerful statement that it could: that hemp is lawful, and that this substance is not to be stigmatized any longer,” explains Hoban Law Group attorney Garrett Graff, who represents clients across the hemp industry. “There’s very little guidance provided in the rhyme or reason as to why these advertisements, pages and profiles are shut down.”

Since hemp was legalized, Graff says, the Facebook pages and profiles of industrial hemp companies have been allowed to operate with less interference, but advertisements or sponsored posts on Facebook and Instagram related to hemp continue to be blocked. To avoid confusion or unnecessary red flags, Graff advises his clients to stay away from any phrases or images that might connect their hemp brands to marijuana.

“They all need to be cautious about the phrasing and imagery being used. For example, using a cannabis leaf could add to that stigmatization,” he points out, adding that traditional advertising routes through the internet, television and print are just as challenging. “There’s no one specific answer, because the answer could be different depending on the organization, and the state and platform they’re trying to advertise with, whether that’s Amazon or something else.”

Graff and Lanier believe the harsh treatment of the hemp industry is rooted in a misunderstanding of the plant’s new legality. However, state governments must still draft hemp-farming regulations or opt in to upcoming rules that will be released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — and not everyone is on board. For example, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem vetoed a bill that would’ve legalized industrial hemp in her state, while three truck drivers hauling 7,000 pounds of hemp across the Oregon-Idaho border in early 2019 still face charges in Idaho, which does not differentiate between hemp and marijuana.

“It’s an unfair expectation that these advertising companies can cut through the BS and understand the true status of hemp,” Graff says. “We’ve certainly been encouraged by the recent passage of the 2018 Farm Bill — but the hope is to help compel a number of these outside stakeholders to be more embracing of the hemp industry.”


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What Maureen West Learned From Running the Nation’s Leading Hemp Program

As with many emerging industries, getting ahead in the industrial-hemp industry often involves hiring the people who created the original regulations. In legal marijuana, for example, everyone from former state legislators to past Marijuana Enforcement Division officials have moved to the business side, helping companies and clients stay on top of Colorado’s strict cannabis laws.

One of the largest moves from government to the hemp industry (so far, at least) came last month, when Maureen West jumped from managing the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Industrial Hemp Program to take a job as compliance officer for hemp-oil company Functional Remedies.

As head of the CDA’s hemp program from 2016 to 2019, West witnessed the recent hemp and CBD booms in Colorado and had to deal with such issues as hot hemp with too much THC and lack of guidance from the Food and Drug Administration. Those challenges didn’t prevent Colorado from leading the nation in hemp farming acreage during that span, however.

We recently caught up with West to learn more about the future of the plant now that it’s legal at the federal level.

Westword: How would you compare Colorado’s hemp industry and regulations with those of other states? I hear some are relatively friendly, like Oregon, while others, like South Dakota, aren’t so much.

Maureen West: Over the course of my career as the head of the CDA Industrial Hemp Program, we built one of the most robust state-level industrial-hemp programs in the country. We worked closely with farmers across the state and listened to their needs and concerns. Hemp could be the next big cash crop that saves small farmers across America, and we are proving that to be true right here in Colorado at Functional Remedies.

What have you learned about hemp since you started at the CDA, and how did that help you with your new job?

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Hemp has been a product in America’s history since the founding fathers; George Washington famously grew hemp. But today’s hemp landscape, because of stigma and prohibition, is confusing without clear guidelines at the state and federal levels. The work we did at the CDA was to put those guidelines in place to not only help legitimate businesses bring good jobs to Colorado, but also to protect consumers from products that they shouldn’t be ingesting. We did this all when there was no real blueprint. So my role will be to help Functional Remedies navigate, influence and stay within those guidelines, even as they are being created.

What challenges are hemp farmers and product makers facing today that the public might not know about?

One of the biggest challenges right now is that we aren’t getting any clear guidance from the FDA. This is leaving a huge gap for illegitimate companies to compete with legitimate companies, all while consumers lose trust with hemp or CBD products. The saying goes, ‘A bad apple spoils the bunch.’ With tighter regulations, it’s much easier to find and toss those bad apples.

Is the 0.3 THC limit a looming problem for hemp farmers as it becomes legal nationwide?

The 0.3 percent THC limit has already presented problems for companies shipping hemp across state borders. The hemp industry doesn’t have standard testing protocols across the United States. In part, we need the FDA or Congress to help set those standards. Another solution would be to allow an acceptable range. Plants are plants; the top of the plant can test differently than the bottom, and two plants of the same strain could test differently.

How ethical do you think the CBD industry really is? We hear a lot of snake-oil stories, but a lot of companies are operating in unregulated markets.

The problem is that we don’t have any real consistent regulations across the board, and many people and companies are happy to jump on what they see is a trend or act within that gray area. This is why it’s so incredibly important that we put them in place to protect consumers and help legitimate businesses thrive.

How far behind is America’s hemp industry from Europe’s or Canada’s?

