Beat 'em to the Punch: Colorado's Certified Hemp
Sep 13, 2016 11:10AM ● Published by Randy Robinson
Photo by Lesley L. via Flickr
For those who don't know, hemp is another variant of Cannabis sativa. It's practically identical to marijuana with one exception: by weight, it's less than 0.3 percent THC. That means hemp won't get anyone elevated.
"Marijuana," by its legal definition, is any cannabis that contains more than 0.3 percent THC by weight. On average, most cannabis sold in the legal recreational market is anywhere between 15-22 percent THC.
So what's the big deal, anyway? What exactly is "certified seed?"
To ensure hemp stays at or below the 0.3 percent THC limit, certain strains or cultivars must be carefully bred. There's a lot of variables that could tip the scale one way or the other such as how the plants are grown, the temperatures they're grown in, what fertilizers are used, etc. Although growing certified seed is a huge step forward for cultivating consistent crops, it's not a guarantee for that 0.3 percent limit.
How is testing performed? The Department of Agriculture randomly sends out samplers to hemp farms. They take a small amount of the crop, run it through some fancy chemistry tests, and out come the results. If the sample is at or below 0.3 percent THC, the department considers the crop good. If it goes above that limit, the crop is "hot," and the hemp can't be processed for anything on the commercial end. (But farmers may process the hemp for onsite use, such as to make building insulation).
Until the certification program went in to effect, hemp farmers had to pay for this random testing themselves. If farmers opt to use the state's certified hemp seeds, which should consistently produce hemp at or below the 0.3 percent THC limit, then the state will pay for the testing on those certified crops.
So it's a sweet deal for farmers and for our regulated cannabis industry, too. This certified program has officially made Colorado the nation's leader of our renewed (but tiny) hemp industry, with the Colorado Department of Agriculture anticipating full, federal hemp legalization sometime in the future.
Why would anyone in their right mind want to grow pot that can't get anyone high?
There's lots of reasons.
Hemp is great for producing fibers that can be converted into textiles (e.g. clothing). Hemp seeds are nutritious, delicious, and 100 percent legal (you can buy them in your local supermarkets). There's technology that can make fuel or plastics from hemp stalks. And hempcrete, a form of concrete made from ground-up hemp, can build sturdy and affordable homes that absorb carbon dioxide. Crazy, huh?
And there's growing evidence that hemp can clean pollution from soil and water through a technique called "bioremediation."
Those reasons are great and all, but most of Colorado's hemp isn't grown for the above items. It's grown primarily for CBD.
CBD is a component of cannabis that confers many of the alleged medical properties of THC but with none of pot's characteristic psychoactive effects. You've probably heard about CBD oils in Dr. Sanjay Gupta's documentary Weed. High CBD oils seem to be incredibly effective at treating conventionally difficult medical disorders, such as seizure disorders and Crohn's disease.
For more info on CBD, check out our senior editor's latest column on CBD oil, its legality, and how its used medicinally.