By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4) – State leaders and business owners supporting commercial hemp said that provisions changed in the 2018 farm bill, classifying the variety of marijuana as a crop and not a drug will have a major impact on Colorado’s economy. It’s expected to create jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue, according to industry advocates.
“Hemp provides a non-toxic alternative to all the toxic things we have,” said Rick Trojan, a hemp entrepreneur who has traveled the country advocating for legislation in support of the product. “We should have that option, not everyone is going to take it but we should have that option.”
Trojan started in the medical edibles side of marijuana but then was drawn the potential of commercial hemp. He now has businesses creating food, animal feed, and dietary supplements from hemp with farms based in Eaton. He says so many different products can come from hemp; all of the clothing he was wearing at a news conference came from the crop. But he explained fabrics and textiles still require some aspect of production outside the country. A majority of the process, including growing hemp, does take place in Colorado.
“I lived on 10 days of just eating hemp,” he said on Thursday.
Lawmakers at the event say the state has been a test case for the country. Policy in place prior to this decision gave cover to the industry to explore what hemp could produce. They expect major changes at the state level once the president signs the new farm bill.
“The past years have been defined by being defensive,” said Sen. Kerry Donovan, chair of the Colorado Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee. “How do we take this industry that’s just sprouting and take it to so many communities?”
Leaders at the State Capitol say now Colorado will have the chance to show the rest of the nation the benefits of commercial hemp thanks to the change in definition at the federal level. The impact could be significant specifically for rural regions in the state.
“We in Colorado can continue to be leaders for the nation that is going to start confronting this issue in all 50 states,” Rep. Dylan Roberts, chair of the Colorado House Rural Affairs Committee. “We will see hundreds of more jobs, millions of more dollars, pouring into local economies that have not seen the boon that they deserve.”
Approval by the U.S. House of Representatives to the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, or the farm bill, legalizes the production of hemp and establishes a regulatory framework for the industry, according to staff with Vicente Sederberg, LLC. The move comes as major retailers like Patagonia give its support to using hemp for manufacturing clothing. New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins has already created a beer using hemp and says it plans to continue working with hemp and hops to develop new products.
“It’s a great day for hemp, it’s a great day for Colorado,” said Roberts.
Trojan says he and other business owners are excited to have access to banking, insurance, and media marketing. The challenge for the industry is still explaining to the public that CBD is safe and will not give people the “high” they associate with marijuana or THC. He says new regulations that will provide consistent labels will help with that education. But Trojan says the growth is already there. One of his farms saw the number of employees double from 25 to 50 people and expand from 1,500 acres to 4,000 acres.
“I hope sooner rather than later,” he said about noticing the changes the industry is now predicting. “This plant can really serve all of our needs; it’s just a matter of helping understand and educating people.”