In the final weeks of the Colorado legislative session, drug policy reform legislation received little attention as it passed through the Legislature nearly-unopposed. The “Hemp Bill,” or HB 12-1099, sets up the framework for the study and use of industrial hemp, and seeks to use this “taboo” crop to clean up contaminated soil through a process called phytoremediation.

The passage of the Hemp Bill begins a new era for the regulation of marijuana. Historically, hemp production was encouraged in the United States – from being one of the most important crops in colonial America to being promoted by the federal government in a World War II film called “Hemp for Victory.” However, growing hemp has been outlawed since the Controlled Substances Act, because of its close association with marijuana.
Though it shares the same genus (“Cannabis sativa L.”) as its better-known cousin, industrial hemp is distinguished from marijuana by its low concentration of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC. Industrial hemp contains no more than three-tenths of a percent of THC.
Several factors make Colorado a particularly compelling candidate for hemp-based phytoremediation. Extensive mining throughout the state has left vast tracts of land contaminated with toxic waste. Phytoremediation would remove those toxins from the ground, which could then be used for agriculture and cattle grazing which are cornerstones of the state’s economy. And hemp requires very little water to grow, which makes it ideal for Colorado.
Activists hope that phytoremediation is just the introduction of industrial hemp into mainstream use. Hemp is cheap and easy to grow, requiring few pesticides and no herbicides. It can be used in textiles, construction materials, paper products, and even body care products. Hemp seed is considered a “superfood” – a good source of protein and dietary fiber, high in B-vitamins and essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp can even be reduced to ethanol and biofuel.
A similar bill was introduced in the Colorado Legislature in 1994 by then-Senator Loyd Casey, but received only a single vote. Now, if Governor Hickenlooper signs HB-1099 into law, Colorado would become the first state in the nation to grow industrial hemp since the 1930s.
The above article is paraphrased from “Spark the Discussion: Hemp for Victory,” was written by Brian Vicente, Esq. and Rachelle Yeung for CBA-CLE Legal Connection. “Spark the Discussion” is a monthly Legal Connection column highlighting the hottest trends in the emerging field of medical marijuana law. The article was originally published on May 16, 2012 and can be found here.

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