On June 1, Colorado officially submitted its revised plan for the management of hemp production to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This newest iteration of the plan was built around USDA’s Final Rule (FR), published in January of this year, which concerns the regulations the USDA will use to approve plans for domestic hemp production by states and Indian Tribes.
Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) states that the “revised Hemp Management Plan gives Colorado’s hemp producers a realistic way to expand operations while also ensuring that testing is in place. Hemp producers play an important role in Colorado’s economy and it’s important that as a state Colorado does all it can to help create jobs and benefit consumers.”
Colorado has been a leading producer of hemp since the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, which directed the general assembly to create legislation concerning hemp production and sale.
The hemp industry has truly blossomed in Colorado over the past few years, reaching its peak in 2019, with a staggering 88,745 acres licensed for hemp cultivation. In 2020, oversupply caused a significant downturn for the industry, though it is still going strong with 36,225 acres licensed as of last year.
Under Colorado’s Revised Hemp Management Plan, the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) will continue to require producers to submit an annual registration application, which can be submitted online as of 2019. Applicants must describe the details of their production, including ownership, location, whether hemp will be cultivated indoors or outdoors, the seed variety being used, and the final use of the hemp once produced.
The plan also contains guidelines for representative sampling of hemp lots, including the necessary criteria to become a certified hemp sampling agent. Certified workers will collect hemp samples and deliver them to state-run labs, which will test the samples’ THC levels. These lab approval programs have been developed by the CDA in partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDHPE). Under FR, hemp cannot be harvested prior to samples being taken for testing.
According to the plan, if a sample’s THC levels are found to be noncompliant, producers must notify the CDA about whether they will dispose of or remediate (“rendering non-compliant cannabis compliant”) the crop. The costs of sampling and testing for remediated crops will be covered by the producer.
“Although we are submitting a state plan today that we hope USDA will expeditiously approve, we request that USDA continue to review the Final Hemp Rule with an eye toward making it more flexible and practicable for hemp producers in Colorado and across the country,” Polis writes in his letter to Tom Vilsack, the USDA’s Secretary of Agriculture.
Should the USDA approve Colorado’s new plan, its regulations are slated to take effect starting in January 2022.