Panel OKs hemp bill

DENVER – Lots of legislators are not enthused about Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, but they are gung-ho about marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, hemp.

Fans of the plant say it will do just about everything but get people high. Its fibers can be used in clothing. Researchers are studying it as a treatment for epileptic seizures. Others think it can be planted to leach toxins from polluted soil.

And it’s edible, said Michael Bowman, a farmer who testified in favor of a hemp bill Tuesday to the Senate Local Government Committee.

“It’s the perfect protein,” Bowman said.

“It’s a miracle plant,” said Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial.

“It really is,” Bowman replied.

The panel voted 6-0 to pass Senate Bill 184, which makes it easier for farmers to get a license to grow hemp in Colorado. The bill also allows people to sell products made from Colorado-grown hemp, and it sets up a grant program to fund university research on hemp.

Such research is lacking, because hemp is treated as identical to marijuana under federal law. Amendment 64 in 2012 gave Colorado farmers the right under state law to plant hemp, and a number of farmers have expressed interest.

The bill now goes to the full Senate, where it is expected to pass easily.