Unknowns and fears from the evolution of recent cannabis reform continues to weigh heavy on the shoulders of local farmers, and others.
“It’s very difficult to discern what’s going on,” said one hemp advocate.
At Sunday’s Southwest Hemp Talks meeting, seed supply dominated the two-hour discussion among a group of 10 interested parties, including two farmers, a businessman and a scientist. No one in attendance was able to offer any tips on how to obtain non-genetically modified seeds.
“It remains illegal to import seeds, because cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug,” reported one farmer.
In a Catch 22, some area farmers have indicated they could start growing industrial hemp this spring, but those desires have been buried without a unique local cultivars, or strain, of hemp seed.
Industrial Hemp of Colorado director James McVaney said efforts are underway to lobby state legislators for a hemp “fixer” bill. Specifically, the group is requesting a bill that mandates the Colorado Department of Agriculture set up a seed importation program.
“We want everyone to have equal opportunity to import the initially needed seed,” McVaney said.
Southwest Hemp Talk participants have agreed not to plant any genetically modified hemp seeds in the area. They argue a locally conditioned seed could potentially enable greater local control of a local value-added economy.
Registration is now open for producers planning to grow industrial hemp during the 2014 growing season. Registration closes May 1.
“We realize there is a great deal of excitement about this history-making season, but there are also regulations to follow and challenges to consider,” said Colorado Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Carleton.
The annual registration fee for commercial production of industrial hemp is $200 plus $1/acre. The annual registration fee for production of industrial hemp for research and development is $100 plus $5/acre.
All registrants are subject to random sampling of crops to verify the THC concentration does not exceed 0.3 percent on dry weight basis. Up to a third of the registrants could be inspected annually.
Just like those interested locally to produce industrial hemp, state officials also recognize the uncertainties that still exist because of federal law. The Department of Justice has issued guidelines that would, if followed, limit the likelihood of federal enforcement against commercial producers. Additionally, Congress included in the 2014 Farm Bill a provision permitting some research and development.
A researcher from Colorado State University, however, said Sunday the academic institution has yet to authorize or establish any research guidelines for industrial hemp.
“The university is still waiting for directives from the USDA,” the scientist reported.
Other potential problems include the lack of any approved pesticides, the impact on federal farm programs such as crop insurance, reluctant banking institutions and adequate processing facilities.
According to state law, industrial hemp must be processed prior to shipment out of Colorado. It remains unknown at this time how many processing facilities would be available.
The next step for Hemp Talks organizers is to launch a letter writing campaign, encouraging federal officials to reclassify cannabis and denounce it as an illegal substance. One farmer said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Justice Department, Food and Drug Administration and even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security all have the authority to remove cannabis off the list of illegal drugs.
Hemp Talks are held at 10 a.m. on the first Sunday of every month at the Cortez Welcome Center.