Farmers face many obstacles that are out of their control, such as weather and pests. However, cannabis farmers who grow their crops outdoors can have some additional challenges, like pollen.
Fortunately, Colorado lawmakers have decided to seek solutions to these pollen problems. They recently passed a new law to address cross-pollination, among other measures aimed to help cannabis farmers.
Getting to the root of the pollination problem
While cross-pollination is not a problem exclusive to the cannabis industry, it does wreak havoc on many cannabis farms in a different way than it might on a corn or soy farm. The problem for cannabis farmers occurs when hemp that is grown for its seed or fiber ends up pollinating cannabis plants that another farm is growing for the cannabinoids, like CBD or delta-9 THC.
Unlike some plants that contain both male and female parts, cannabis plants must be either one or the other. The male plants produce pollen, which is needed in fields of cannabis plants grown for the seeds. Pollination is not needed for fiber plants, but it can be cost-prohibitive to grow only female plants for this purpose.
According to Michigan State University, one male flower can produce roughly 350,000 pollen grains, which can be carried by the wind for several miles in the right conditions. This is a problem for the farmers who grow cannabis for either CBD or delta-9 THC.
These farmers grow only the female plants because CBD and delta-9 THC are naturally concentrated in the flowers of the female plants. However, these plants will produce significantly less cannabinoids if the flower is fertilized by pollen. They will also develop seeds, making the crop inferior. This is part of what makes outdoor cannabis growing so tricky.
“If Colorado wants to be a leader in hemp and cannabis [delta-9 THC] cultivation, we need to figure out how these plants can coexist side by side,” attorney Jordan Wellington reportedly said. Wellington works for a cannabis-focused law firm in Colorado.
‘Gather the experts’
According to Modern Farmer magazine, hemp and cannabis delta-9 THC are two of the largest industries in Colorado. Delta-9 THC products reportedly brought in $2.2 billion into the state last year. Additionally, Colorado farmers reportedly grow more hemp plants than any other state.
For these reasons and more, state lawmakers passed House Bill 21-1301 in late June. One provision of this law creates a working group and directs this working group to study ways to reduce cross-pollination.
“The beauty is to gather the experts,” Rick Trojan reportedly told Hemp Industry Daily. Trojan is the vice president of the Hemp Industries Association. He is also a hemp grower, himself.
The working group reportedly must include more than 15 members, as well as include hemp and cannabis delta-9 THC farmers.
Henry Baskerville, the managing partner of a Denver-based law firm, told Hemp Industry Daily that cannabis farmers should be closely involved because “they’re the ones who understand the issue the best.”
Kim Stuck, the founder of a cannabis consultancy in Colorado and Oregon, reportedly agreed that farmers must be a part of the conversation. She reportedly added that the working group members are shaping up to be a pretty diverse group.
“Without having farmers involved in this conversation, they were going to do the wrong thing, and they know it,” she reportedly added.
It is not yet possible to know what the working group will recommend, but suggestions could include staggering growing cycles, creating buffers, setting female-only growth ordinances, designating specific strains for specific areas or other actions.
The working group is set to convene by November 2021. It is expected to decide on its recommendations by June 2022.