DENVER — Included in the $400 billion Farm Bill passed by Congress Wednesday is the federal legalization of hemp cultivation, which is expected to grow the budding industry into a $22 billion industry in the next few years.
Colorado has led the way on hemp production, and Morris Beegle, the founder of the Colorado Hemp Company, is one of its pioneers. He has been pushing industrial hemp into mainstream society for years, but it hasn’t been easy.
He said he’s had to battle constant misconceptions about the differences between hemp and marijuana.
Federal and state rules require hemp to have under 0.3 percent THC levels. It can be used to make more than 25,000 products, by some estimates, including rope, paper, clothing, food, and CBD oil.
Nationwide legalization is seen as a good thing for hemp farmers and other farmers who have struggled with other crops in recent years. It will also mean more competition for Colorado’s farmers and new federal regulators to deal with, according to Beegle.
“The DEA will no longer have any involvement in this crap and our next fight will be with the FDA, how they’re going to try to regulate it and work with the USDA and how that shakes out,” he said. “So this is a good step for the hemp industry with banking and insurance, and it’s going to clarify at the federal level that it’s all legal.”
Lex Pelger, head of education outreach with Bluebird Botanicals, said this law is very exciting for those in the CBD hemp industry.
"It’s already expected it to be a giant growing industry, but this will further a firm and protect the laws that are already in place," he said.
He said he's focused on the CBD aspect of hemp, but there are other uses for it, like clothing, food and health supplements.
This law would also make business a little easier for employees in the field. For example, Google ad words and Facebook wouldn't allow advertising, and banking became a headache. Plus, the law would allow farmers to purchase crop insurance.
"And so for all of these thousand or so companies selling CBD now, life is about to get a lot more easy because they’re about to get access to regular business tools," Pelger said. "It’s one of the fastest growing market in the country. Hemp is already leading the way in Colorado."