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Hemp returns to stage as US pot rules change; expo opens

April 5, 2015

LOVELAND, Colorado (AP) — Once banned because it is a close cousin to marijuana, hemp is coming back in the state of Colorado and now has its own convention, attracting international interest as a new crop for farmers struggling to find new crops to stay afloat.

Hemp, which is fiber drawn from marijuana plants, was outlawed in 1937, but a new Colorado law allows it. However, farmers are still trying to find ways to get their plants and seeds to market because federal law still heavily regulates the industry.

Ten states have allowed the growing of hemp. Those states are Colorado, Washington, California, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia. Colorado and Washington have also legalized recreational marijuana.

The plant’s return to legitimacy could clear the way for U.S. farmers to compete in an industry dominated by China.

The expo, featuring 70 companies and organization, is focusing on industrial hemp. Hemp contains less than 0.3 percent of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Plants surpassing that amount cannot be used commercially. Over 1 percent of THC is considered potentially intoxicating.

“We have a lot of work to do to educate the public about what hemp is and to educate the farmers interested in bringing hemp back to America. There is a lot of interest from farmers to grow,” said Morris Beegle, the Hemp Expo coordinator.

The expo will showcase products made from hemp, including paper, food, rope and clothing. There will also be legal experts on hand.

The seeds cannot be transported from state to state, said Ed Lehrburger, one of three founders of Fort Lupton’s PureVision Technology, a biomass processing facility with a focus on turning hemp into different usable products.

Hemp regulations were updated in Colorado under new rules after voters approved the use of medicinal and recreational marijuana. Industrial hemp must be registered and is subject to sampling for THC content. Growing sites must be specified and those boundaries must be maintained, the Greeley Tribune reported (http://tinyurl.com/m88rbax ).

National legislation is in the works in an attempt to exclude industrial hemp from marijuana under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency still classifies hemp among heroin, LSD, MDMA and marijuana.

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