Ryan Loflin, of Colorado Hemp, handles a batch of a particular kind of hemp seeds that produce vast amounts of hemp oil. (AAron Ontiveroz, Denver Post file)

Hemp going legit, could soon be grown in 10 states

The federal government is ready to let farmers grow cannabis — at least the kind that can’t get people high.

Hemp — marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin that’s used to make everything from clothing to cooking oil — could soon be cultivated in 10 states — including Colorado — under a federal farm bill agreement reached late Monday.

Some wonder if the move is an indication that the federal government is ready to follow the 20 states that have already legalized medical marijuana, including two that also allow its recreational use.

“This is part of an overall look at cannabis policy, no doubt,” said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a Washington-based advocacy group.

However, opponents of legalized pot insist the hemp change doesn’t mean marijuana is right behind.

Cannabist Hemp Gear reviews: pet products, body butters, soaps and more.

The U.S. is one of the fastest-growing hemp markets. In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of hemp products, up from $1.4 million in 2000. Most of that growth was seen in hemp seed and hemp oil, which finds its way into granola bars and other products.

The 1970 Controlled Substances Act required farmers to get a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration to grow hemp, though finished hemp products remained legal in the country.

Cultivation of the plant had congressional allies from both ends of the political spectrum. Democrats from marijuana-friendly states have pushed to legalize hemp cultivation, as have Republicans from states where the fibrous plant could be a profitable new crop.

“We are laying the groundwork for a new commodity market for Kentucky farmers,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a statement. McConnell was a lead negotiator on the inclusion of hemp in the farm bill.

Resources: Colorado marijuana guide: 64 of your questions, answered.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com