America is just starting to overcome the decades of stigma against hemp because of its ties with cannabis. However, we are moving incredibly quickly as we see states enacting their own hemp laws across the U.S. The faster we can build this momentum and gain additional clarity from the FDA and Congress, the faster we can create a globally competitive hemp industry.


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Growing Trend: Stratos the Latest Dispensary Brand to Embrace Hemp

The CBD water is warm, and investors are ready to jump in. Some of those investors are coming from established marijuana dispensary brands and are now diving into the hemp and CBD-only pools, buoyed by their experience with the plant and dealing with much tougher regulations.

Stratos, a marijuana-infused product company known for tablets as well as its medically focused outreach, is one of the latest established pot businesses to try its hand at CBD. We caught up with Kate Heckman, Stratos vice president of branding and marketing, to talk about what CBD can do for its wide target audience.

Westword: Stratos has been around for a few years now. Why jump in the hemp and CBD-only arena?

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Kate Heckman: We started creating THC products with CBD for the recreational and medical market in 2014, and very quickly saw the demand skyrocket around CBD products. People wanted to reap the medicinal benefits of CBD without the high you get from THC. We decided to leverage our experience in the cannabis space and launch a CBD-only product line that could be sold online and shipped anywhere.

Are CBD tablets and other products intended for recreational use as well?

Absolutely. The purpose of CBD is not exclusively to treat some sort of health condition. People can take CBD to unwind, just like you would a glass of wine to help relax at the end of the day. Where THC-heavy cannabis products can make some people feel sleepy, CBD can offer a relaxing effect without drowsiness.

Stratos has been actively reaching out to senior citizens to educate them about medical marijuana products and their potential benefits. How can CBD further help that demographic?

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At every Cannabis 101 for Seniors event that we did, we heard the same thing over and over, which was: “I don’t want to feel high. So how can cannabis help me?” CBD tablets are the perfect option for seniors, because they’re familiar with the pill-delivery method, and it’s also sugar-free, gluten-free, smoke-free and vegan, so it can fit in within the medical requirements of an individual’s health regimen.

What’s the difference between CBD oil and full-spectrum hemp oil?

Where we are right now in the industry, CBD oil and full-spectrum are essentially considered the same thing. Where the buyer needs to beware is understanding that measuring the “hemp oil” content doesn’t necessarily equate to how much CBD is in the product. If you’re looking for CBD without any THC, find products containing CBD isolate. Full-spectrum hemp oil offers full-plant potential by extracting cannabidiol (CBD), phytocannabinoids, fatty acids, flavonoids and trace amounts of THC. CBD isolate distills the full-spectrum extraction and strips out all other properties except CBD.

With looming oversight from the Food and Drug Administration and reports of New York City’s health department cracking down on CBD edibles, how do you see CBD products such as yours being labeled and regulated for national consumption going forward?

We currently use FDA regulations for guidance on how we manufacture, package and label our products. Our team is adept at working within strict regulatory environments, so we feel confident about being able to adapt to any necessary adjustments. For now, we’ll have to wait for the specifics of the FDA language.

How will selling and buying CBD in Colorado be different from the rest of the country, or states that haven’t legalized recreational cannabis?

As the first market to become recreationally legalized, the Colorado market is highly competitive and very sophisticated. Patients and customers have also had access to cannabis and CBD longer, making them very knowledgeable and also discretionary when it comes to what they buy. Having that kind of market insight and customer feedback really helps us fine-tune our approach and product offerings. Regardless of where people purchase, we encourage them to be judicious in their research. Confirm that the product is tested for pesticides, residuals, solvents and microbial growth; that the product was grown in the U.S; and that it actually contains the amount of CBD listed on the label.


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Ask a Stoner: Is Growing Hemp Good For My Soil?

Dear Stoner: What does growing hemp do to the soil it’s grown in? Is it bad or good? I’ve been thinking about farming a few acres but want to be sure it’s eco-friendly.
Clarence

Dear Clarence: While the impacts of marijuana grows have been a strain on the environment and illegal growing has harmed the soil and water at national and state parks, growing hemp could help micro and macro environmental efforts. Unlike marijuana cultivations, hemp farms won’t be required to have indoor setups, which have larger carbon footprints than outside grows. Legal hemp farming also comes with regulations regarding pesticides, nutrients and waste, something illegal marijuana grows don’t have.

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Ask a Stoner: Is Growing Hemp Good For My Soil?

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Farming hemp can contribute to the environment in several ways, creating biofuels and building materials that are more eco-friendly than their traditional counterparts. The plant can also benefit your soil. A company called Phytotech reportedly used hemp to clean the soil around Chernobyl of radioactive materials in the late ’90s, as well as pesticides, solvents and other toxins. A 2012 study in China showed that hemp can also be used to absorb cadmium, a toxic metal that can cause cancer and other systematic diseases. I wouldn’t recommend using that hemp for any consumption purposes, but the point remains: Hemp is healthy for the earth!

Send questions to marijuana@westword.com.


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