Colorado Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant containing trace amounts of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp and its derivatives must not contain more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. Examples of common hemp derivatives include hemp milk, hemp heart, hemp oil, and hemp extract. Hemp milk, hemp heart, and hemp oil are made from hemp seeds, while hemp extracts are made from hemp plants. These protein-rich hemp derivatives are often recommended for heart and skin health.

Marijuana, also a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, shares some physical similarities with hemp. However, the chemical composition of the two cannabis plants differs. Hemp typically contains higher amounts of CBD and no more than 0.3% THC. Due to its low THC content, hemp does not produce psychoactive effects on consumers. On the other hand, marijuana causes ‘high’ sensations because it contains higher amounts of THC, which may be as high as 30%.

Hemp has many uses and is sometimes called industrial hemp. It is cultivated and processed for fiber to produce plastics, textiles, and paper. Due to the composition of hemp fiber, industrial hemp is ideal for making biodegradable polymers, carpets, cotton flannel, and ropes.

Hemp seeds can be shelled to find hemp hearts, often consumed raw. Hemp seeds may also be soaked and ground in water to make healthy plant-based hemp milk. Another beneficial product derived from cold-pressing hemp seed is hemp seed oil, which may be used to improve skin and reduce pain. Manufacturers also process hemp plants or flowers to produce CBD oil. CBD oil contains antioxidant properties for treating hypertension, insomnia, and cardiovascular disease.



Is Hemp Legal in Colorado?

Yes, hemp is legal in Colorado. Before 2014, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) initially classified hemp as a Schedule I substance in the United States. However, Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill (Agricultural Act of 2014) allowed states’ departments of agriculture to cultivate hemp for research purposes. The 2014 Farm Bill defined hemp as any cannabis plant containing no more than 0.3% THC. Hemp was officially removed from the controlled substance list after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Also known as the 2018 Agricultural Improvement Act, the 2018 Farm Bill allows states to create their hemp programs.

Colorado legislators passed Senate Bill 14-184 in 2014 to create the state’s industrial hemp program and allow registered persons to grow hemp for research purposes. In 2019, the state enacted SB 19-220, which aligned the state hemp program with the 2018 Farm Bill. The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) is tasked with issuing licenses to eligible hemp growers. However, prospective hemp processors must obtain permits from the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Hemp cultivated and processed in Colorado must not contain more than 0.3% THC. Colorado residents can carry such hemp products and their derivatives inside and out of the state.

What Hemp Products Are Legal in Colorado?

Colorado residents can buy and consume all hemp products containing no more than 0.3% THC on a dry-weight basis. These products include CBD oil, CBD edibles, hemp seed oil, and hemp hearts. While it is legal to cultivate hemp for food products, Colorado prohibits selling or possessing hemp-derived Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC products. Smokable hemp flower is also legal in Colorado. However, residents may only smoke hemp in their homes or other private properties where the owners permit hemp consumption. Smoking hemp in public spaces such as balconies, parks, and streets is illegal. It is also unlawful to smoke hemp while operating a vehicle.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Colorado?

No. Colorado municipalities cannot restrict hemp cultivation or processing within their localities. However, sections 2 and 3 of Senate Bill 19-240 allow cities and counties to regulate hemp businesses operating within their borders.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) issues licenses for only hemp cultivation. Individuals interested in processing hemp into food products or other hemp derivatives must obtain permits from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Hemp growers in Colorado can register with the CDA at any time of the year by providing the following information/documents:

  • SOS ID numbers issued by the Colorado Secretary of State (SOS) and IRS-issued Federal EIN (for business entities)
  • Citizenship/Immigration Verification Forms and copies of their driver’s license (for individuals and sole proprietors)
  • Fingerprinted background checks for business partners and other key participants
  • Physical addresses, dimensions, GPS coordinates, and other mapping requirements of the registered land area intended for cultivating hemp

Applicants can submit applications to the CDA online using the Hemp Online Portal. They can also apply via mail or email by completing the Hemp Program Application Form and sending it to:

Colorado Department of Agriculture

Attn: Industrial Hemp Program

305 Interlocken Parkway

Broomfield, CO 80021


Hemp processors and handlers can apply with the CDPHE by completing the Industrial Hemp Registration Form and submitting it by mail or email to:

Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

4300 Cherry Creek Drive S,

DEHS A2, Denver, CO 80246


How Much Does a License to Grow or Process Hemp Cost in Colorado?

The application fee for a Colorado hemp growers license is $500. Applicants must also include the other registration costs based on the land area intended for hemp cultivation. The CDA charges $5 per acre for outdoor land areas or $3 per 1,000 square feet for indoor spaces. The state agency accepts all payment methods except cash. Generally, hemp cultivation licenses in Colorado are valid for one year, after which applicants must start their registration afresh.

