Colorado hemp and marijuana growers disagree over the proposed hashish agriculture invoice
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A bill from the Colorado state legislature seeks to ease some outdoor marijuana growers in the face of bad weather and reduce cross-pollination between growing marijuana and hemp. However, not the entire hemp industry is on board yet.
House Bill 1301 – a beefed up version of a similar bill last year postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic – would allow outdoor cannabis growers to put in place a contingency plan to prevent crop losses in extreme weather conditions. The measure would create working groups to also reduce cross-pollination between marijuana and hemp plants.
Home to spontaneous weather, Colorado is more than capable of prematurely freezing outdoor cannabis farms that only harvest once a year in the fall. Representative Daneya Esgar, the main sponsor of the bill, says these farmers deserve more protection for such financial impact.
“This bill was introduced last year in response to the fact that outdoor growing has very strict regulations and has lost millions of dollars due to bad weather,” Esgar told her colleagues on the House Finance Committee during the first successful vote on HB 1301 on April 24th May. “We’re just bringing it back and doing better than it was.”
Best practices to prevent crop damage from inclement weather, according to Esgar’s bill, would be developed and enforced by the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.
The other issue of outdoor cannabis that HB 1301 wants to address – cross-pollination between plants – could be more polarizing among farmers. Although marijuana and hemp are regulated and grown differently, they are still part of the same genus and can easily pollinate miles apart when grown outdoors. Marijuana plants grown for THC content are feminized and have no seeds, just like hemp grown for CBD. However, industrial hemp grown for grains and fiber is full of seeds and pollen that can pollinate seedless cannabis plants, including hemp.
“We’re trying to figure out how to educate everyone because there are some unintended consequences of cross-pollination,” said Esgar.
When cross-pollination occurs between marijuana and hemp, there are a handful of regulatory issues, including lost yields and profits, according to Zack Dorsett, a hemp farmer for Blue Forest Farms in Longmont.
“It’s that bad,” he says in an interview with Westword. “For a year we had a neighbor who was growing non-feminized seeds and spraying pollen everywhere, and that year the entire crop was pretty much ruined.” Hemp can also be damaged by cross-pollination, with some hemp plants after pollination by other cannabis plants Be above the federal THC limit of 0.3 percent.
However, some members of the hemp industry are breaking the law.
Colorado Hemp Association Vice President Samantha Walsh argued that it was important to include advice from experts to prevent cross-pollination, but told lawmakers that any policy that imposes a buffer on hemp farming is baseless and will not work .
“We understand that telling people where to plant and what not to plant is a non-starter – not just for us in the hemp industry, but I think it’s a terrible precedent for agriculture in general,” Walsh said Committee members.
Walsh prefers that a working group make recommendations to the state only when those proposed guidelines are based on scientific research. Establishing best practices or technological methods for identifying wild cannabis plants and calculating the high pollen risk for farmers is efficient, but agricultural barriers won’t work, she argued.
According to Walsh, the decision to grow marijuana outdoors carries a natural risk with consequences that can be prevented in an air-conditioned indoor environment.
However, for marijuana grower Shawn Honaker of Yeti Farms, legislation is a critical step in supporting the new farming sector.
“We have observed cross-pollination from neighboring countries for about four years [hemp] Farms that have either gone out of business or given up and haven’t cleaned up their farm, “he told the committee.” This bill would help us find some kind of mutual agreement in the hemp industry, “with a solution to this problem.”
The House Budgets Committee unanimously passed the bill on May 25, and the entire House passed the bill the next day. HB 1301 is now waiting for its first Senate hearing, which is expected to take place this week.
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Hilal is an alumni of the Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in political science. She has written for Denver Life Magazine and 303 Magazine and is currently the cannabis intern for Westword.