Left: U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo.(Special to The Denver Post, David Zalubowski) Right: U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colo. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)

Colorado senators throw their support behind Majority Leader McConnell’s hemp bill

Colorado leads the nation in hemp cultivation.

The U.S. senators from cannabis-friendly Colorado are formally supporting a federal push to legalize hemp.

Sens. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, signed on as co-sponsors of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bill to let states treat hemp like any other agricultural commodity. With their backing, McConnell’s bill has seven co-sponsors.

“Removing industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act is a commonsense move, which would create jobs and get the government out of the way of Colorado’s farmers and agricultural industry,” Gardner said in a statement. “Hemp has the potential to be a major boon to Colorado agriculture, giving farmers another viable and profitable option for their fields.”

Colorado leads the nation in hemp cultivation, planting upward of 9,700 acres last year, according to Colorado Department of Agriculture data.

The state also is home to a slew of hemp products manufacturers that sell into a $367 million CBD market poised to boom into a $1.9 billion industry by 2022, according to data from New Frontier Data.

Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that contains under 0.3 percent of the psychoactive component THC. Hemp farming and products are a burgeoning business — thanks in part to laws put in place by states such as Colorado and provisions in the federal Farm Bill.

However, agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration say hemp-derived extracts rich in CBD, a nonpsychoactive compound, are illegal.