Photo: Colorado Department of Agriculture
By Jean Lotus
At the NoCo Hemp Expo in March, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis rolled out the state’s new hemp blueprint, an almost two-year project to boost hemp in Colorado and make the state a leader in the emerging hemp industry.
The Colorado Hemp Advancement & Management Plan (CHAMP) was delayed by the state’s COVID crisis, but was finally released, based on recommendations of 200 stakeholders in the hemp supply chain. The state collected action items from experts in hemp genetics, cultivation, testing, transportation, processing, manufacturing, marketing and banking to push forward the state’s hemp industry.
“Colorado hopes to set a national example for how to establish an advanced hemp industry,” the report says. The report was coordinated by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Colorado farmers registered for 13% of the entire U.S. hemp acreage in 2019, although the number of registered Colorado farmers dropped by 40% in the middle of 2020, due to the pandemic and a glut of CBD and biomass in the United States.
Still, the state is in a leading position to take advantage of its head start, Polis said.
“Looking at the future of Colorado hemp, I see opportunities before us that before today could only have been the stuff of dreams,” Polis said at the hemp expo. “It’s not an exaggeration to say without Colorado’s field of dreams… the American hemp dream could not be realized,” he added.
The plan sees the industry growing with hemp production for fiber and oil seeds or dual purposes increasing.
“The supply chain is immature, but there is potential interest in industrial hemp materials in transportation and construction for example by auto manufacturers for vehicle interiors or by major home building and aerospace manufacturing corporations,” the report says.
The new blueprint offers suggestions to grow the industry in both the existing CBD markets and the new emerging markets of fiber and seeds. The plan urges banking and insurance reforms at the state level and aggregation of hemp financial data to better allow hemp business to access capital and state and local financing and grants. The plan says hemp will be included in the Roadmap to Cannabis Banking & Financial Services with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).
Seed genetics and hot crops
The plan also calls for more research and development of seed genetics and pollen patterns to avoid levels of THC that could make hemp crops grow “hot” above the federal threshold of .3% THC. The plan also calls for remediation plans for farmers so high-THC crops do not have to be destroyed and stalks and seeds can be salvaged. The plan calls for “a post-harvest sampling and testing program to protect producers against the unnecessary destruction of valuable plant material and associated economic loss.”
With transportation problems with hemp across state lines, the plan calls for development of an electronic tracing system that can assist logistics companies in complying with local law enforcement.
Local and state regulations
The plan also calls for an alignment of state regulatory jurisdictions for hemp production and a renewed focus in inclusion and diversity in the hemp industry. The CHAMP plan also provides a path for hemp products made in Colorado to be preferred in state procurement processes.
Center of Excellence
The plan also calls for the state establishment of a Hemp Center of Excellence, a U.S. Department of Agriculture designation, which will bring more research and import/export opportunities to local agriculture producers. Designing the Center for Excellence went through a rocky bid process, with Colorado hemp advocates saying it was too influenced by the state’s cannabis interests, but the plan moves forward this year in a partnership with Colorado State University.
State hemp advocates praised the CHAMP report.
“The CHAMP blueprint for hemp in Colorado included several hundred industry stakeholders who brought to the table varying ideas and perspectives on how Colorado can remain at the forefront of the international hemp industry,” said Morris Beegle, president and co-founder of We Are for Better Alternatives (WAFBA) “After two years in the works, we have a comprehensive outline to build upon and improve upon so that Colorado will retain a leadership role in an emerging industry that has the ability to positively impact the future of humanity and planetary health,” he added.
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Jean Lotus is a Colorado-based award-winning journalist and hempreneur who writes about the American West and sustainable food and technologies.