This November, voters in Colorado will be asked to decide on Amendment X, which reads: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning changing the industrial hemp definition from a constitutional definition to a statutory definition?”
Colorado is the only state in the country that specifically defines industrial hemp in the state constitution. Voters added the definition of industrial hemp to the state constitution in 2012, the same year that Amendment 64 legalized recreational marijuana in the state. In Colorado, industrial hemp is defined as “the plant of the genus cannabis and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration that does not exceed three-tenths 23 [0.3] percent on a dry weight basis.” The current federal definition of industrial hemp is: “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
So why the proposed change?
Moving from a constitutional definition to a statutory one would mean that rather than having to have voters decide on any changes to the definition of industrial hemp in Colorado, the state legislature would be able to change the definition. With an eye toward movement at the federal level indicating that legalization of hemp may be coming sooner rather than later, state lawmakers are looking towards protecting the hemp industry in Colorado. If federal laws change, then Colorado lawmakers would be able to act more quickly to adjust Colorado’s hemp definition than if a change required the state to vote, which is only done every four years.
Amendment X would change the state constitution to define industrial hemp to have “the same meaning as it is defined in federal law or as the term is defined in Colorado statute.” This would allow lawmakers to have the definition of industrial hemp match any new changes to the definition of hemp in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) but would also allow the state to maintain its own definition of hemp, albeit statutorily rather than constitutionally.
While it is beginning to look as though the 2018 Farm Bill will not be passed any time soon, there is still optimism surrounding legalization of industrial hemp on the federal level. Colorado’s hemp industry has been thriving since initial passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, and the state’s lawmakers hope to keep the state’s competitive advantage with Amendment X.
Hunter Buffington, the Executive Director of the Colorado Hemp Industries Association, says that the association supports Amendment X. She told KUNC, “It’s really good public policy to actual move from the constitution and move it someplace where it can be modified.”
The amendment was sponsored from within the state legislature. Primary sponsors include Senator Vicki Marble (Republican); Senator Stephen Fenberg (Democrat); Representative Dan Pabon (Democrat) and Representative Lori Saine (Republican). The amendment has over 60 co-sponsors from across the state.
Senator Fenberg told the Colorado Independent, “We were a pioneer in regulating marijuana and hemp and this industry, and this is really to make sure Colorado can stay on the forefront of that. It just ensures we have the flexibility for our farmers to be able to do what they need to do to be able to compete nationally, if not internationally.”
Changes to Colorado law in 2016 means that the amendment will have to receive 55% of the vote to pass, rather than a simple majority. Tim Gordon, President of the Hemp Industry Association, said that they will be working to educate voters about the measure’s intent. He said, “Is it an uphill battle? You’re damn right. But is a battle that this industry will go to bat for? You’re damn right.”
Ballots will be sent out to registered Colorado voters this month.