Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hemp industry piques interest

By Forrest Hershberger

Is it industrial hemp, or is it marijuana, and how does a person discern the difference?
That is one of the many questions discussed during the Progressive 15 Industrial Hemp Expo held at the Events Center earlier this month in Akron. The expo addressed concerns and questions on developing an industrial hemp industry in Colorado.
Barry Gore, chairman of the board, Adams County Economic Development, said the industry is at a unique time in history.
“It is kind of a chicken and the egg thing,” Gore said.
He said the industry can develop markets to support future product, or develop the product to inspire the market.
Cathy Shull, executive Director of Progressive 15, said the next step is to develop legislation addressing industrial hemp.
Duane Sinning of the Colorado Department of Agriculture spoke on the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. He said 18 months ago he was trying to convince people hemp is an industrial product; people cannot get high from industrial hemp.
He said the Industrial Hemp Act gave the Colorado Department of Agriculture jurisdiction over registration and cultivation of hemp. The 2014 Farm Bill included a clause for higher education facilities to begin research and development of hemp.
He said industrial hemp is a plant of the genus cannibus with a maximum THC (the hallucinogenic chemical in marijuana) content of .3 percent.
“It is an arbitrary line for trade more than anything,” Sinning said.
He said the .3 percent is not necessarily the definition of where a person can get high. He added the federal government does not differentiate between hemp and marijuana, except in the Farm Bill.
He said the .3 percent benchmark was started through the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, supported by the United States. He added most of Europe supports a .02 percent maximum THC content.
He said hemp with more than 1% is considered to have some intoxicating affect.
He said if a hemp product has more than .3 percent THC content, it would preclude universities from research and development. Researchers may have to get a medical marijuana permit if the project is above the .3 percent level.
Industrial hemp and marijuana appear to be virtually the same plant, which is one of the problems, according to Sinning.
“You can’t really tell by looking at it,” he said.
He said there has been a significant shift in the industry this year. Indoor production has “exploded,” he said.
He added that more than half of Colorado’s 69 counties have land area registered for hemp production. In 2014, the largest field was about 17 acres. In 2015, that field wouldn’t rank in the top 10 fields, he said.
“As you enter the marketplace, be sure your seed is legitimately here in the state of Colorado,” he said.
He added that if hemp production exceeds .3 percent THC, it could result in a visit with the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the producer defined as a smuggler.
Logan County farmer Alan Gentz questioned the risk to the producer.
“I don’t see any protection for the farmer at this point,” Gentz said. “There are a lot of problems here. There’s nothing protecting the farmer.”
Sinning said if a producer is monitoring his crop correctly, there are options.
“It really just becomes part of your business practice,” he said.
Hemp attorney David Bush addressed the legal issues with industrial hemp.
“Knowing what the law is is not enough people,” he said. “You have to know how it is being enforced.”
Bush said producers also have to know what the perception of the law is.
He addressed the Controlled Substances Act and lists of controlled substances. He said it isn’t so much about producing hemp as having permission to raise it. He added the federal law does not distinguish between marijuana and industrial hemp. He said costs are associated with legislation, and where there is less legislation, there will be less cost.
Industrial hemp breeder Grant Orvis talked about research on developing hemp.
Casey Ives of PureVision Technologies talked about his company in Fort Lupton during the manufacturing panel discussion.
The employee-owned and financed company was started in 1992. It employs 21 people: 15 technical staff and three PhDs. PureHemp Technology, LLC., was created in 2014 and processes about a half ton of industrial hemp per day.
“We plan to scale up on a very large scale,” he said.
Ives said their goal is to process 25 tons per day.
Bush returned to the front to talk about banking as an industrial hemp producer. He said the hemp industry, hemp banking, is in conflict with the racketeering laws. Banks are required to complete SARs, Suspicious Activity Reports, on any customer suspected of involvement in illegal activity. He said banking will result in reporting to the federal government.
He said the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015 is designed to protect banks from losing FDIC, prevent federal interference of bank loans. However, banks are still required to complete SAR reports, he said.
“The SAR part is still there, and that is why banks don’t want to do business,” Bush said.
The Expo included discussion on water and soil testing, and Yuma County Sheriff Chad Day was scheduled to address law enforcement.

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