Super Bowl puts Hemp Talks on hold

Group moves meeting to larger venue

February’s Hemp Talks on the Western Slope meeting has been postponed because of Super Bowl XLVIII.

Normally held on the first Sunday of the month, the Hemp Talks discussion scheduled for Feb. 2, has been rescheduled to Sunday, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m. The meeting will be held at the Cortez Welcome Center.

“I didn’t realize our next meeting fell on Super Bowl Sunday,” said Hemp Talks organizer Sharon Stewart.

At the Feb. 9 meeting, Stewart hopes to form two committees. She said it’s imperative that area farmers dictate how to make industrial hemp a reality in Montezuma County.

“One committee would focus on legislative issues,” she explained. “The other would be a steering committee to prioritize what the Hemp Talks group should focus on and in what order.”

Hemp Talks has previously met at Spruce Tree Coffeehouse, but the group of interested farmers has grown to nearly two dozen, forcing the group to find a larger venue. In addition to more space, the Cortez Cultural Center affords the ability to have Skype conversations that farmers could log onto if they are unable to attend the meetings, Stewart said.

One of the issues area farmers have raised involves seed supply. James McVaney, director of Industrial Hemp in Colorado, believes a local co-op for seed cultivation and sharing would not only result in unique cultivars, or strains, of hemp seeds for the Colorado plateau, but it would also help ensure that revenues are kept local.

“Local seeds would give the farmers so many more options and incentives in controlling the ultimate fate of their local industry,” McVaney said.

Armed with the state’s first industrial hemp rules, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has called for farmers to register by May 1 if they intend to grow industrial hemp this year. The annual registration fee for commercial production is $200 plus $1 per acre, and the production permit for research and development is $100 plus $5 per acre.

To date, 20 states have passed pro-hemp legislation. Despite state authorization, farmers still risk raids by federal agents, prison time and property and civil asset forfeiture, because federal policies have yet to distinguish non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of industrial hemp from psychoactive drug varieties of marijuana.

The U.S. hemp industry generates an estimated $500 million in annual retail sales.