Boulder eyeing regulations for city’s hemp cultivation, extraction businesses – Boulder Daily Camera

Boulder eyeing regulations for city’s hemp cultivation, extraction businesses - Boulder Daily Camera

Hemp is not the same stuff in the joints sold in Boulder’s dispensaries, but the city may end up regulating the crop’s production similarly to marijuana cultivation.

City Council on Feb. 18 is set to discuss whether to instruct city staff to develop regulations for hemp growing and processing businesses in the city.

Boulder’s 55 known hemp cultivation, extraction and manufacturing facilities are in industries city staff said are rapidly growing, with just 28 such businesses in the city in February 2019, and currently face no city regulation.

That is not the case for the 52 marijuana cultivation, extraction and manufacturing facilities in Boulder, which are required to comply with rules to limit plant odor, ensure electrical and plumbing systems are properly situated to ensure safety, and pay energy impact offset fees to the city for the high amounts of energy needed by lights in indoor grow operations, among other regulations.

“There was an instance in Boulder County where the county tried to enforce its odor requirements on a marijuana business, but the business blamed the odor on neighboring hemp businesses,” city staff stated in notes to Council. “Because the (Colorado Department of Agriculture) will not disclose (hemp) locations in the vicinity, the county could not evaluate the merits of that defense or locate potential other violators in the same area.”

Hemp is a cannabis plant similar to marijuana, but contains no psychoactive properties, and has increasingly been grown to extract cannabidiol, or CBD, a substance touted by many for aiding with wellness. It is also grown to make textiles and other industrial and consumer products, among other uses.

But some of that extraction work can be dangerous, just as it is with marijuana. The city enforces requirements for an industrial hygienist to evaluate the planned process of a marijuana extraction operation and certify it as safe prior to the city issuing a business license.

“There is no industrial hygienist report or other requirements to better control the safety of the hemp extraction process being used as there is for marijuana extraction,” city staff stated. “House explosions have already happened in Boulder from the hemp extraction process.”

One instance resulted in two people being taken to a Denver burn unit with serious injuries, but the homeowner had marijuana extraction charges against him dropped when he said it was hemp being extracted, according to staff.

At least one hemp facility in the city that makes CBD oil and hemp tinctures claims to already engage safety practices it believes the city could require of local business licensees.

“While there are many companies operating in the same industry as Extract Labs, we strive to set an example for other companies by operating as if we are regulated, even though we are not,” Extract Labs Brand Manager Grant Rogers said.

He added the business has already installed carbon dioxide alarms throughout its facility that alert if the air becomes too saturated with the gas, which the city requires of marijuana operations that enrich the air with carbon dioxide for the benefit of plants.

“We hope that any action taken by the City Council will reward companies such as ours for good business practices, while mostly taking action against companies that do not hold themselves to the high standards Extract Labs has set for itself,” Rogers said.

City staff noted not all regulations for marijuana will likely be applied to hemp businesses. Since hemp is less regulated in terms of restrictions on advertising and use, staff is not anticipating requirements for security cameras, labeling of products, hours of operation and background checks on business license applicants to be put in place for hemp businesses.

“Growing hemp is something theoretically we want to support. It’s a positive potential new crop,” Councilman Aaron Brockett said. “… I would love city staff to make the case really clearly what the problems were, in order to be convinced that we need substantial additional regulations.”

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