As you all are (hopefully) aware by now, marijuana is legal in Colorado, and has been since January 1, 2014. Residents of the state – as long as they are over the age of 21 – are allowed to buy, possess, and even grow their own marijuana plants (up to six at a time) free from the risk of criminal punishment.
These relatively new rules extend to include the legal growth and possession of hemp, which is a specific strain of cannabis defined as having “less than 0.3% THC content by dry weight.” (In other words, hemp is cannabis that doesn’t get you high).
Naturally, given Colorado’s “progressive” approach towards marijuana legality, the state has taken its place at the forefront of the U.S. commercial cannabis market, bringing both job security and tax revenue into the state.
In fact, the majority of legal CBD oil products sold across the country are extracted from hemp plants grown on Colorado soil.
However, given the likelihood that the U.S. government will soon change its legal status on hemp and remove the plant from the DEA’s list of Controlled Substances (thereby opening up the commercial market to all 50 U.S. states), some Colorado hemp industry “tycoons” are growing wary that the state may lose its “pole position” within the American hemp marketplace.
Enter Amendment X – a measure which Colorado politicians have drawn up in an effort to ensure the state remains at the forefront of the multi-million dollar U.S. hemp market. In this article, we explain what Amendment X is, how it works, and why its legislative fate is so critically important to the future of the Colorado cannabis industry.
Understanding hemp legality in Colorado
To be clear, Amendment X is a measure designed to protect Coloradans that have a commercial engagement in the hemp market; it in no way will affect personal or recreational growers, or recreational/medical marijuana users.
As of Fall 2018, hemp legislation in Colorado is filed under the state’s Constitution, which defines the plant as a variety of cannabis with “no more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana.”
This definition was initially added to Colorado’s Constitution with the passing of Amendment 64 back in 2012, and was specifically placed in the Constitution rather than state Statute as a means to permanently protect the legality of cannabis within the state. (In order for the Constitution to be changed, an Amendment must be drawn up and put to a vote).
While legalizing hemp under state Constitution seemed like a good idea at the time, residents and politicians alike are now realizing they may have shot themselves in the foot if the U.S. government removes hemp from its list of Schedule I Controlled Substances (which it is expected to do later this year).
What would Amendment X do, and what would it mean for the future of the Colorado hemp industry?
Colorado voters will be voting on Amendment X in the state’s general election ballot on November 6, 2018. If passed, the Amendment will allow for the removal of hemp as defined under Colorado Constitution, and instead allow for a new definition to be placed under state Statute.
Basically, Amendment X would allow Colorado legislators to be able to quickly “adjust” their definition of hemp to ensure that it correlates with the federal government’s definition, if (or when) they decide to remove the plant from their list of Controlled Substances.
Why is it important that Colorado’s definition of hemp coincides with the federal government’s, you might be wondering?
Well, as we mentioned earlier, the current definition of hemp under Colorado constitution is any variety of cannabis that contains “less than 0.3% THC by dry weight.” If the federal government, for example, came up with a different definition of hemp (i.e. if it defined it has having 1% THC instead of 0.3%), Colorado would find themselves at a major commercial disadvantage as compared to other states.
By defining hemp under Statute rather than Constitutional law (which is the goal of Amendment X), legislators would be able to quickly “adjust” state policy so as to coincide with any new federal regulations. If hemp legality were to remain under Constitutional Law, any potential changes would have to be put up to a statewide vote, which would of course take time.
As Senator Stephen Fenberg (D-CO) puts it, “there’s a chance that if we don’t [pass Amendment X], the law could conflict in a way that it would actually make it so that our hemp industry suffers. We want to make sure that we’re not disadvantaged in a way that actually puts us behind.”
How are Colorado voters likely to respond to Amendment X?
Come election day, Colorado voters will see the following question on the ballot for Amendment X:
| “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning changing the industrial hemp definition from a constitutional definition to a statutory definition?”
Realistically, initial polling has not been able to accurately gauge how registered voters may respond to the measure, or even whether most residents have an interest in the proposed Amendment.
For 25-year old Garret Hause, a small-time Colorado hemp grower who has spent the last two years building a business according to current policy, however, change would be a rather unwelcome entity: “At least for a couple years, I don’t want anything to change too much,” he said in a statement to KUNC Community Radio for Northern Colorado.
So what would be the best outcome for the state?
That is of course still up for debate, and will ultimately depend on whether or not the federal government decides to declassify hemp as a Controlled Substance and make it legal for commercial cultivation across the US. The “traditional” definition of hemp, even on a federal level, has always been “cannabis with THC levels of 0.3% or less,” so some are saying the feds are unlikely to alter the scope of what hemp actually is.
As long as the definition of hemp does not change and the U.S. government maintains the plant as an illicit Schedule I substance, Colorado will likely remain at the forefront of the commercial hemp marketplace. If it does change, however, and/or if hemp is removed from the DEA’s list of Controlled Substances, most Colorado residents involved in the cannabis industry will have hope that Amendment X has been passed.