SPRINGFIELD, Colo. (AP) -- Springfield farmer Ryan Loflin is now watching over one of Colorado's first industrial hemp crops in almost 60 years.
The passage of Amendment 64 in November allows commercial growing, even though hemp, like marijuana, is illegal under federal law.
Hemp is genetically related to marijuana but contains little or no THC, the drug substance in marijuana. Hemp has dozens of uses in food, cosmetics, clothing and industrial materials.
"I believe this is really going to revitalize and strengthen farm communities," Loflin said last month. He grew up on a farm in Springfield but left after high school for a career in construction.
According to the Denver Post (http://tinyurl.com/c3c382n ), Loflin began planting Monday on 60 acres previously used to grow alfalfa. He and business partner Chris Thompson also are installing a seed press to produce hemp oil.
"This is monumental for our industry. It will unlock a clean industrial revolution that will be good for the economy, good for jobs and good for the environment," said Bruce Perlowin, chief executive of Hemp Inc., a hemp products company.
About 200 miles north of Springfield, Yuma County corn farmer Mike Bowman also is preparing to plant hemp this year.
He has been a frequent visitor to Washington, seeking to persuade federal officials to end the hemp prohibition that makes prospective Colorado growers technically criminals.
Until the federal-state legal disconnect is resolved, growers face the challenge of starting an industry without the benefits held by conventional farmers, such as federal crop insurance.
Colorado State University, the state's premier agricultural research institution, is not studying hemp because of the fear of losing federal contracts.
"The law is clear on this matter, and we do not want to do anything that would unintentionally result in personal criminal liability for CSU employees or that would disqualify the institution from obtaining future government funding," said Joseph Zimlich, CSU system board of governors chairman, in a recent letter to Congress.
Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com