A local industrial hemp advocacy group hopes to plant seeds of knowledge and awareness Saturday as an official partner with the nation's Fifth Annual Hemp History Week.
Hemp Talks/Western Slope will have an informational booth at the Dolores River Festival on Saturday, June 7, as Hemp History Week wraps up.
"Partnering with a national organization sort of puts us on the map as a local advocacy group," said Hemp Talks organizer Sharon Stewart. "It gives us the opportunity to tap into larger resources."
At Hemp Talks' monthly meeting on Sunday, June 1, Stewart announced that Mancos Valley Resources had recently approved the local advocacy group to fall under its umbrella as a nonprofit organization.
"This designation is really exciting," Stewart said. "It allows us to apply for grants and accept donations. It will be very helpful, and allows us to do much more."
Stewart also revealed that two local farmers - approved to grow industrial hemp research and development plots this year - are expected to start planting the area's first hemp seeds this month, despite some "legal gray issues."
"These local farmers are going out on a whim, and hoping for the best," Stewart said.
A bit of good news for local farmers came last Friday, when the House of Representatives blocked the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to interfere in state-legal industrial hemp research. Colorado legalized industrial hemp earlier this year.
According to Stewart, Scott Perez of Mancos has been approved to grow a one-acre test plot, and Merle Root of Pleasant View intends to grow a 10-acre plot.
"These two farmers' growing research and development plots will provide some insight to those wishing to grow larger commercial crops," Stewart said. "People want to see some numbers, and hopefully we will have that type of information for them later this year."
Stewart said other farmers had expressed interest in growing hemp, but decided to "wait and see." The greatest issues are seed availability, water issues and THC levels, the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana.
"THC acts as a sunscreen for the hemp plant," Stewart said. "One concern is that THC levels could rise in any hemp grown locally due to our high elevation."
All industrial hemp grown in Colorado must contain less 0.3 percent THC. State regulators will randomly screen research and development test plots to check THC levels of hemp.
"I'm hoping the state will take a bigger role this summer to help determine which strains would grow best here," Stewart said.