Amendment x why an ‘industrial hemp’ question on colorado’s ballot is important to a fledgling agricultural industry – the colorado independent

Voters placed the definition of industrial hemp in our founding document in 2012 because it was part of the groundbreaking constitutional Amendment 64 that legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana. So, in Colorado, industrial hemp is defined as “the plant of the genus cannabis and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration that does not exceed three-tenths 23 [0.3] percent on a dry weight basis.” In other words, hemp can have .3 percent THC in it and still be legally considered hemp, per the Constitution.

Part of the changes to the state Constitution in Amendment 64 directed lawmakers to enact legislation about growing, processing and selling hemp. Since then, Colorado has led the nation in hemp production.


Now, some of its biggest champions want the definition of industrial hemp out of the state Constitution.

Because members of Congress could take hemp off the Controlled Substances Act in this year’s pending Farm Bill and change its federal definition. If they do that and heighten the allowed THC level higher than Colorado’s, it could put other states at a better advantage if Colorado’s definition remains the same because they could grow more without worrying about trying to keep the THC level as low. The concern is farmers in other states might not have to lose as much of their crop as Colorado would if farmers here are stuck with a lower THC level.

Hence, the ballot measure asking voters to kick the current definition out of the state Constitution and give it to state lawmakers who could more quickly adjust it to react to federal changes. In Colorado, the only way to change the state Constitution is by asking voters to do so at the ballot box every couple years.

The effort to get this measure on the ballot wasn’t actually being led by the hemp industry, but instead by Vicki Marble, a Republican senator from Fort Collins, who spearheaded an effort after hearing concerns from people in the hemp industry. She and other legislative supporters persuaded two-thirds of the 100-member state legislature to go along, which is what it takes for them to refer a measure directly onto the ballot. (Other lawmaker-referred measures this year include lowering the age to become a lawmaker and changing the way the state draws political lines.)

Ed Lehrburger, CEO of hemp processing company PureVision Technology in Fort Lupton who also sits on a hemp advisory committee at the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said he hadn’t heard about it. He worries the average voter likely hasn’t either, let alone could be able to understand what the question means in practice when filling out their ballot. “We’ve got to get the word out,” he said.

In 2016, proponents of a measure to get rid of an exemption for slavery in Colorado’s Constitution thought their effort would be a slam dunk. But when voters faced the question on ballots that year, they voted it down. Stunned activists later found voters were confused because of the way the question was written. Some wonder if something similar could haunt this year’s hemp measure.

Orvis says he isn’t sure how he’ll vote on the measure because he doesn’t like the idea of lawmakers being able to change the definition willy-nilly. If it just adjusted to the federal definition, he says he would be fine with it. As a geneticist, though, he thinks hemp growers should be working harder toward getting the THC levels in their crops as low as they can so THC doesn’t become an issue. “I would never actually try to make that argument,” though, he says, “because as a capitalist we need to have equality in the market especially if other states go above 0.3 percent.”

Boulder Democratic Sen. Steve Fenberg, who helped get the measure on the ballot, says even if it doesn’t happen, the ballot question should spark a larger conversation about what should be in the state Constitution. Sometimes if you get too specific, he says, it can be limiting, and an example is enshrining the definition of hemp in the Constitution.

“We were a pioneer in regulating marijuana and hemp and this industry, and this is really to make sure Colorado can stay on the forefront of that,” he says. “It just ensures we have the flexibility for our farmers to be able to do what they need to do to be able to compete nationally, if not internationally.”

Doug Robinson, a businessman who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for governor, helped launch a nonprofit called SMART that aims to keep kids safe from the effects of legal marijuana. When it comes to hemp production, he says his group is not opposed to the ballot measure and he hasn’t heard of anyone who is. “We think that hemp could have a good role of opportunity for job creation,” he says.

“The logically bereft justification for Amendment X goes something like this: Federal law may someday, maybe, increase the amount of THC allowed in hemp from 0.3 percent to 1.0 percent or something similar, which somehow makes Colorado’s definition of 0.3 percent too ‘low,’” he wrote. “The politicians’ folly is thus laid bare. The only reason cannabis is illegal, or defined as illegal, is statute. Hemp is a carveout and is not marijuana. Cannabis prohibition was invented by politicians, and can be eliminated or scaled back by them. Marijuana can be redefined statutorily as cannabis with THC of more than 1.0 percent, or 5.0 percent, or 10.0 percent. There is nothing in Amendment 64, or anywhere else, that permanently requires marijuana to be illegal, and nothing that locks in the statutory definition of marijuana or of hemp to any amount of THC.”

