Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hemp on the Western Slope: could it help the economy?


GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- It's a topic gaining more and more attention throughout the country, and at Club 20's Saturday meeting, hemp was a hot topic for discussion.

According to the National Hemp Association, Colorado is one of few states where it is legal to grow hemp. There is some gray area, but NHA and local leaders say hemp and marijuana are not the same.

"There’s some misinformation on it in regards to THC, into the marijuana class, completely different,” said Congressman Scott Tipton.

With low THC, hemp has no recreational drug use, according to the NHA. Instead, it serves many other purposes.

Hemp fiber can be used to make paper products, fabric, clothing, and rope, among other items. Hemp has also been used to restore soil after massive wildfires and it used to make clothing.

The NHA estimates all hemp uses represents an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Many people argue that hemp use in products can often be safer, as there isn't always as many chemicals used.

"Hemp has so many uses that the general public doesn't know about," said Club 20’s executive director, Christian Reece. “We want to promote the hemp industry and the growth of hemp here in Western Colorado.”

Some say industrial hemp is a viable resource, and one that’s growing in our area.

"I strongly support allowing hemp to be grown, used, manufactured, and I think that's one area where agriculture can really benefit," said Senator Cory Gardner.

Congressman Tipton and Senator Gardner both support the introduction of hemp.

"We are co-sponsoring a bill for industrial hemp, for the variety of uses that it has," said Congressman Tipton.

"I’ve co-sponsored and introduced legislation that will legalize hemp, growing hemp, utilization of hemp,” said Senator Gardner.

Gardner said it could benefit our side of the state, "I think it is a value-added opportunity, it's a diversification of agriculture that we need."

Leaders said awareness about how it’s different from other cannabis varieties can help our farms.

"From an agricultural standpoint, we need to be taking a look at some economic opportunities, see if we can create some jobs and see if we can get some money moving here on the West Slope," said Congressman Tipton.

This would help in providing more than just a local product.

"It creates that local manufacturing job, it turns into a sales job,” said Senator Gardner. “That salesman is able to go out and buy a pick up locally because he needs to travel the area to sell that composite locally."

"You know this is an economic development opportunity," said Congressman Tipton.

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