A crop that was recently legalized in Colorado is starting to catch on in Montrose County.
The plant is hemp, a close cousin to marijuana. They both belong to the cannabis sativa family, but unlike pot, hemp does not get you high. Marijuana plants contain a psychoactive chemical called THC. Hemp, on the other hand, contains very little THC, but has a lot of the chemical CBD, which has many medicinal uses but is not an intoxicant.
There are at least 20 hemp growers in Montrose County, according to the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture. State Sen. Don Coram and Montrose Economic Development Corp. executive director Sandy Head are amongst them.
Colorado legalized marijuana in 2014, “and that opened the door for Colorado to become a hemp-producing state,” Head explained.
Coram and his partners Gene Chuchuru, John Reams, and David Coker, have formed a company called Paradox Ventures to produce industrial hemp.
Head has planted two acres on her personal property.
Head says “Hemp is the new frontier. And, the first question that comes up is ‘why are we looking at hemp’. Well, MEDC tries to strengthen the economy, and that includes in agriculture. And, there have been a number of challenges in ag.
“The farming economy is going down,” but farming costs are rising. “We need to raise the income for our ag community, to keep it strong and profitable,” she explained.
Head points out that hemp will create a lot of jobs, and not just in the ag industry. “It’s very labor-intensive. But there are so many value-added products that can come out of hemp. You can take part of the plant and make the CBD oil products. You can take the stock of the plant and make building products. There are 65,000 products that can be made from the hemp plant.”
Head says the amount of acreage planted in hemp has grown considerably this year. In 2017, “we showed 12,000 acres and 12.3 million sq. ft. (in greenhouses), and compare that to what we had in 2018. In 2018, the growth has doubled, from 400 registrations to 835, and 30,000 acres that are registered for growth.
” Everyone has to register with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The registration calls for a $500 fee. You must give them a map of your property, showing the acres where the plants may be planted. You must also submit a report when you plant the hemp, showing the exact locations and which strains of hemp you have.”
The other is what I call the Artisan, which is grown for the CBD oil.” Coram believes that Colorado is ahead of all other states in the value of the crop grown for CBD oil.
Coram said CBD oil is particularly helpful to epileptics. ” We had kids come in to testify to the legislature who were having 400 to 500 grand mal seizures per month. They came back, after being on CBD for a short time, and a bad month was one or two seizures.”
A recently published scientific study from the University of Albama had this to say:
“Findings from the landmark study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham on cannabidiol, or CBD oil, provide the published evidence of significant improvements in seizure frequency and other measures of efficacy in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy. Published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior, the results indicate use of CBD oil reduced adverse events and seizure severity, in addition to a reduction in overall seizure frequency.”
Of course, hemp still has a downside, even though cannabis is legal in Colorado Head said, “It is still considered a controlled substance, on a federal level. So, you cannot go to a bank to get a loan to create a business that works with hemp. If you have a farm loan, and you want to grow hemp, you run the risk of your loan being called by the bank because you are now growing a schedule 1 controlled substance on your property.” However, the 2018 Farm Bill contains a provision that would allow hemp to be removed from the controlled substances list. If it is signed into law, growers will no longer have that problem.