Colorado removed its definition of industrial hemp from its constitution Nov. 6 when voters approved Amendment X in the midterm election.
The 2012 passage of Amendment 64, Colorado’s cannabis legalization initiative, defined industrial hemp as “the plant of the genus Cannabis and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration that does not exceed three-tenths percent on a dry weight basis.”
Now, state law will allow hemp to have the same definition as federal law, which currently has the same 0.3-percent THC limit but could change with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Or, if federal law eventually allows a state to define industrial hemp, Colorado can now do so in state statute.
“It allows more flexibility for the state legislature to adjust the definition, to implement or change the regulations, or adjust them as needed based on federal changes,” said Jon Vaught, founder and CEO of Lafayette-based cannabis biotech company Front Range Biosciences.
Colorado was the only state to define industrial hemp in its constitution, Vaught said, and this change will allow the state legislature to more effectively regulate hemp in accordance with federal laws, especially when the Farm Bill passes.
When and if the legislation does pass, however, Colorado can now align its definition of hemp with federal regulations that may be set forth in the bill.
“Honestly, I think it allows for more flexibility for our state government to do what’s best for Colorado and for the businesses in Colorado,” Vaught said. “If, for example, the federal government were to pass the Farm Bill next year and change the definition of industrial hemp, then Colorado would not [have been] able to change its regulations with it, in terms of the definition of industrial hemp. So, it would actually [have taken] a year or longer, potentially, to change it, which would mean that all of the companies currently operating under the Colorado regulatory framework would not be able to take advantage of those changes should there be any advantages. … Overall, I think it’s a good thing for the industry.”
Although some have worried that the change would allow state legislators to increase restrictions on Colorado’s hemp and cannabis industries, potentially shutting smaller businesses out while allowing larger corporations to flourish, Vaught believes lawmakers have the industry’s best interest at heart.
“I think the reality is Colorado has a strong history and a strong reputation,” he said. “We’ve led the nation in industrial hemp, and that was by our state government. … So, they’ve been very pro-hemp and very pro-business, I believe, in a lot of ways.”
The election of Jared Polis for governor is another sign that the cannabis and hemp industries in the state are moving in the right direction, he added.
“That’s really exciting news for the hemp industry because he’s very pro-hemp and has been a strong leader in terms of being a champion for the industry, and publicly, as well,” Vaught said. “I think we have every reason to believe that right now, the folks at our state government are supportive of the industry, and they’re trying to put things in place that allow the industry to continue to grow and continue to flourish."
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