‘Tis the season for new possibilities, thanks to the recent election. Colorado voters have altered Amendment 64, one of the most important additions to the Constitution of Colorado in its history. In 2012, Amendment 64 was passed by voters, which allowed the use of recreational cannabis and the growth of the industrial hemp industry in Colorado.
On Nov. 6, voters passed Amendment X, which removes the language about industrial hemp from Colorado’s constitution. Colorado was the only state with industrial hemp written into the state’s constitution and because of this, the growth and production of industrial hemp was protected from federal involvement. However, those who are in favor of Amendment X argue that removing industrial hemp from the Constitution of Colorado will benefit farmers by allowing them to keep up with national industry trends. Those who opposed it expressed worry that allowing the federal government to call the shots would be risky and that changing the regulations could affect hemp farmers’ business.
According to the Colorado Legislative Council’s ballot analysis of Colorado’s industrial hemp industry, Amendment X will help the state’s industry remain competitive as the industry evolves. “Colorado is the leading producer of industrial hemp in the country and the only state with a definition of industrial hemp in its constitution,” the analysis reads. “Striking this definition will allow Colorado’s hemp industry to remain competitive with other states as the regulatory landscape evolves for this crop.”
Sen. Vicki Marble, bill sponsor of SCR 18–003, stated that the importance of this bill was to allow Colorado hemp farmers the ability to adjust to hemp federal regulations in a timely fashion. “The Concurrent Resolution did move the definition from the Constitution to statute but it also made it possible for the Colorado hemp definition to automatically adjust to federal limits,” Marble said. “This is a critical part in keeping Colorado competitive in the hemp market. If the Farm Bill changes the hemp definition after the Colorado Legislature has adjourned for the year, it is not a problem for farmers because they do not have to wait for legislation to pass the next year in order to move Colorado into compliance with federal law.”
“This is a critical part in keeping Colorado competitive in the hemp market.”
Marble continued to explain if Amendment X didn’t pass, the state of Colorado could have lost a decent amount of money by not keeping up with evolving federal trends that affect the industry and market. Having the ability to quickly adjust to new regulations would be an important advantage for the state’s hemp industry, especially considering that Congress continues to negotiate the Farm Bill.
Hemp originates from the cannabis sativa genome. Industrial hemp is grown for a variety of uses, such as clothing, food, rope, fuel, plastic substitute and medicine. Hemp contains trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive component and when grown well, the THC levels can rise. According to the Amendment 64, industrial hemp grown in Colorado cannot contain THC levels higher than 0.03 percent. If hemp crops are found to have more than 0.03 percent THC, they must be destroyed, thus wasting farmers’ time, money and resources.
There are talks that the federal government may raise the allowed THC levels in hemp to one percent, giving farmers more leeway and preserving more crops that may test higher in THC. Implementing Amendment X allows farmers to fully engage in the national hemp market without restrictions from local laws. It may also help businesses in the hemp industry to sell their products easier nationwide.
Amendment X passed with an approximately 60/40 affirmative vote, revealing that not everyone in the state is convinced this is a good idea. Time will tell if Colorado hemp farmers will benefit from this, but allowing local entities to evolve with a national industry is will help them stay competitive and possibly keep Colorado as the leaders in the nation’s hemp industry.