Hemp production is growing in Colorado, but regulations on the level of THC mean that some crops will never make it to market, The Colorado Sun reports.
By federal regulation, hemp can only contain 0.3% of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. The lower percentage differentiates hemp from marijuana.
“Plant varieties or cultivars having higher amounts of THC may not be cultivated as they are considered to have too high a potential for drug use,” a federal report from March 2019 stated.
However, that same report found that marijuana averages 10% THC, with concentrations as high as 30%.
Under state rules, any crops that exceed 0.3% must be destroyed, if not intended for research purposes. Growers view a 1% threshold as more realistic, still far short of marijuana-level content.
The Colorado Sun reported that over 2,500 applicants planted 80,000 acres of hemp in the past year, which was a 50,000-acre increase from the year prior. Consumer demand has pushed prices to as much as $60,000 per acre.
State Rep. Jeni James Arndt, D-Fort Collins, said she has had some discussions about the topic of crop destruction, but is not prepared to file legislation yet.
“Changing the THC content allowed goes against the federal definition. But as you know, in Colorado we sort of push the envelope a lot,” she said.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture said that it is still calculating how many crops have been destroyed in 2019 because of excessive THC. It did not have records for the hemp destroyed in 2017 and 2018.