Industrial Hemp in Mesa County

MESA COUNTY, Colo.-The legalization of marijuana in Colorado kick started another product for potential mass production, industrial hemp.

Article by Jeff Goldblatt

It’s a crop that doesn’t provide the high feeling that marijuana does, but the potential economic boom it could have on our area is slowly creating quite the buzz.

Hemp, it looks a lot like marijuana, but it’s not.

It’s part of the cannabis family, but Aaron Rydell from the Salt Creek Hemp Company in Collbran says industrial hemp is held to a different standard.

“Point 3 of a percent is where we’re held to, that’s our limit,” says Rydell.

That’s point 3 of a percent of THC content, the psychoactive substance found in cannabis that gives you the high feeling.

It’s a limit industrial hemp must be at or below for legal mass production, and to guarantee no recreational buzz.’

“To give you an idea, the THC that you’ll see in a rec marijuana shops averages anywhere from 17 to 30%,” said Rydell.

But many people across Western Colorado are feeling something due to industrial hemp, because they’re seeing a potential economic boom our area needs.

“The beef industry is taking a hit, the oil industry is a roller coaster that seems to go up and down every 6, 7 years. Leaving people in a bad spot,” says Rydell.

Lloyd Quesenberry is a local attorney and hemp activist, and he has high hopes for industrial hemp.

“I think hemp is an industry that will really help farmers and the general economy over here,” said Quesenberry.

That’s because Quesenberry says the net value per acre of hemp production is much higher than anything else farmers can do out here.

Plus, hemp is environmentally friendly, you don’t have to apply herbicide and it uses less water.

“For example, this year we used less water on our hemp than on hay the year before,” said Rydell.

Now add that there are roughly 40,000 uses for hemp once grown and processed, ranging from food products to making rope and cooking oil to practically curing certain medical conditions.

“And then there’s CBD oil, coming from a different part of the plant, that has the medicinal effects in it,” says Quesenberry.

CBD oil is known in the medical community for aiding in, and almost completely stopping some seizure disorders.

So with so many positives on paper, why the delay?

“From my point of view, the key obstacle to really having hemp take off in a large way on the Western Slope is a broad based processing facility,” says Quesenberry.

Something Rydell agrees with.

“We need processing facilities, we need end market users…this industry could actually put people to work in factories and facilities on the Western Slope…The sky’s the limit,” adds Rydell.

The problem with hemp on the Western Slope is a disconnect between farmers and people that create the finished product.

That if fixed in the coming years, could result in a Western Slope cash crop that could amount to millions of dollars.

Quesenberry says more than one organization is in discussions toward purchasing an existing building in Mesa County and putting significant resources into it, to create a hemp processing facility.

Hemp is still considered a schedule one controlled substance in the eyes of the federal government, so there’s extra paper work and protocol to follow if you’re interested in growing hemp.

You can find all the rules and registration forms on the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s website.

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