Colorado rules on hemp could pave the way for the rest of the nation

Hemp products and leaf

Once again, Colorado looks poised to lead the nation in cannabis regulation, as a slate of new state-mandated requirements for hemp products took effect on July 1. 

The new rules, set by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, require hemp products to list the total cannabinoid content, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the primary psychoactive component of cannabis — in milligrams. Previously, hemp products didn’t have to list THC content so long as the product contained less than 0.3% THC.

In addition to listing all cannabinoid content in hemp products, hemp extracts will now also have to be tested for an array of pesticides and contaminants, including heavy metals and mycotoxins (small molecules produced by microfungi that can cause disease and death in humans and other animals). By Oct. 1, Colorado will require hemp products be tested for 106 pesticides. Currently, regulated marijuana in the state is only tested for 13 pesticides. 

Botanacor Laboratories in Denver is the only state-approved lab authorized to test products with hemp extracts. In a statement to Hemp Industry Daily, Botanacor’s senior marketing director, Lisa Stemmer, says the lab doesn’t expect to be overwhelmed as the law goes into effect, as the state is allowing existing products to remain on shelves, and has a phase-in process in place for new products. 

“We have to have a safety standard,” Stemmer told Hemp Industry Daily.

Colorado may be the first state to require such rigorous testing for hemp products, but California and New York are also contemplating new testing and labeling requirements. In April, New York created a law to regulate hemp operators working with flower and cannabinoid products the same way the state oversees marijuana operators, designating a new category for “cannabinoid hemp” — that is, “any product processed or derived from hemp, that is used for human consumption including for topical application for its cannabinoid content, that does not contain more than 0.3% THC,” according to the New York Department of Health. There is still no path to market for hemp-derived extracts such as CBD in New York.

On the other side of the country, in June, California passed a bill through the State Assembly that would legalize the distribution and sale of hemp-derived CBD in the state as an ingredient in foods, beverages and dietary supplements. However, the bill would ban smokable hemp and limit hemp-derived cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC to marijuana dispensaries. The bill still awaits action in the California Senate. 

It’s become necessary for states to address over-the-counter hemp and non-psychoactive cannabinoid products — like CBD — as the federal government still ignores these because of marijuana’s Schedule I classification. It has led to what many see as a confusing patchwork of state rules for how hemp extracts and other non-psychoactive cannabinoid products can be labeled and sold. 

Even through the coronavirus pandemic, Colorado has maintained its leadership as the biggest hemp-growing state, according to USA CBD Expo. 

“Hemp producers play an important role in Colorado’s economy,” said Gov. Polis in a statement during Colorado’s Hemp Week in 2020, “and it’s important that as a state Colorado does all it can to help create jobs and benefit consumers.”