Colorado high country town, um, high on the potential of pot and hemp

Author: Joey Bunch - October 2, 2017 - Updated: December 10, 2017

All the news you need to know for greater Rangely can be found in the Rio Blanco Herald, and this weekend the reliable paper reported on local support for hemp in the context of "community, workforce and economic development." A local organization called Better City held a forum last week to talk about what would boost fortunes in the northwest Colorado town of about 2,100. A new grocery store topped the list, but the second highest need named by residents was "marijuana/hemp cultivation." What does Rangely need less than weed? Recreation equipment rentals, a brewpub and a car wash, according to the votes. Online directories suggest the nearest place to buy marijuana, if you live in Rangely, is Grand Junction, an hour and 45 minutes away on clear roads. Those at the Rangely meeting were asked to cite things they thought would help attract or expand commerce, the Rio Blanco Herald said. "County commissioner Jeff Rector emphasized the potential for hemp in the area," the paper reported. Small towns in Colorado and in other states that have legalized marijuana have reported at least a short-term windfall from taxes and economic activity around marijuana, which rang up about $4 billion in sales in Colorado last year. The Colorado Springs Gazette reported in May about how tiny Sedgwick had gone from ghost town to boom town since voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012. Hudson built its first school in 55 years with more than a quarter of the $15 million cost coming from pot taxes. Hemp is another matter. The non-intoxicating fiber from pot plants is of keen interest to state legislators.  Besides funding studies to find out the uses and economic benefits of hemp cultivation, some lawmakers are getting in on the ground level. State Sen. Don Coram is growing 10 acres on his farm on the Western Slope and state Rep. Kimmi Lewis said her son grows hemp on the Eastern Plains. The legislature passed four pieces of hemp legislation in the last session: Senate Bill 109 to create a feasibility study on using hemp as livestock feed bySen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins. House Bill 1148 to register industrial hemp cultivators with the Department of Agriculture, sponsored by Arndt and Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley. Senate Bill 90 to ensure industrial hemp doesn't exceed the the constitutional potency that might make it pot, sponsored by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, and Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs. Senate Bill 117 to allow a decreed water right to be used in industrial hemp cultivation, sponsored by Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Reps. Donald Valdez, D-La Jara, and Marc Catlin. R-Montrose.

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Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.