Colorado hemp entrepreneurs can count on enthusiastic backing of governor

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis spoke on Friday at the Hemp-CBD Supplement Congress put on by the American Herbal Products Association. The two-day event took place Thursday and Friday in Denver.  NutraIngredients-USA photo.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis spoke on Friday at the Hemp-CBD Supplement Congress put on by the American Herbal Products Association. The two-day event took place Thursday and Friday in Denver. NutraIngredients-USA photo.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said the state intends to maintain its lead in the hemp industry by putting the full weight of state government behind its farmers and extractors. The state has taken a lead in shipping hemp plants and seeds to some Latin American countries as well as domestically.

Polis, a first-term Democrat, made his remarks at a Hemp-CBD Supplement Congress sponsored by the American Herbal Products Association.  The event took place Thursday and Friday in downtown Denver. AHPA said the event was a sellout.

Polis has ties to the natural products business that stretch back before the start of the CBD craze.  In his time as a US Representative from Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Boulder County (a hotbed of natural products innovation), Polis was part of the Dietary Supplements Caucus.

And though he’s a liberal Democrat, Polis also brings some entrepreneurial bona fides to the table.  Before entering politics, Polis built two online brands (a greeting card company and a flower delivery service) and sold them for a combined $1.2 billion.

CHAMP initiative to support state industry

Polis noted that despite its tangled regulatory history, there is precedent for government getting into the game of supporting the plant.

“Many of our Founding Fathers grew hemp. In many ways it was a return to those roots when I got to fly a flag made of hemp over the US Capitol,” ​Polis said.

In 2017, prior to being elected governor, Polis was the founder of the bipartisan Congressional Hemp Caucus.

“This year in Colorado we have 62,000 acres of hemp under cultivation and about 10 million square feet of indoor cultivation,” ​Polis said.

“We want to make sure that we continue to be the leader in hemp in 10 years or in 20 years,”
 he added.

To support the industry, Polis directed the founding of an initiative by the state Department of Agriculture called CHAMP, which stands for Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan.  The initiative has convened stakeholder groups.  The results of those meetings will be compiled in two management plans, one due to be made public in the fall of this year and the second in the spring of 2020.  The plans will address the following:

Phase 1: Late July to mid-September

  • Research & Development and Seed
  • Cultivation
  • Transportation
  • Testing 

Phase 2: Mid-September to early December

  • Processing
  • Manufacturing (Food Commodities)
  • Marketing 
  •  Banking and Insurance

“As a result of all the work we have already done in Colorado we have state agencies that really understand the needs of industry,” ​Polis said. “The Colorado State Department of Agriculture certified seed program was the first of its kind in the country.”

Exports to Latin America, new research campus

Polis said to date there have been more than 300 shipments of seeds and plants out of Colorado to other states.  The state has also shipped Canada, Chile, Uruguay and some Asian countries.  Getting plants with the right genetics to delivery a high CBD/low THC cannabinoid profile is a key to success in the industry, and Polis said Colorado has a head start in this regard.  

And in addition to the CHAMP initiative, Polis said the state has laid the groundwork for an Institute of Cannabis Research at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

“This will be a flagship research campus for cannabis not just in our state but in the country,” ​Polis said.

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