Gov. Polis spoke at the NoCo Hemp Expo in Denver on Friday. The event was held in face-to-face fashion, with a face mask mandate in place and crowds strictly limited to maintain social distancing. The event was held at the commodious National Western Stock Show complex, which is the biggest venue it has occupied yet in its seven-year history.
Hemp could help life state’s economy
Polis who was an advocate of the hemp industry while serving as one of Colorado’s US representatives before becoming governor, said the industry could be one of the wellsprings of the state’s rebound from the economic recession brought on by the pandemic.
“The economy wasn’t kind to any industry over the past year. We have seen drops of as much as 50% in some markets,” Polis, who spoke in person, told attendees.
“If anyone is ready to plant the seeds for a rapid recovery it is the hemp industry. You planted the seeds of a crop that was wrongly outlawed for generations. You knew it was a long shot and kept at it and built a real industry,” he said.
Polis has more street cred than do many Democratic Party politicians when it comes to fostering economic development. Before his political career he helped build his family’s greeting card business into an online powerhouse that was sold for $760 million. In addition, Polis started a flower business that went public and ultimately employed more than 250 people.
Polis said after the state hit the ground running after the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which removed most of the legal barriers to industrial hemp cultivation, the state now has the most hemp farmers per capita in the United States.
“Fortunately most decision makers now have understood there is a value to hemp. Hemp is wining, and I’m proud to say that this is a bipartisan issue,” he said.
Detailed management plan
Polis announced the release Friday of Colorado’s CHAMP (Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan) report. The 76-page report details how the industry will be regulated in the state and was put together in cooperation with Colorado State University.
The plan, which has been 18 months in the making, includes outlines for promoting research and development in seed genetics and cultivation, developing and advocating increased industrial processing and uses, privatizing laboratory testing, and increasing access to financial and insurance resources.
Dealing with the ‘hot’ crop issue
One particular focus of the plan will be to foster research into seed genetics to develop varieties that can more consistently come in under the 0.5% THC level by dry weigh mandated by federal law. Crops whose test results come in above that level are deemed to be ‘negligent’ and must be destroyed. (Before a product could go to market remediation measures would have be taken to bring it under the 0.3% THC level for industrial hemp outlined in federal statues.)
Crops testing ‘hot’ has a been a consistent issue within the industry, something that Polis mentioned in his speech. He said Colorado has more than once advocated for the 1% THC by dry weight limit as a negligence standard that many hemp agricultural experts see as a more reasonable target.
“Two separate times we submitted aggressive comments to USDA’s interim final rule,” Polis said. The goal is to avoid the repeat of a debacle he said he witnessed in 2020 when a Colorado farmer had to burn 180 acres of hemp that came in a bit too hot.
“That’s an entire season of work wasted,” he said.
A full copy of the plan can be seen here.