Group Laying Groundwork For Industrial Hemp Co-Op

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Group Laying Groundwork For Industrial Hemp Co-Op

Colorado – A recent tour at a small experimental hemp plot by a group of advocates who want to develop a local hemp growers cooperative revealed some of the challenges the fledgling industry faces before it can become established in Colorado. In this case, the half dozen or so plants intended to produce hemp seed were quite possibly exposed to and contaminated by pollen from what was determined to be a male marijuana plant that was inadvertently growing nearby, the group discovered.

That means the hoped-for new hemp seeds could already be tainted with too much THC, the drug that produces the marijuana high when smoked or ingested, to qualify under new state regulations as agricultural hemp. “One of the things we are trying to figure out is how marijuana and hemp can coexist without cross-contaminating each other,” said Sue Gray, one of the founders of the newly revamped, Carbondale-based Colorado Hemp Education Association (formerly the Roaring Fork Hemp Cooperative Association).

That’s just one of the concerns among would-be hemp growers and producers of recreational marijuana who worry that, without proper controls, both industries could be compromised. “I think we can do both amicably,” added Jackie Chenoweth, another member of the hemp association. “But it’s important that we work together on this.” Other hurdles if the hemp industry is to take root involve the establishment of reliable, certified seed sources for hemp and regional infrastructure necessary to process hemp products. For now, it remains illegal to transport seeds or raw hemp across state lines.

“At this point, we are sort of blindly feeling our way through this,” Gray said. “We are getting together with other organizations that have been around longer than ours and educating ourselves, so that we can go out and educate the community and the farmers.” Amendment 64, approved by Colorado voters in 2012, not only legalized recreational marijuana possession and licensed retail sales in the state, it also directed the Legislature to establish rules and regulations for growing, processing and selling industrial hemp.

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