Last week, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed an order proclaiming the week of June 6th “Colorado Hemp Week” in the Centennial State. As he pointed out, Colorado was a pioneer for the reemergence of industrial hemp cultivation after decades of prohibition. When ballot measure Amendment 64 passed in 2012, while most folks celebrated the legalization of adult-use marijuana, many hempsters realized that implication of the historic legislation. This mobilized advocates who had been fighting for the return of industrial hemp to the U.S. since the 1990’s, and quickly positioned Colorado as the epicenter for the crop’s reemergence.
This was the spark, but in the last five years the flame has grown into a fire on the mountain with the passage of the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. These pieces of legislation solidified a legal distinction between psychoactive marijuana and non-psychoactive industrial hemp. In 2012, when Amendment 64 passed, the only hemp growing in the U.S. was wild “ditch weed” that had stood the test of time. Last year, more than 500,000 acres were registered for hemp cultivation, with about half of that number actually being planted. It’s safe to say that the flame from the stage has now spread to the floor. And for a good reason.
Hemp As An Agricultural Commodity
As Governor Polis noted, in a world looking for sustainable solutions, hemp as an agricultural commodity is an absolute necessity. Colorado has emerged as both a leader for the hemp industry at-large, and the cultivation and production of the crop. Vote Hemp estimates that in 2019, 52,275 acres were grown in Colorado. The Centennial State’s strong agricultural foundation provided a suitable regulatory environment for the industry’s growth, not to mention the actual dry, arid environment has proven to be a fruitful match for many hemp varieties.
There is certainly much to celebrate, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still progress to be made. Of those 200,000 some acres grown in the U.S. last year, it is estimated that nearly 80% was for the production of cannabinoids, most predominantly, cannabidiol (CBD).
Demand For CBD Consumer Products Has Skyrocketed
This has led to a compounding two-fold problem. One aspect is oversupply. The demand for CBD consumer products has skyrocketed. Many farmers struck gold a few years back growing hemp for cannabinoids and selling CBD-rich flowers to extractors and processors who were early movers. But that has changed. The spot index prices of CBD biomass have plummeted in the last 12 months, and farmers are literally sitting on tons and tons and tons of it, watching the price continue to fall.
CBD Itself Is Not An Industry
CBD is one small piece of industrial hemp. Perhaps more importantly, CBD itself is not an industry, rather it is an ingredient. We have talked before about not chasing the puck, but anticipating where it’s going. The puck of the hemp industry has been in the CBD zone, but that is changing. We are moving toward a whole-plant approach, one that uses all parts of this incredible crop – the seeds, the stalks, the flowers, the leaves, and even the roots.
The move toward a whole-plant approach has been a labor of love. It requires processing infrastructure, it requires standardized genetics, it requires agricultural trial and error, but it is happening. The seeds of the true U.S. industrial hemp industry are taking root, and that is something to be very excited about.
In honor of Colorado Hemp Week, Governor Polis flew an American flag made from hemp at the Colorado State Capitol. As I watched this, I recalled seven years ago, on July 4, 2013, when long-time hempster Michael Bowman and Governor Polis (who at the time was Congressman Polis) flew a hemp flag over the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Seven short years ago the material used to make that flag was illegal – still considered to be no different from marijuana. And more importantly, that material could not have been sourced from U.S. farmers. Today it could be. The last seven years have been historic. We have seen the birth of a new commodity – a very rare occurrence in the 21st century. Where will be in another seven? As far as what tomorrow brings, it’s been to just keep truckin’.