Hemp: Meet the members of the advisory committee working on farming regulations
Before Colorado farmers can plant industrial hemp, the state Department of Agriculture must come up with a way to register and inspect their crops. To help establish those regulations, lawmakers authorized the creation of a nine-member advisory committee.
The members of that committee have been chosen, and the group met for the first time in mid-July. Farmer-turned-political-activist Mike Bowman was there and we caught up with him about the group's progress.
Bowman, who is a member, has high hopes for the group, which was assembled by the state lawmakers who sponsored the bill that created it. At the committee's first meeting on July 18, Bowman says the members introduced themselves, explained their interest in the issue and then got down to business.
"We spent the balance of the afternoon going through the particulars of what we were charged to do by the legislature," Bowman says. The result, he says, was a working document outlining what a registration and inspection process might look like.
"We want to have a very streamlined process that's transparent and puts enough boundaries around it that we aren't going to be challenged by the feds as a program lacking in oversight," Bowman says. (Although hemp contains little to none of the psychoactive ingredient THC found in its sister plant, marijuana, the federal government does not distinguish between the two. Both are illegal at the federal level.)
Wikipedia/Fenrisulfir The inside of a hemp stalk.
"This shouldn't be onerous," Bowman adds, "but it should be stringent enough that we satisfy the letter of the law. I'm convinced after one day in the room with this group that that is exactly the balance that we will find."
Bowman comes from a family of farmers who currently grow corn, wheat and a rotation of niche crops in the eastern Colorado city of Wray. He became interested in hemp after reading about North Dakota's long-running fight to grow the outlawed crop. In 2006, he connected with other Colorado hemp activists, and he now splits his time between his home state and Washington, D.C., where he advocates for environmental issues.
He's proud that Colorado is on the leading edge of industrial hemp legalization. It started with last year's pot-centric Amendment 64, which also directed the state legislature to "enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp" by July 1, 2014. Lawmakers beat that deadline in May when they approved the bill that created the advisory committee and gave the Department of Agriculture until March 1, 2014 to come up with a process to register hemp farmers.
The passage of that bill caused much celebration among eager farmers -- and a considerable amount of confusion. Deputy agriculture commissioner Ron Carleton cleared up any misunderstanding with a statement issued in late May:
The legislature, the statement says, "has made it clear that cultivation, for either commercial or research and development purposes, is not authorized unless the prospective grower first registers with the Department. That will not be possible until early 2014 as we do not expect the registration program to be in place before then."
Bowman admits that the committee's deadline is tight, especially since the regulations will be subject to public input before they're finalized. But he's ready to put in the work. "Here we are, making history," he says. "We have a great group working on it."
So who are these history-makers?
Continue to read about the members of the hemp advisory committee.