Hemp processors must pay a non-refundable $100 application fee when submitting their application to the CDPHE. The CDPHE only accepts checks and money orders. After approval, licensees will receive invoices for the registration fees calculated based on gross annual sales. Licensees with over $150,000 gross annual sales will pay $300, while those under $150,000 will pay a $60 registration fee.

How to Grow Hemp in Colorado

Hemp growers can start planting hemp once the CDA issues their registration certificates. While hemp seeds are available at different stores and seed banks, hemp growers are advised in a letter by the CDA to comply with the Colorado Seed Act to protect their investments. Colorado’s semi-arid climate is suitable for hemp cultivation. However, outdoor growers may need to wait until late spring or early summer before planting hemp. Indoor growers can plant anytime if they install full-spectrum LED lights that provide the necessary light spectrum at different growth stages. When growing hemp for the first time, cultivators should take note of the following general requirements:

  • Hemp plants thrive in soil pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.5
  • The right depth for planting hemp is between 0.5 to 1 inch
  • Hemp seeds should be around 4 to 6 feet apart
  • Indoor growers should maintain a temperature range between 65°F and 80°F
  • Ensure the soil is always moist but not waterlogged
  • It is important to use pesticides approved by the CDA for hemp cultivation

Other essential activities for cultivating hemp plants in Colorado include monitoring the soil pH, using organic matter to enhance the soil nutrients, pruning, and weeding. Hemp growers are required to report all planting activities 10 days after planting by completing the Planting Harvest Report Form. Completing the form at least 30 days before harvesting hemp plants is important. Before submitting the harvest report form, growers must contact approved hemp samplers for sample collection and testing. Completed forms should be submitted by mail or email to:

CDA Hemp Program

305 Interlocken Parkway

Broomfield, CO 80021


Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Colorado?

Colorado residents can buy smokable hemp flowers from local stores. Since recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, residents aged 21 or older can visit any marijuana dispensary with their government-issued IDs to buy smokable hemp flowers. Some marijuana dispensaries licensed by the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) have online stores where buyers can order hemp flowers.

There is no limit to the amount of hemp a person can purchase in Colorado. Nevertheless, it is essential to keep the purchased hemp sealed in the package while driving. Purchasing hemp from licensed retailers outside Colorado is also legal. Online retailers can ship hemp products from other states to Colorado as doing so does not violate the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp is a cannabis plant containing 0.3% THC or less. On the other hand, THC is one of the chemical compounds found in cannabis plants with low amounts in hemp. THC is known for its psychoactive effects when consumed and is naturally abundant in marijuana. Due to its low THC amount, consuming hemp does not produce psychoactive effects like marijuana. While hemp-derived Delta-9 THC products are available for sale in Colorado, common THC isomers such as Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC are illegal in the state.

Hemp vs CBD

Hemp and CBD (cannabidiol) share some similarities but differ. While hemp refers to the cannabis plant that contains no more than 0.3% THC, CBD is one of the chemical compounds or cannabinoids found naturally in all cannabis plants. Generally, hemp plants contain high CBD and do not produce high sensations when consumed. CBD products made from hemp and marijuana are legal and can be sold in Colorado. However, minors under 21 are prohibited from carrying marijuana-based CBD for recreational purposes.

Hemp Applications

Hemp is a versatile product made of different parts such as hemp fiber, flower, plant, and seed. Common applications of hemp in Colorado include the following:

  • Textile production: The strength and durability of hemp fibers make them suitable for use in the textile industry. Textile companies use hemp to produce bags, footwear, and clothing
  • Construction materials: Manufacturers combine hemp fibers with lime and other materials to create hempcrete. The lightweight building material is an excellent alternative to the traditional concrete used for roofing, wall plastering, and flooring. Unlike concrete, hempcrete is resistant to mold and pests
  • Paper production: Unlike wood-based paper, paper made from hemp fibers is durable and eco-friendly. The paper industry now uses hemp to produce stationery and packaging materials
  • Biofuels: Hemp is considered a good alternative to fossil fuels. Generally, hemp seed produces 30-35% oil which can be a good source of biodiesel and ethanol. Being a plant-based biofuel, hemp biodiesel is renewable and emits fewer greenhouse gasses
  • Food and beverages: Hemp seeds are rich in protein and healthy fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They can be processed raw or added as ingredients in smoothies and salads
  • Skin care products: Hemp seed oil is a common ingredient in personal care products and cosmetics due to its moisturizing and nourishing properties. It can be found in lotions, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lip balms, and other beauty and skincare products
  • Animal feed and bedding: Hemp seeds and hemp meal (the byproduct of oil extraction) can be used as a nutritious ingredient in animal feed for livestock, poultry, and pets. Hemp stalks and fibers can also be processed into animal bedding materials like horses and small pets
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