Hemp goes mainstream

Hemp is seen by many farmers as having upside potential, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, even though it is still heavily restricted in a number of states.

Mike Smith is the president of the Western Slope Hemp Growers Association and was one of the first to dive into the hemp industry.

“Ever since federal legalization it’s gone crazy out there. Everybody and their brother wants to grow hemp now, about 20 percent of them know what they’re going to do,” Smith said. “So, there is a whole bunch of people brand new to it and have lots of questions.”

When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, many opportunistic hemp farmers followed suit by reaping the nation’s first harvest in over 50 years. This helped lawmakers spur into action.

The 2018 Farm Bill uncoupled hemp from marijuana, reversing old laws that made both strains of cannabis illegal at the federal level.

“Botanically speaking, it’s all cannabis sativa L., it just has to do with the THC levels. These are considered industrial hemp because there .3 percent THC or less,” Smith said.

With projections of a $26 billion dollar industry by 2025, proponents like Smith predicts a day of reckoning with industries like big oil and big ag.