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Pueblo-area hemp farm poised to benefit from Farm Bill passage

Posted at 10:00 PM, Dec 13, 2018

PUEBLO COUNTY – Passage this week of the $867 billion 2018 Farm Bill ensures full legalization of industrial hemp production across the country, a move that will likely allow a Pueblo County hemp farm to further expand its already productive and lucrative operation.

SanSal Wellness and Veritas Farms is located along State Highway 96, about 7 miles east of Wetmore in far western Pueblo County.  It’s 140 acres of farm fields, greenhouses, and laboratories dedicated to the growing, harvesting, processing, formulating, packaging, and distribution of products contained cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-intoxicating byproduct of cannabis’ cousin, hemp.  By law, CBD products must contain less than 0.3 percent of THC, the high-inducing chemical in marijuana.

“You kind of think about your tomatoes, right? There’s heirloom tomatoes, there’s house tomatoes, there’s different varieties. It’s the same with the cannabis plant — there’s different varieties and they’re designed to do different things,” explained Rianna Meyer, Vice President of Operations.

“We like to do things the right way, first time,” Meyer told News 5 amid an all-inclusive tour of the sprawling facility.  The tour began in a greenhouse containing hundreds of mature female hemp plants, some up to one year old.  The difference in odor between these plants and a typical marijuana plant is noticeable.  There’s very little, if any, skunky stench.  “You could smoke my whole greenhouse and you’re not going to get high,” Meyer said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

The mature plants are cloned to ensure continuance of quality across generations of growth.  Once mature, the plants are harvested, hung to dry, stored in biodegradable bags themselves made from hemp, and then sorted by hand to finely grind the parts that contain the oils that later on will be turned into an assortment of tinctures, salves and lotions, edibles, and capsules used for symptom relief for everything from epilepsy to anxiety to Restless Leg Syndrome.  “The more opportunities that we have to do testing and studies and clinicals, the more we’re going to find out just how amazing this is,” Meyer said.

Those opportunities have likely arrived with passage of the Farm Bill.  Until now, hemp was classified the same as marijuana as far as the Federal government is concerned — an illegal Schedule I narcotic — stifling access to water, crop insurance, transport of seeds, baking, and Federal grants.

“For the first time in 50 years, Mr. President, because of this Farm Bill, this bill fully legalizes hemp,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) said on the Senate floor Tuesday night.

“It’s going to open up an opportunity to provide much-needed medicines and/or health benefits to people that are trying to get off other things,” Meyer said, referring specifically to opioid addiction, an affliction that cost her father his life. “I really do wish that I had an opportunity to have this type of plant and medication available to him because I think the outcome on his quality of life would’ve been different.”

With room to grow their operation on their 140 acres and with passage of the Farm Bill, it appears Meyer has a head-start on what some say is the cash crop of the future, expected to reach $20 billion as soon as 2020.  “Now, Coloradans will be able to grow and manufacture hemp without a cloud of uncertainty hanging over them,” Bennet said.

“I see the industry continuing to grow and grow and grow,” Meyer said.  “It’s going to go, it’s going to pop.”

As of November 26, nearly 31,000 acres in Colorado were registered for hemp cultivation in 52 of the state’s 64 counties, according to data from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, nearly triple the acreage compared to just one year prior and more than 17 times the acreage from 2014.