Colorado seed developer Ben Holmes displays Carmagnola hemp seeds at his Centennial Seeds lab in Lafayette. (Denver Post file)

Colorado wants to be first in nation to certify hemp seed

Colorado, already a national leader in hemp cultivation, is pushing forward with a plan to certify seed, in part to ensure THC levels, the active ingredient in marijuana, do not exceed legal levels.

“We’ve always felt that if hemp is going to be an agricultural crop, it has to be treated like a mainstream agricultural crop. The grower needs to know what he is getting,” said Duane Sinning, assistant director of the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry.

To be classified as industrial, hemp may contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. If hemp farmers inadvertently plant seeds that create higher THC levels in plants, those crops have to be destroyed, Sinning said.

More than 2,000 acres of land is being used to grow hemp statewide, with about 170 registered growers. Sinning said the program, being done with Colorado State University, will test hemp plants grown all across Colorado to determine how the different plants perform.

“Colorado’s unique climate really does separate plants. Higher altitude areas, dryer areas all of those things cause differences in THC content,” Sinning said.

“I think it’s an excellent development for the state and will provide a lot of options for local hemp businesses to acquire reliably tested seeds,” said Tim Gordon, chief operating officer for CBDRx, a grower and wholesaler of hemp and extracted oils. The company operates facilities in Boulder and Longmont.

“The testing itself is rather encompassing. On the growing side, for us it’s an arduous process to develop a strain that’s going to be continually certified as hemp and have it be stable enough to be grown in a variety of environments and be consistent throughout,” Gordon said.

The program is being launched initially with $100,000 in state funding, but eventually it will be supported by fees paid by seed growers and farmers, Sinning said.

The certification will be issued by the Colorado Seed Growers Association, which will verify genetics, THC content and cultivation techniques.

“It’s going to have huge impacts on businesses locally and act as a template for departments of agriculture across the nation,” said Zev Pace, executive director of the National Hemp Association.

“It’s going to allow all of us to identify hemp cultivars that work especially well and are especially stable here in a Colorado environment,” Pace said.

Sinning said the state hopes growers will have “CDA Approved Certified Seed” in time for the 2017 planting season.

Those interested in participating can contact

Watch hemp grower Tim Gordon on The Cannabist Show (cue to the 8:15 mark)

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