Protecting water rights for hemp farmers

Rick MatsumotoCannabis LawLeave a Comment


Last week, I got an email blast from Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and one of the updates was about protecting water rights for hemp farmers. I’ve always been curious about where the hemp and marijuana industries differ and overlap, so I took the click bait. Here’s an excerpt:

A pilot program created by the 2014 Farm Bill granted permission to state Departments of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp. The Bureau of Reclamation, however, prohibits the use of federally-controlled water for growing industrial hemp. These conflicting policies create confusion for farmers who grow, or wish to grow, industrial hemp using water from federal reservoirs. The Industrial Hemp Water Rights Act would clarify federal policy, ensuring owners of water rights can use their water, even if it passes through federal facilities, to cultivate industrial hemp.

Colorado’s industrial hemp farmers should not be restricted by over-burdensome federal regulations that don’t respect Colorado’s water laws. This bipartisan legislation recognizes our farmers’ right to access Colorado water and makes sure the federal government cannot interfere with out their operations. Coloradans know how best to manage our state’s water and it is time for the federal government to get out of the way and allow Colorado’s farming operations to succeed.

hemp farmers

Hemp farmers need access to water typically held in reservoirs

First, I think it’s interesting how the current conflict between state and federal positions on marijuana play out. In this case, the federal government is saying that water flowing through a federal reservoir cannot be used for hemp farming because marijuana in the form of hemp is still illegal at the federal level. And yet, hemp farming is legal in Colorado and the hemp farmers own the rights to the water. I don’t think hemp farmers have the influence of other farming groups, but many seem aligned on supporting state’s rights. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and several other western state senators have joined Gardner in this effort.

Second, I think it’s interesting that Gardner (or his copywriter) used such an aggressive tone. The use of phrases like “over-burdensome,” “don’t respect Colorado,” and “get out of the way” show how frustrating it is to work at the intersection of state and federal laws that conflict. I’m going to follow the Industrial Hemp Water Rights Act the same way I follow hockey. Sometimes the fight is more memorable than the outcome of the game!

Recreational pot bill signed by Massachusetts governor

Emily GordonCannabis LawLeave a Comment


Legal recreational marijuana in Massachusetts came one step closer to fruition today when governor Charlie Baker signed a bill detailing how the program will be implemented. Retailers should be able to open up shop by July 2018, which is quite a bit later than the start of adult-use programs in other states that approved legalization along with MA last November – Nevada started sales earlier this month, and both Maine and California are scheduled to begin in early 2018.

Some highlights of the law include a 20% tax, an increase over the 12% that was initially approved by voters, and an interesting system by which local cities and towns can ban shops. Only those locations where a majority of voters voted against legalization last November can unilaterally ban stores – if the measure passed in a particular location, then voters must be given a chance to vote on any ban. The law also moves control of the existing medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Health to the newly created 5-person Cannabis Control Commission which will now oversee both the medical and recreational programs.

State medical marijuana programs clear hurdle

Emily GordonCannabis LawLeave a Comment


The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prevents the DOJ from using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana programs, cleared the first hurdle to being renewed for another year today when it was successfully passed with bipartisan support for fiscal year 2018 by the Senate appropriations committee. Passage of the amendment is a rebuke to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has repeatedly voiced his opposition to medical marijuana, going so far as to explicitly ask congressional leaders not to renew the amendment in a May 1st letter. The amendment has been renewed by congressional budgetary actions every year since its first passage in 2014.

Independent transporters must have transporter license

Emily GordonCannabis LawLeave a Comment


The Marijuana Enforcement Division in Colorado has released an industry bulletin (17-04) to remind stakeholders that as of July 1, 2017, any independent business (that is, not a current licensee transporting its own goods) transporting marijuana between licensed businesses must have a transporter license issued by the MED. Previously, such entities only had to have an occupational license. Now, they must not only obtain a transporter license, but must meet other requirements including but not limited to having a licensed premises and complying with all security and surveillance requirements.

Colorado alters retail marijuana sales tax rate

Emily GordonCannabis Law, ComplianceLeave a Comment


The “Sustainability of Rural Colorado” bill (SB 17-267) was signed by Governor Hickenlooper on May 30. Under CRS 39-28.8-202(1)(a)(I), the sales tax for retail marijuana products is increasing from 10% to 15%.

At the same time, newly added CRS section 39-26-729 exempts those products from the 2.9% tangible personal property tax. Previously, retailers had to collect the tangible personal property tax on top of the retail marijuana sales tax. Both of these changes go into effect on July 1, 2017.