Ryan Loflin, of Colorado Hemp, speaks about his goal to harvest industrial hemp. Loflin is likely to become the first farmer to grow large quantities of
Ryan Loflin, of Colorado Hemp, speaks about his goal to harvest industrial hemp. Loflin is likely to become the first farmer to grow large quantities of hemp in the United States in 60 years. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Colorado officials unveiled regulations Wednesday for legal hemp growing, setting the stage for a new agricultural industry.

Hemp advocates at a public meeting in Lakewood said the crop's potential is great. But they said development might be slowed by the plant's continued illegal status under federal law.

That will create problems for farmers in procuring hemp seed to start their crops, speakers said.

Amendment 64, the 2012 Colorado ballot initiative that legalized marijuana, also provided for state licensing of industrial hemp farming.

Hemp is a marijuana look-alike but contains little or no THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis that makes users high. Hemp and its oil-rich seeds have dozens of uses in foods, cosmetics, textiles and construction materials.

The new state regulations call for farmers to register and pay a $200 annual fee, plus $1 per acre planted. Farms will be subject to inspections to make sure that the hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent THC.

The rules, created by an industrial hemp advisory committee, will be submitted next week for approval by commissioners of the state Department of Agriculture.

Baca County farmer Ryan Loflin grew and harvested a 55-acre hemp crop this year, choosing to not wait for the state regulations. It was the nation's first commercial hemp crop in 56 years.

Christopher Boucher of San Diego-based US Hemp Oil said his company plans to build a facility to process hemp-seed oil in the San Luis Valley. The plant initially could employ six to eight workers and grow to 50 or 60 employees, depending on the acreage planted in Colorado.

But he said the facility can't start until farmers have assurance that they can buy starter seeds. Because of the federal ban on nonsterile hemp seeds, growers could in theory face criminal charges or have their foreign seed shipments confiscated by U.S. Customs agents.

Barbara Filippone, owner of Glenwood Springs-based EnviroTextiles, said she has plans for two Western Slope factories to make hemp-based industrial products.

"Colorado is the ideal location for market development based on location and logistics," she said.

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, sraabe@denverpost.com or twitter.com/steveraabedp