Spark the Discussion: Hemp for Victory
Spark the Discussion” is a monthly Legal Connection column highlighting the hottest trends in the emerging field of medical marijuana law. This column is brought to you byVicente Sederberg, LLC, a full-service, community-focused medical marijuana law firm.
By Brian Vicente, Esq. and Rachelle Yeung
In the final weeks of the Colorado legislative session, while House Democrats and Republicans were fiercely battling over same-sex civil unions, a landmark piece of drug policy reform legislation snuck 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 is a victory in a 70-year long battle against the prohibition of marijuana and a turning point towards a more sensible approach to drug policy. The regulation of marijuana is a topic of increasing importance to Colorado voters because of Amendment 64, the statewide ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, which will be voted on in November. Amendment 64 would also make Colorado the first state in the nation to regulate the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.
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. Finally, a plant requiring very little water to grow – like hemp – is a necessity in a water-constrained state like Colorado.