2017 #COleg: SB17-117 signed by Gov. Hickenlooper

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Senate Bill 117, titled “Recognize Industrial Hemp Agricultural Product for Agricultural Water Right,” says Colorado water right holders have the right to use it on hemp if the person is registered by the state to grow hemp for commercial, or research purposes.

During an interview with The Journal, Hickenlooper said the hemp water bill will give farmers some reassurance, and he was cautiously optimistic that it could become a good cash crop for the state.

“Hemp is a very versatile product with a lot of uses, and it does not make sense why it’s illegal,” at the federal level, Hickenlooper said. “Having it grown and processed in the state could create a new niche market.”

Coram said he was motivated to introduce the bill after meeting with a farmer in the Arkansas Valley who said he could not use water from a Bureau of Reclamation facility to water his large hemp farm.

“I said this is wrong because hemp has a great future in Colorado,” he said. “The bill passed 99-1.”

Industrial hemp is used to make fuel, textiles, soaps and much more, but because it is a form of cannabis, it is banned by the federal government, even though it does not have the psychoactive properties of it’s genetic cousin, marijuana.

“The facts are that Colorado water rights are owned under Colorado law, and they can be used to grow hemp, which the state legalized,” said Catlin. “The federal government saying they cannot is overreach.”

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

The bill was introduced in the state Legislature by Sen. Don Coram, and sponsored by Rep. Marc Catlin. Both are Montrose Republicans.

“Our farmers grow hemp with that water, our ag researchers use that water for hemp, and this bill clarifies it is Colorado water being put to beneficial use,” Coram said.

Hemp farmers face some uncertainty if they irrigate with water from a federal water project because, as a genetic variant of marijuana, hemp is still considered illegal at the federal level under the Controlled Substance Act.

“It’s always been a concern for local hemp farmers, and a lot of them stopped growing because they did not want to risk losing water rights,” said Sharon King, a local hemp advocate. “This support from the state gives them some reassurance.”

Colorado has legalized hemp, and commercial permits have been issued through the Department of Agriculture since 2014.

The plant’s stem, leaves and flowers are used for making textiles, fuels, oils, soaps and medicine. Hemp is strictly regulated to ensure it does not exceed .3 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the marijuana drug, which has THC levels of between 5 percent and 50 percent.

In Montezuma County, many hemp growers depend on water from McPhee Reservoir, a federal project managed by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

Water Conservancy general manager Mike Preston said customers are allowed to use water to grow hemp, and the district supports Coram’s legislative effort to protect the hemp farmer.

“Those of us that supply water are confident our local farming community will make the most of any opportunity to test industrial hemp as a commercial crop,” Preston wrote to Coram in a March 17 letter. “Hemp being classified by the federal government as a drug is clearly a misclassification of an industrial crop.”

[…]

A 2014 Bureau of Reclamation policy manual stated the federal agency has an obligation to uphold federal law, which prohibits approving use of Reclamation water for activities not allowed under the Controlled Substances Act.

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