WELD COUNTY, Colo. - You can expect a bigger hemp harvest in Colorado this fall.
Through Wednesday, the state had received 98 applications from farmers registering to grow hemp. It became legal to grow hemp in Colorado as part of Amendment 64. The deadline for farmers to register was May 1.
According to a spokesman with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the 98 applications amounted to nearly 1,000 acres. Hemp is a cousin to marijuana, but does not contain the THC in marijuana that makes a user high.
The state said Thursday it expected to issue more permits as applications came in through the mail. Applications had to be postmarked by May 1 as well.
There are approximately 11.5 million crop acres in Colorado, so the acreage registered for hemp this year is a very small percentage of total farmland.
"We are permitted to grow up to 7 acres," said Gilcrest farmer Lynette Tanner. Tanner and her daughter, Jamie, grow primarily alfalfa on their 152 acre farm south of Greeley.
"It's something that is supposed to be a part of our diets, our clothes, our air quality," said Jamie Tanner.
"It actually fits well into the crop rotation in Weld County," said Lynette. "It's a very viable crop that compliments the corn and wheat crop in Weld County."
What is still unclear is how big the market will be for the product. But one local buyer of hemp will be Denver-based Canna Energy.
"Canna Energy is the first American-made hemp infused energy drink," said founder and president of Canna Energy Mark Spoone.
To be clear, Canna Energy drinks are not the same as the marijuana infused edibles and drinks you've heard so much about in recent months.
"We have zero THC in all of our drinks and everything we do," said Spoone. "You can drink it all day, everyday and you'll never experience the high you do with medicated products."
Currently, Canna Energy is importing hemp from Canada.
"Part of our goal is we want to infuse our Colorado product with Colorado hemp," said Spoone. "And we want to untie the lie. There are a lot of health benefits in hemp seed oil."
As for the Tanners, they know hemp is a tolerant crop that needs little water. The unknowns are the insects and making sure the crop takes control of the field before the weeds.
"Right now, I'm not legally allowed to use any herbicides or insecticides on this crop," said Jamie. "They haven't done the research yet to say it's ok."
The Tanners say they make about $500 to $1000 an acre on alfalfa.
Although there's not a commodities market yet for hemp, by most estimates farmers could make up to $2,000 an acre on hemp.