New Colorado Law Protects Water Rights for Hemp Farmers

By Sandra Williams

On May 21, 2017, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed off on Senate Bill 17-117, entitled “Recognize Industrial Hemp Agricultural Product for Agricultural Water Right.” This bill protects hemp farmers who use water stored in federal reservoirs.

The bill was introduced in the state Legislature by Sen. Don Coram, and sponsored by Rep. Marc Catlin. Both are Montrose Republicans. Colorado legalized growing hemp in 2014, but it is still banned at the federal level, creating complications when water from a federal project is used to water it. Senate Bill 17-117 says Colorado water right holders have the right to use it on hemp if the person is registered by the state to grow hemp for commercial, or research purposes.

During an interview with The Journal, Hickenlooper said the hemp water bill will give farmers some reassurance, and he was cautiously optimistic that it could become a good cash crop for the state.

From the new law:

“Concerning confirmation that industrial hemp is a recognized agricultural product for which a person with a water right decreed for agricultural use may use the water subject to the water right for industrial hemp cultivation.

“In Colorado, water subject to a water right may be used for the purpose for which the water is decreed. The bill confirms that a person with an absolute or conditional water right decreed for agricultural use may use the water subject to the water right for the growth or cultivation of industrial hemp if the person is registered by the department of agriculture to grow industrial hemp for commercial or research and development purposes.”

For more detailed information on SB 17-117, visit www.leg.colorado.gov, by clicking here.

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