Hemp legalization push wins approval of ballot language
An initiative campaign to legalize the plant known as “industrial hemp” in Colorado has taken a critical step forward.
The language of the initiative has been finalized and is ready to be put to the voters in the form of petitions, according to organizer Roy Hecker in Glenwood Springs.
Hecker sent a copy of the proposed language, which would be an amendment to Article 18 of the Colorado State Constitution, legalizing the growing of industrial hemp by the state’s farmers.
The ballot language was recently 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, who could not be reached for comment on the status of the petition drive, said earlier this summer that he planned to begin circulating petitions in either late August or early September, with plans to put the question on the November 2000 statewide ballot. According to Hecker, he must gather about 90,000 signatures statewide in order to get the initiative on the ballot.
A copy of the initiative question, forwarded by Hecker to The Aspen Times this week, contains definitions of hemp and marijuana, both of which fall under the botanical genus cannabis. But industrial hemp and the seeds that grow it, according to the definition in the ballot language “contain a concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol of one and one-half percent or less on a dry weight basis.”
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the chemical ingredient in marijuana that produces a “high” when smoked or otherwise ingested.
Hemp, with its low THC concentration, does not produce the same effect as the drug known as marijuana, according to researchers.
The ballot initiative also contains a description of licensing arrangements for hemp growers, the formation of a commission to oversee the industry, and provisions for the creation of a “Colorado Industrial Hemp Research Seed Bank” to establish a seed stock for farmers.
The seed bank is to “collect, preserve and catalog industrial hemp breeding stock in a repository at Colorado State University for the purpose of propagating, preserving and developing strains of industrial hemp for the benefit of mankind and the planet as a whole,” the initiative states.
Advocates of industrial hemp maintain the plant offers a wide variety of uses when grown for its high fiber content, from the manufacture of paper products to its use in making clothing and other textiles. In addition, oils extracted from the hemp seed have many industrial and medicinal uses, according to the plant’s boosters.
Many countries around the world permit the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes, and it was commonly grown and used in the United States until the early part of the 1900s. During the 1930s, a government-sponsored campaign neglected to exclude industrial hemp from the laws written against the use of the drug, marijuana, although hemp was again grown and used for rope during World War II.
Hemp advocates say it can be a valuable addition to Colorado’s agricultural industry, and similar campaigns have been mounted in other states around the country.
The campaign to legalize industrial hemp is opposed by federal drug enforcement agencies and law enforcement organizations and agencies in Colorado. Opponents argue hemp crops can be used to hide marijuana crops.
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