Economic Development

Colorado must broaden hemp horizons to remain leader, report says

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Colorado can continue to be an industrial hemp leader, but to do so the state must broaden its focus beyond CBD to develop supply chains in such sectors as textiles, polymers and construction, according to a report on the state’s Colorado Hemp Advancement & Management Plan (CHAMP).

Released this week by Gov. Jared Polis, the 76-page report is the first from CHAMP, a collaborative effort among Colorado State University and a wide range of state agencies. Polis said the CHAMP initiative will serve as a blueprint to implement large-scale initiatives to advance and manage the nascent hemp industry in the state.

R&D is critical

To maintain its leading status, Colorado must continue research and development in seed genetics and cultivation, expand industrial processing and applications, privatize laboratory testing, and increase access to financial and insurance resources, according to a press release from the Governor’s office. 

“The recommendations outlined in this CHAMP document demonstrate that the Colorado hemp industry continues to position itself as a production and manufacturing leader,” the report says. “Colorado can continue to lead in hemp innovation by facilitating and maintaining a favorable regulatory environment for research and development.”

Colorado hemp licensing 2014-2020

SOURCE: Colorado Department of Agriculture

Colorado’s hemp industry grew fast starting under a pilot program in the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill), reaching a peak of 2,634 licenses granted in 2019. But like most hemp-growing states in the USA, Colorado got caught in the squeeze of a global oversupply in the CBD sector following the 2019 harvest, causing licenses to drop sharply to 1,443 in 2020.

“A lack of extraction and processing capacity, coupled with slower-than-expected consumer demand for CBD and other hemp products yielded an environment in which hemp supply exceeded 2019 processing capacity or demand,” the CHAMP report notes.

Guiding principles

In a general section titled “Market-Level Principles Across the Supply Chain,” the report said the industry should:

  • Establish chain-of-custody & information sharing systems.
  • Focus on THC control.
  • Recognize the importance of federal compatibility while also advocating for reasonable regulations.
  • Recognize the importance of intergovernmental coordination.
  • Promote access to financial and insurance services across the supply chain.
  • Promote equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout the supply chain.

In addition to Colorado State University, the CHAMP initiative includes representatives of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Division of Regulatory Agencies, and Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

READ: Full CHAMP report

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