A farmer holds a handful of hemp seeds on a day of planting in Sterling, Colorado in May 2014. (Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press file)

Colorado expo offers hemp products, but no viable seeds or plants allowed

More than 70 vendors will sell hemp-based products in Loveland on Saturday, while dozens of speakers discuss the benefits of the crop on a local, national and global scale.

There will be live artists sketching on hemp paper and stations where kids can make jewelry from hemp materials. But don’t expect to find viable hemp seeds or plants for sale.

The second annual NoCo Hemp Expo is being held in Larimer County, where the sheriff’s office is in the midst of a legal battle over the constitutionality of Amendment 64, the 2012 measure that made recreational marijuana — and hemp — legal in Colorado.

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“Here in Colorado, hemp is 100 percent legal,” said Morris Beegle, president of the Colorado Hemp Company and founder of the expo. “We’ve got extensive regulations set up by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Being able to grow, to plant, all that is 100 percent legal.”

However, under federal law, hemp has been banned for decades as a Schedule I controlled substance because of its association with marijuana. While both are cannabis plants, hemp contains less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical that allows marijuana users to get high.

“You can do virtually anything with hemp, except get stoned,” Beegle said. “(It can be used for) clothing, fabrics, biofuel and energy, food, building materials, medicine, paper. The list goes on and on.”

Between Amendment 64 and additional legislation passed in 2014, Coloradans are now allowed to grow hemp for commercial, research and development purposes.

Also last year, federal legislation cleared the way for state departments and universities to begin growing the crop for research purposes in states that allow hemp production, like Colorado.

But Beegle said some law enforcement agencies are choosing to back the federal law prohibiting commercial production.

Among them is the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over the Loveland events center. Beegle said that two weeks ago law enforcement officers contacted the venue and said the event would be shut down if live plants or seeds were sold.

“Their position is that you can’t tell the difference between a hemp plant and a marijuana plant or a hemp seed and a marijuana seed,” Beegle said. “But this is a hemp expo. You can get marijuana seeds anywhere throughout Colorado. Hemp seeds, on the other hand, are hard to come by. We’ve got sellers that have a license to sell hemp seeds, and those people are being denied the right to do commerce.”

In recent months, a number of Colorado legislators have expressed support for federal legislation to allow commercial hemp production, including U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. Polis will speak at the expo on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, the Colorado Hemp Company will release a report titled “First Legal Harvest: Hemp Returns to Humanity.” Beegle said the 28-page monograph will be printed on hemp paper.

He’s expecting at least 1,000 people, compared to about 300 last year.

“We’ve got people flying in from all over the county,” Beegle said. “This is the largest hemp-specific gathering that’s ever taken place in this country. … We’re trying to educate the public, law enforcement, politicians, farmers — letting them know there’s a viable crop they can start putting in the ground that’s good for the community and good for the planet.”

Anna Gauldin: 303-954-1666, agauldin@denverpost.com

NoCo Hemp Expo

The event will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. Tickets are $20 at the door. More information can be found at NoCoHempExpo.com.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com