Another critic, Matt Kahl, a certified Colorado hemp breeder, worries about what might happen if a mega company like Monsanto is able to come up with a modified hemp plant with 0.0 percent THC and the definition of industrial hemp is left to lawmakers. “If they choose to lobby our legislature for the reduction of the statutory definition all the way down to 0.0, that would completely eliminate all regular citizens and programs from developing hemp,” he has said. “You’d have to buy seeds from one of those agricultural giants.”

“Argument For: Colorado is the leading producer of industrial hemp in the country and the only state with a definition of industrial hemp in its constitution. Striking this definition will allow Colorado’s hemp industry to remain competitive with other states as the regulatory landscape evolves for this crop.”

The General Assembly say the Federal Government might/could (sometime later in life) raise the THC limit in the definition of hemp to 1% (the 2018 Farm Bill missed it’s Sept 30th, 2018 deadline), which they say will limit our hemp industry as our constitution defines it at “three tenths percent” (.3%) dry weight.

They are going to help whom by removing hemp from the Colorado Constitution? The current ‘industry’ is successfully growing more hemp than any other state, after having jumped through the extra and unnecessary hoops law enforcement ‘convinced’ the AG Dept. to put up in the last 3 years.

When voters passed A64, they decided that the Feds and the Colorado General Assembly were behind the times (and the continued purveyors of propaganda that caused the longest WAR in the history of the USA with 1937 Reefer Madness/Prohibition). The majority of the voters in Colorado gave the feds and the GA the middle finger when they voted yes on A64.

The GA had been ‘considering’ industrial hemp (only through force feeding by grassroots activists and Sen. Casey) cultivation/production since 1994 when Senator Lloyd Casey proposed legislation that the majority of the GA were afraid to vote for and again in 1996. When it was on the verge of final committee passage, the DEA/feds faxed a ‘threat’ letter to the GA committee members minutes prior and it was killed.

Currently the 2016 federal farm bill says: “The growth and cultivation of industrial hemp may only take place in accordance with an agricultural pilot program to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp established by a State department of agriculture or State agency responsible for agriculture in a State where the production of industrial hemp is otherwise legal under State law.” And the industrial hemp language in the Farm Bill can and probably will change every two years, just like it can be removed altogether.

If the GA really wants to do the right thing and or keep the industry competitive for the hemp farmers/manufactures they can simply stop enforcing the .3% THC limit and do something intelligent like base rules and regs on intended end use and forget about nonsensical, unscientific THC limits on industrial hemp. Or they can offer voters an amendment to increase the THC limit in our constitution or remove any THC limit, instead of removing industrial hemp altogether. Does the THC content really matter if the crop is used for non-consumable industrial products like paper, concrete or fiber?

The GA appropriately ‘gave’ the Agriculture Dept. regulatory authority of industrial hemp. I went to and recorded the first two Ag. meetings on hemp, where the Dept. clearly stated hemp would be regulated like any other crop and not like “marijuana”. Two years later a group of DA’s and law enforcement officers formed an ‘advisory committee’ that came up with repressive (over) regulation and licensing fee’s that farmers are successfully complying with.

The one striking thing the GA/Ag Dept. cannot due is deny anyone applying for a license to grow industrial hemp. Take hemp out of the state Constitution and the GA and/or the Feds will deny (via over-regulation/fee’s) 99% of us the opportunity to grow a non-toxic plant/renewable resource/probable tree of life, just like federal law currently does.

And it’s not as if the GA are concerned about writing statutes that are contrary or defy to our constitution. Look at HB17-1220 that violates A20 by attempting to ‘limit’/violate medical cannabis patients to 12 plants per property, 17 years after ‘whatever is medically necessary’ language passed into our Constitution, no matter a single patient needs more than 12 or there is more than one or two patients living at the property or a person is a caregiver. The same bill also violates A64 when more than 2 adults over the age of 21 reside on the same property.

FYI: We know from Janet Reno: The United States Constitution protects “we the people” from federal enforcement if “we the people” write and vote in laws, (contrary to federal law) ourselves, which is what CO A64 is, a people’s initiative. This is why the feds never officially ‘shut down’ CA 215 or CO A20 or any other state voted pro cannabis language.

Janet Reno made it clear to Dennis Peron (author Prop 215) and the CA Governor after Prop 215 passed: it’s un-Constitutional for the legislature to create and pass laws on their own that are contrary to federal law and legislators can be federally charged and even imprisoned for doing so.

FYI: I co-authored I70, which was 1 of 3 other pro cannabis titled ballot initiatives (that didn’t have funding from 1% er’s like soros/MPP/DPA/ASA/NCIA/NORML to pay signature gatherers and make ballot status) that offered ‘competing’ language to A64 (then I30). I voted “NO” on A64 but had a hand in on shaming A64 attorneys/proponents/authors into adding hemp to A64 prior title submission.