by Sandia Belgrade

The  Saguache County Commissioners did a quick turnaround on hemp. In their first May meeting they issued a 6-month temporary moratorium  on hemp cultivation. Their reasoning was that this would allow them ample time to research and study the pros and cons of hemp. Amendment 64, the 2012 Colorado ballot initiative that legalized marijuana, also provided for state licensing of industrial hemp farming including growing industrial hemp by registered persons for commercial purposes. On May 17, the Commissioners lifted the short-lived hemp moratorium by a 2-1 vote, in time for planting season. According to Jason Anderson, many got their applications in to the State to cultivate hemp before the moratorium, so a moratorium was not practical as they would be grandfathered in.

Commissioner Ken Anderson’s contend that it’s an agricultural product and there is no reason to treat it differently. Although hemp has a visual similarity to marijuana, hemp contains very little or no THC, the psychoactive chemical. Hemp fiber is the longest, strongest and most durable of all natural fibers. Cultivation requires no chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. Industrial hemp can be used to make food, fuel, clothing and fabric, plastics, construction materials, cement, textiles and paper to name a few uses. Yes, paper—another way to save our  forests. Moreover, it has the possibility of bringing needed income to the county. About $500 million worth of hemp product is imported every year, but we can grow it here. Saguache has reportedly received more than 200 applications requesting hemp cultivation providing needed revenue.

Present in the Commissioners’ public meeting before the first decision was handed down was Diane Dunlap, a marijuana cultivator and retailer. According to the initial resolution, the effects of cross pollination with marijuana is a concern, and current land use regulations do not address these potential impacts.  Noted agriculture consultant Anndrea Hermann says: “experts agree that a distance of 10 miles between hemp and marijuana fields is exceedingly appropriate to avoid cross-pollination.” Jason still wants more information, for example, on how much water it takes to grow hemp.

Marijuana public hearing

A public hearing was held on May 12 to review updated regulations put forth by the Marijuana Task Force. A large crowd was in attendance and there was a good back and forth response to the suggestions. All comments were recorded and the County Commissioners will review citizen comments as well as the task force recommendations. They will make revisions as needed, and schedule another comment session on the revised document. Thanks to Caren Kershner for help with the meeting.