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State certifies first hemp seed; weed prices plunge; Pueblo post-pones moratorium question 

Cannabiz

click to enlarge Next growing season, farmers can count on state-certified hemp seed. - COURTESY RYAN LOFLIN
  • Courtesy Ryan Loflin
  • Next growing season, farmers can count on state-certified hemp seed.

The price, variability and scarcity of seeds have posed challenges to farmers looking to raise hemp — the hardy, non-psychoactive cannabis plant with far-ranging applications in medicine, nutrition, textiles and industry. But that should change — at least somewhat — in the 2017 growing season, now that the state's Department of Agriculture has produced a certified hemp seed that private distributors can take to the market.

The Sept. 7 announcement is welcome news to growers worried about the risk associated with hemp production. Federal law now allows for hemp cultivation in states like Colorado that permit and regulate it. But if the crop ends up testing above a certain threshold for THC content, it must all be destroyed at a loss to the farmer. That, plus the need to import seeds at around $25 a pound, makes hemp growing a tricky business.

The state has certified six varieties of seeds, all specially tailored for high altitude growing. And although they're likely to be pricier at first, they could provide assurance to the 400 or so growers in Colorado, and perhaps encourage others to consider growing hemp.

Plunge

Much to the chagrin of any remaining black market dealers, it's getting cheaper than ever to partake in Colorado's legal marijuana industry.

Wholesale cannabis prices have been plunging, according to Tradiv — a California-based online marketplace born from Boulder's start-up scene. The "Amazon of weed," as the company's been touted, reported that a pound of flower cost around $2,500 in October 2015, but that by August 2016, the price dropped $1,000.

That downward pressure on prices is a result of a market flooded with supply.

According to the Marijuana Enforcement Division, a subset of the state Department of Revenue, there are over a hundred more licensed cultivators of recreational cannabis than there were at this time last year. That influx of new growers, in addition to the existing ones who have expanded their growing capacity, has amounted to more product on the market. And the resulting competition means better deals for the consumers.

Business owners' profit margins could thin as a result, but falling prices may also bring in new customers whose drug dealers can no longer offer the best bang-for-their-buck.

Recreational sales, which last year rang in at nearly a billion dollars, are indeed on the rise. On Monday, the state Department of Regulatory Agencies released figures showing that July was a record-breaking month, posting over $83 million in sales on the rec side alone. That puts sales figures for the first seven months of 2016 at $720.4 million ($465 million rec and $255.4 million med), compared to $538 million in total sales during the first seven months of 2015.

Moratorium can wait

Pueblo's Board of County Commissioners wanted to ask voters whether to extend the current moratorium on new medical or recreational marijuana business licenses this November. But, at the urging of an anti-pot leader, they'll put it off.

Charlene Graham, chair of the group Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo, accused the Commissioners of trying to confuse voters by putting a competing marijuana question on the ballot. CHP already has a measure on the ballot to ban retail sales of marijuana. Graham spoke just before a scheduled vote last week.

"No talk of this had ever come up before — putting something on the ballot — until we were on there," she told the board, according to the Pueblo Chieftain. "So it's certainly being construed that way, I can tell you that."

All three commissioners denied that the moratorium question is a political ploy to confuse voters, but nonetheless agreed to table it for the sake of clarity.

Commissioner Sal Pace, who supports legalization, said that his top priority this election cycle is for voters to settle questions about the direction of the county's marijuana policy, the Chieftain reports. He agreed that it was best to pull the moratorium question to avoid any confusion or accusations of unfairness.

The current licensing moratorium is set to expire Jan. 1 and the board of commissioners can extend it without voter approval if they wish.

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