BRIGHTON — After more than a half century of being forbidden from growing hemp, farmers from across the state gathered in Adams County recently to ask experts about the now-legal plant.
“I’ve read about it,” said Dick Blumenhein, a Boulder resident with a farm in Saguache. “It’s good for the soil and versatile.”
But Blumenhein wanted to know more about what he should consider and how to grow an industrial hemp crop later this year.
Adams County staff has been fielding calls with similar questions, so officials decided to host a hemp symposium Thursday, April 3. Boulder County hosted a similar event on March 1, which was the first day the state started to accept hemp-farming applications.
Partnering with Vote Hemp, a nonprofit advocacy group, and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, almost 200 people showed up in Adams County for the paid event to listen to speakers from the industry, including many from Canada, where hemp is legal.
“This is a new field — not that it’s brand new, but we all need this information,” Adams County Commissioner Charles Tedesco said. “We want to be on the forefront.”
Colorado’s Amendment 64 legalized recreational marijuana sales and also allowed for the cultivation, processing and sale of hemp in the state.
State regulations require growers to register and submit plants for random tests to ensure the THC level of their crop stays below 0.3 percent.
In March, 13 entities submitted plans to legally grow hemp for commercial or research purposes. The state’s registration period remains open until May 1.
Of the 13 who have registered, several are in northern Colorado, including one in Brighton. Other growers registered out of Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Mosca in Alamosa County.
Some of the curious farmers at the hemp information session own farmland outside Colorado.
Federally, growing and processing hemp remains illegal, but the farm bill passed at the start of this year included a provision that allows universities or state departments to grow hemp for research if their state allows it. Colorado is one of nine states to legalize hemp farming.
Although states have legalized industrial hemp, conflicting federal laws have left questions around the ability to get crop insurance and find seed, which is illegal to import.
“I didn’t know it was legal, but I’m quickly getting up to speed,” said Dennis Gronli, whose family owns farmland in Brighton. “What’s exciting is the potential ecological impacts.”