PCDI Board Learns How Demand for Hemp Production is Increasing

Michael Bowman Discusses Industrial Hemp Production with PCDI Board

Michael Bowman Discusses Industrial Hemp Production with PCDI Board

First there was legalized marijuana in Colorado through the passage of Amendment 64, and now hemp, basically a cousin to marijuana minus the hallucinatory ingredients, has proponents attempting to make it a viable, mainstream crop for farmers statewide and in the rest of the nation.

Michael Bowman, a founding board member of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, explained the ins and outs of hemp growth, cultivation and marketing before the directors of Prowers County Development Incorporated this past Tuesday, May 26.  Bowman told the group there is a growing market for an assortment of hemp products in this country, ranging from medicinal use to food, to building materials.  He added, “Our country is the largest consumer of industrial hemp products in the world, about $500 M each year.”  Bowman said the U.S. should become a grower, not an importer as most of that product is coming in from China, India and more recently from Canada.  Several years ago, a test plot was planted under USDA guidelines in Baca County and the former old Wal Mart Building in La Junta has been selected as a grow center including processing and production.  An expected one to two hundred people will be employed over the next twelve to twenty-four months for an indoor grow operation.

Bowman explained the plant has other merits as it uses less water than corn to produce and the properties of the plant can help clean up local water supplies.  “Hemp can actually help reduce the alkali content in water during its growth period.”  He told the board that hemp has gotten a bad reputation by ill-informed associations with marijuana.  Despite a federal level ruling that industrial hemp should not be considered a Schedule 1 plant, it was still listed as such under DEA guidelines.  Hemp was also in the middle of a ‘perfect storm’ of other developments back in the 1930s and 40s which stymied its production, according to Bowman.  He told the board that the Hearst newspaper industry helped eliminate competition for using hemp as a paper product.  Henry Ford was using hemp as component parts for an automobile he was developing that was also powered by hemp ethanol products and at the same time the Dupont Industry was developing synthetics and the Rockefeller companies discovered reserves of oil throughout their holdings in Pennsylvania.    Addressing urban myths, he explained, “You would need to smoke a joint of hemp the size of telephone pole to get a bad headache.”  Hemp doesn’t contain the psychoactive properties as marijuana and is regulated by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.  He touted the medicinal values of hemp for treating such illnesses as childhood epilepsy with an extract called CBD, adding, “I grew 17 acres of a plant called ‘Charlotte’s Web’ on our farm,” to help manufacture the product.  Other derivatives, such as CBN, CBL and CBG address other illnesses and can be readily extracted with current facilities located around the world.

Prowers County Commissioners have already had a discussion on local hemp production and were recently informed by county attorney, John Lefferdink, that there is no prohibition against hemp in county ordinances as there is for marijuana.  Commissioner Buxton-Andrade told Bowman that the county is okay as the only moratorium focuses on marijuana.  Commissioner Ron Cook expressed a concern about transporting hemp, especially hemp seeds into the county.  “Until things get cleared up legally on seeds, this feels wrong to me as a Prowers County Commissioner,” he stated.  “How can the city or county give incentives to bring this into the county when you’re going to conduct the project illegally?  You’re telling me as a county official, I’m supposed to research people to come in and make this grow in our state.  They can’t do anything with the money, and they have to acquire the seed illegally.  From what I see, this is a wrong sale for me.”

Bowman answered that the closest legally remedy is to have the State of Colorado license the Department of Agriculture as the importer and there should be some movement by next year on that level.  Once the seeds are in the state, they can be grown and sold, but federal officials are really laying off industrial hemp production.  Bowman admitted that the financial applications need reworking, “It’s ironic that the banks won’t accept money from the commercial sales of marijuana, but the state is putting the taxes on those sales into state banks.”  He said movement is developing for legalization as both sides of the aisle in Congress agree to move forward, he added, “Senator Gardner has signed on to the senate bill, but Senator Bennett has not as yet.  Most of the delegation in the House has signed on, giving us about 60 co-sponsors.”

By Russ Baldwin

Correction:  The original article listed the former pickle factory in La Junta as the work site.  This has been corrected in the article.

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCityCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEducationFeaturedProwers CountyState


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