Weed 101: Colorado agriculture agency shares pot know-how

In this Jan. 31, 2017 photo, agriculture regulators from seven different states and Guam tour a Denver marijuana growing warehouse on a tour organized by the Colorado Department of Agriculture in Denver. The department is opening up its marijuana knowledge to other states and encouraging them to plan now for the possibility of regulating farmers growing a plant that violates federal law. (AP Photo/Kristen Wyatt)
In this Jan. 31, 2017 photo, Denver marijuana grower Tim Cullen, left, shows young marijuana clones to out-of-state agriculture officials on a grow warehouse tour organized by the Colorado Department of Agriculture in Denver. Colorado's Agriculture Department is opening up its marijuana knowledge to other states and encouraging them to plan now for the possibility of regulating farmers growing a plant that violates federal law. (AP Photo/Kristen Wyatt)

DENVER — North Carolina wants to know if marijuana could one day replace tobacco as a cash crop. Louisiana is wondering how pot holds up in high humidity. And Washington state has questions about water supplies for weed.

Colorado agriculture officials this week briefed officials from about a dozen states — some that have legalized weed, others that joked their states will legalize pot "when hell freezes over" — on the basics of marijuana farming and swapped stories about regulating a crop that the federal government still considers illegal.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture also is working on the world's first government-produced guidelines on growing marijuana. There's no shortage of how-to books catering to pot growers both in and out of the black market, but Colorado's forthcoming guidebook aims to apply established agronomy practices to the production of marijuana.

"When you start with no knowledge at all, it's rough," said Mitch Yergert, head of Colorado's Division of Plant Industry, an agency within the Agriculture Department that regulates marijuana production.

Yergert conceded that Colorado agriculture officials ignored marijuana entirely for more than a dozen years, from the time voters in the state approved medical pot in 2000 until recreational pot shops started opening in 2014.

"Nobody in our agency ever grew marijuana, so how are we supposed to develop best practices?" Yergert said.

But marijuana's commercial popularity, coupled with increasing concern over pesticides and unsafe growing conditions, forced the department to stop considering marijuana a running joke and start seeing it as a commercial crop in need of regulation.

Colorado sold about a billion dollars' worth of marijuana last year, making it a cash crop, the same as many others.

Now, the agriculture department is sharing what it has learned about weed with other agencies.

Speaking at a recent soil-conservation conference in Denver, Yergert briefed other state agriculture officials on how to inspect marijuana and hemp growers, and just as important, how to regulate a plant that's illegal under federal law.

"You kinda gotta get your mind around it," Yergert said.

The visiting agriculture officials toured a large Denver pot-growing warehouse, where a grower showed them the plant's entire cycle, starting as clones in one room before getting transplanted to bigger tubs.

The grower, Tim Cullen, also showed the officials how the plant is trimmed and its psychoactive buds dried for smoking. Finally, the farm regulators saw how marijuana waste — errant leaves and such — are rendered unusable before being thrown away.

"This is blowing my mind right now," said Erica Pangelinan of the Northern Guam Soil and Water Conservation District. Pangelinan was using her cellphone to snap photos of wooden frames used to hold drying marijuana.

Guam allows medical marijuana, but many states on the tour don't. Still, the visiting agriculture officials say they need to be prepared in case laws change to allow pot-growing at home.

"We're just looking to see what's ahead," said Pat Harris, director of North Carolina's Division of Soil & Water Conservation.

Some states on the tour plan to grow pot themselves.

"We're getting in the marijuana business in Louisiana, so we need to know what we're doing," said Brad Spicer of the state's Office of Soil & Water Conservation, where the Legislature has authorized two universities to grow the plant for medical use and research.

Yergert warned the agriculture officials that regulating weed still isn't easy and that they should be prepared for pushback from their own staffs.

"Our guys were saying, 'I can't pick my kids up from school because I smell like pot,'" Yergert said.

Another problem? Stony silence from federal agencies that agriculture offices usually turn to for help.

"It hasn't gotten a lot more warm and fuzzy," Yergert said. "I think they look at us as, 'What an annoyance!' I mean, they deal with drug smugglers and international cartels, and here's the Colorado Department of Ag coming wanting a permit for something."

Cullen, the pot grower, urged the agriculture officials to look past the hurdles and see pot growers as farmers thirsty for guidance on growing healthy, profitable crops.

"We want your help. We'd rather not rely on the 19-year-old at the grow shop," said Cullen, who is one of Colorado's largest pot growers and is advising the Agriculture Department on its forthcoming pot guidelines.

The agronomists standing in the room of pot nodded, saying they're open to sharing advice — though their knowledge must remain academic.

"I can tell you how to grow it. But I can't use it. I'm drug-tested for the state department of agriculture," joked Max Jones of North Carolina.

___

Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

___

This story has been corrected to show that the Colorado Division of Plant Industry official did not take part in the tour.

Must Read

China affirms climate pledge after Trump rolls...

Mar 29, 2017

China's government says it will stick to its promises to curb carbon emissions after President...

'Silk Road' plan stirs unease over China's...

May 11, 2017

China's plan to build a "new Silk Road" of ports, railways and roads to expand trade across Asia...

China blocks online broadcast of computer go match

May 24, 2017

Censors blocked China's internet users from seeing Google's online broadcast of a national go...

Computer wins 2nd game against Chinese go champion

May 25, 2017

A computer that plays go has won a second game against China's top player in a match authorities...

Wasted green power tests China's energy leadership

Jun 5, 2017

China's scramble to curb pollution has made it the world leader in renewable energy development,...

People also read these

China says rebuilding major western Buddhist...

Mar 14, 2017

China says it is rebuilding a major center of Tibetan Buddhist learning in the country's west,...

4 tons of garbage collected in China's Everest...

May 11, 2017

Chinese state media say volunteers have cleared four tons of garbage from the Chinese north side of...

Wasted green power tests China's energy leadership

Jun 5, 2017

China's scramble to curb pollution has made it the world leader in renewable energy development,...

The Latest: US wants Liu to be able to choose...

Jul 13, 2017

U.S. officials want Chinese authorities to allow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and his...

China opens movie theater on disputed South China...

Jul 24, 2017

China has opened a state-of-the-art movie theater on disputed Woody Island in the South China Sea's...

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather
+7

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather
+27

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather
+6

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather
+9

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather
+7

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH

About Us

RedShiftDaily was started out of fascination with mankind discoveries through peering out into the cosmos. Our team of enthusiasts are going to deliver only the best and latest progress in space technology and discovery so you too can share in the excitement.

Contact us: sales@redshiftdaily.com