DELTA, Colo. The hemp industry remains small in Colorado but continues to grow exponentially. The number of acres of hemp planted by U.S. farmers has increased over 1,000 percent from last year, according to the National Hemp Association.
A new hemp farm has sprung up in Delta and has begun harvesting. Peach Valley Hemp is one of the only hemp farms in the valley and one of very few across the state.
Delta farmer Richard Munoz suffers from arthritis that was brought on by many years in the coal mines. When he discovered hemp, he says, it changed his life.
"It gives you energy and it takes away the pain” said Munoz. “I was down where I couldn't do anything on the farm, and I’ve got 140 acres here that me and my wife do by ourselves. It took about a month and then I realized man I’e been doing things that I wasn’t supposed to be doing!"
Richard and his wife Shirley began a personal mission - to become one of the Western Slope's only hemp growers.
"We didn’t know anything about it,” said Shirley Munoz. “I mean never ever done it but, we just decided we'd jump into it.”
Growing hemp is not an easy or cheap task. Because of strict state regulations, and differing variations, hemp seed is scarce and costs around 2,500 dollars a pound.
"I can’t buy it outside of Colorado,” said Richard. “I have to buy it in state and seeds were very hard to find."
The legal process of growing hemp is lengthy as well. You must first register with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, pay numerous fees, and you must file a report annually that includes verification of the crops and documentation of the purchase agreement with a hemp processor.
You must also schedule when you will be planting and harvesting and can only grow up to seven acres. None of the hemp that is grown by farmers can contain pesticides or fertilizer.
According to The National Hemp Association, hemp is a cousin to marijuana, grown from the cannabis plant, but has less than .3-percent of THC. It is durable enough to be made into rope and clothes, has nutritional properties for food, and has many medical benefits, like pain relief and seizure control. The Munoz’ use their hemp to make oil for soaps, lotions and teas
"There’s a big market for it,” said Shirley Munoz. “Pharmaceuticals are buying it up, they're buying up all the seed for the oils.”
The couple wants to inspire other farmers to get the hemp industry going in Delta because of the immense benefits they say it could have for the economy.
"It would really bring a lot of work for people cause there's a lot of hand labor to it,” said Richard Munoz. “Right now because we don't have any equipment to harvest it."
The National Hemp Association says hemp as an industrial staple dates all the way back to the 17th century when the Chinese used it for textile fiber and ship's sails.
There is little scientific research of hemp because of decades of prohibition but with its legalization in many states in 2012, it is slowly but surely making a comeback.