Glenwood man launches effort to legalize hemp in Colorado
A Glenwood Springs man is ready to launch a citizens initiative asking Colorado voters to allow the state’s farmers to grow industrial hemp as a cash crop.
Ahead is the task of collecting roughly 90,000 signatures to get the matter on a statewide ballot.
Roy Hecker is now going through the final stages of getting ballot language approved by the Colorado Legislative Council and the state title board, both of which must sign off on proposed initiatives before petitions can be circulated.
Hecker said this week he hopes to begin the campaign either later this month or early in September, aiming for the statewide ballot in 2000.
Hemp, a plant that is basically the same species as the psychotropic herb known as marijuana, lacks the chemical properties that get smokers high. But, it cannot be grown legally in the United States.
At one time, hemp was a mainstay of U.S. agriculture. It was grown widely around the country for a variety of uses until the late 1930s, and on an emergency basis during World War II, when it was used to make ropes and canvas for the U.S. military.
In recent years there has been a growing movement to get industrial hemp back into production.
Proponents maintain that hemp fiber and seeds can provide a variety of beneficial products, ranging from lubricants to clothing, paper to medicine.
The law enforcement community has consistently opposed legalization of hemp because it looks like the marijuana plant. Law enforcement officials believe hemp would be used to conceal marijuana plants from detection, hampering enforcement efforts.
He acknowledged that so far, efforts to get hemp approved as a cash crop through legislation have fallen victim to resistance from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the Colorado State Patrol and a statewide alliance of sheriffs.
“The DEA has come in at the last minute, they’ve applied their pressure, and it doesn’t take much to stop it in committee,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever even gotten to the floor [of the state legislature for a debate].”
But, he maintained, if done by initiative, “They can’t stop it, basically. And if it gets before the people, I believe it will pass.”
In a recent fund-raising letter, Hecker proclaims hemp as “a paradigm of renewable and sustainable resources” that is grown commercially in 29 countries, including Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain, Russia, China and Australia.
“For 8,000 years, hemp has been mankind’s primary industrial crop,” his letter states. “We believe that Colorado’s constituency is already mostly pro-hemp.”
Hecker’s organization, Coloradans For Hemp, is working on establishing a Web site to spread the word, and he is looking for donations to help fund his cause.
He said it will cost roughly $100,000 “just to get the question on the ballot,” and a similar amount to wage a campaign in the face of certain opposition from law enforcement.
Donations can be sent to Coloradans for Hemp, P.O. Box 124, Woody Creek, 81656. Anyone interested in volunteering can reach the organization by e-mail at ColoradonsforHemp@hotmail.com.
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