Questions and answers about hemp, marijuana

One of the industrial hemp plants in a 15-acre field at the Salt Creek Hemp in Colbran.

What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis. Industry experts say it’s impossible to distinguish between the plants without a chemical analysis in a lab. Legally, industrial hemp is cannabis that has 0.3 percent or less THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the substance produced by cannabis that causes a “high.”

Where did the 0.3 percent threshold come from?

The 2014 Farm Bill, adopted by Congress, defined that as the threshold for industrial hemp, as did the Colorado voters when they approved Amendment 64 in 2012, which outlined a statewide drug policy for recreational marijuana.


What is hemp used for?

There are more than 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, according to the Congressional Research Committee. These include everything from lotions and dietary supplements to food products, building materials and paper.


How big is hemp in Colorado?

Colorado is at the forefront of the hemp industry. Since it was authorized for legal growing in 2014, growers in Colorado have accounted for more than half of all U.S. hemp production annually. In 2017, 12,500 acres were registered to grow hemp in Colorado.

The number of acres registered to grow hemp in Colorado from 2014 to 2016 increased almost 400 percent in two years, and 53 of the state’s 64 counties have at least one registered hemp-growing land area, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.


Is growing hemp legal?

Hemp industry participants maintain that the 2014 Farm Bill provided guidelines for states to develop their own guidelines to register land that is used for growing hemp and certify growers. It also allowed pilot programs for studying the growth, cultivation or marketing of hemp by institutions of higher education or the state agriculture departments.

Hemp growers must register with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, provide information on their intent to plant, when they plant and before harvest, and they also submit to random sampling and testing from inspectors.


What happens if someone is growing marijuana instead of hemp?

The Colorado Department of Agriculture maintains a registry with very specific information about locations approved to grow hemp through its program. All these locations are subject to random inspection, and if plants are found to have levels of THC higher than 0.3 percent, those are considered marijuana, not hemp, and they’re subject to penalties.

Agency officials say they’re unlikely to call law enforcement unless the amount of THC is more than 1 percent, as high-quality marijuana has much higher THC levels than that.

Any plants discovered to be out of compliance are subject to criminal penalty but so far, growers have agreed to either destroy the material on-site, not attempt to sell the crop or use it for consumption so there haven’t been any criminal cases to date.


What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of several cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, which includes marijuana and hemp.

Unlike THC, CBD does not make the consumer “high” when it is used. Proponents of CBD value its medicinal and therapeutic properties and say it can be used for everything from alleviating headaches and other pains to limiting seizures. It is not approved to treat anything officially by the federal government.

One of the most popular varieties of CBD is one called Charlotte’s Web, which does not contain THC and has been used for children.


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