Polis, CDA double down on hemp promise

Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Agriculture have announced a renewed effort to put Colorado back in the leadership role for the nation as a hemp producer. Hemp has virtually disappeared from the Western Slope after a disastrous 2019-2020 year. This field of hemp was never harvested after an early freeze killed it in late 2019. 

Colorado is still in the hemp business, even though the once proclaimed “pot of gold” looks more like a bag of weeds than anything else.

On March 29, Gov. Jared Polis proclaimed: “Colorado is a clear national leader for industrial hemp and the CHAMP report will serve as a key tool to further our leadership. We want Colorado to continue to be the best state for industrial hemp, which will help our rural communities thrive. The report also identifies key initiatives that Colorado can share with other states to standardize the hemp industry across the country.

“I’m particularly proud that this project brought many voices to the table from across the state to combine their expertise and knowledge, and to hear from others in the sector about common pain points and opportunities.”

The Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan (CHAMP) report, now several stages removed from its original iteration, is the new “blueprint” that state and local agencies, in partnership with the higher education sector and the hemp producers and processors, will follow to regrow the industry.

The report or plan acknowledges that the glow of hemp is dulled after the “gold rush” of 2019 and 20 produced less than stellar results. In its industry analysis, the CHAMP document makes this confession:

“On the supply side, expansion of hemp production to new states and a dramatic expansion of planted acreage over a short period of time made hemp biomass relatively more abundant than it had been before. A lack of extraction and processing capacity, coupled with slower-than-expected consumer demand for CBD and other hemp products, yielded an environment in which hemp supply exceeded 2019 processing capacity or demand.”

The 76-page plan, which has taken 18 months to reach its current stage, relies heavily on the input of what are called stakeholders. There are 13 stakeholder groups and only one of them represents the actual producer sector. The rest include the Governor’s Office and the CDA, plus the Colorado Department of Revenue, Natural Resources, Department of Regulatory Agencies, Public Safety, Attorney General, and several others, including the colleges and universities. The “industry” is represented by the Farm Bureau, Hemp Coalition, Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union, and the state’s banking association.

Admitting some shortcomings in the CDA and the prospect of uncertainty, the plan produced by the Hemp Management team at CDA, under the direction of Brian Koontz, Industrial Hemp Program manager, lays out an ambitious plan by which Colorado would become the leader that even the USDA would look to, to fashion the industry nationwide.

The bulk of the plan is spent on developing the regulatory structure for the hemp business. For example, four pages are spent discussing cultivation and 16 are used for the recommendations for regulations. The plan admits that hemp will continue to be highly regulated. The plan spends about eight pages in the marketing section; however, the treatments are headlined, Glossary of Terms, Marketing and Label Guidance, Quality Assurance Certification, and State Procurement of Industrial Hemp Products.

The product development section of the plan leans totally on the nutrition and nutritional products that can be developed from the hemp plant and offers no voice to the traditional uses of hemp, i.e., lumber, paper and textiles. Of course, the various oils and ointments are part of the plan as well as edibles, such as gummies, lollipops, sodas, butter.

According to the appendix labeled “Detailed Industry Analysis,” the plan says: “Hemp in the United States is, and will likely remain, highly regulated compared to other commodity crops. This stems from the finely drawn distinction that separates hemp from marijuana based on THC level, combined with the inability to visually distinguish between these variants of the cannabis plant.”

Even with the number of growers at half what it was at the peak, the Governor and his CDA commissioner, Kate Greenberg still refer to Colorado as a leader. If you are interested in reading the CHAMP report, visit the CDA Hemp Team website at tinyurl.com/statehemp.

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