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Colorado Governor Signs Bill Protecting Hemp Growers' Rights to Water

The bill protects hemp farmers using water from federal reservoirs.

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This weekend, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill to protect hemp farmers who are using water from federal reservoirs. Hemp cultivation has been legal in the state since 2014, but is still federally prohibited, which could pose serious problems for hemp farmers using water from federal lands.

Republican state Senator Don Coram introduced Senate Bill 117, titled “Recognize Industrial Hemp Agricultural Product for Agricultural Water Right,” which grants Colorado water-right holders the right to use water from federal reservoirs as long as they are registered by the state to grow hemp for commercial or research purposes. The bill passed the state Senate 99-1, and has now been signed into law.

“The facts are that Colorado water rights are owned under Colorado law, and they can be used to grow hemp, which the state legalized,” state Rep. Marc Catlin said. “The federal government saying they cannot is overreach.”

Industrial hemp can be used to produce textiles, soaps, fuel, and many other products, and Gov. Hickenlooper believes it could become a valuable cash crop for the state. “Hemp is a very versatile product with a lot of uses, and it does not make sense why it’s [federally] illegal,” the governor said. “Having it grown and processed in the state could create a new niche market.”