Proponents of hemp farming continued their push in northern Colorado on Monday, with Greeley their latest campaign stop.
Members of Hemp for America convened outside the office of Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., in downtown Greeley, explaining to Udall staffers why they believe hemp should be grown legally in the U.S. They asked that the senator put his support behind such federal legislation.
The pro-hemp group has been traveling Colorado since May, organizers said, collecting signatures and letters and urging Colorado Sens. Udall and Michael Bennet, also a Democrat, to become cosponsors of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013.
The seven Hemp for America representatives in attendance delivered about 700 constituent letters to Udall's office and also offered presentations for Udall staffers.
Udall's representatives didn't make any statements, but, at the conclusion of the demonstration, exchanged contact information with the Hemp for America members -- after politely saying "no thanks" to their offering of milk and cookies produced from hemp.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 would amend the controlled substances act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana.
The Colorado Legislature approved SB 13-241, which legalized industrial hemp farming in the state, doing so with only one "no" vote.
However, because it is still illegal at the federal level, Colorado farmers who grow the crop -- like Ryan Loflin from Springfield in southeast Colorado, who was at the demonstration in Greeley on Monday -- are putting themselves at risk of legal action.
In March, about 120 people attended the Industrial Hemp Workshop in Loveland -- expressing an eagerness to bring back to U.S. farms a crop that has thousands of uses, supporters say, requires limited irrigation and other resources, has rapidly growing markets, but for decades has "mistakenly" been lumped into marijuana talks and outlawed by the federal government since the 1950s.
During the March workshop and during Monday's demonstration in Greeley, hemp enthusiasts highlighted hemp oil's and hemp protein's unique health benefits.
Hemp is used in food, nutrition supplements and animal feeds, and also in fiber glass, fabrics, paper, soaps, cosmetics, paints, coatings and its byproduct could be used eventually in biofuels, among other uses, as hemp proponents explained.
And growing hemp would be good for job creation, be a more profitable crop for farmers than others, and beneficial for the environment because of its limited input needs and other characteristics of the plant, according to Erik Hunter from Golden, who founded Hemp Cleans, a non-profit striving for regulation and cultivation of industrial hemp.
"There's just no reason the crop should be illegal in the U.S.," added Morris Beegle, owner of Colorado Hemp Co. in Loveland. "Hemp being attached to marijuana ... it got the raw end of the deal." ___