Four years ago, the people of Colorado approved Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana and hemp in the state. In just its third growing season, the hemp industry has exploded in the Centennial State, despite continuing federal prohibition. In fact, between state policy and people simply willing to defy the feds, Colorado has effectively nullified the federal hemp ban within her borders.

According to Colorado Department of Agriculture hemp program director Duane Sinning, 42 of 64 counties in the state currently have growers registered to cultivate industrial hemp. He estimates farmers will grow more than 8,000 acres of the plant outdoors this year, with another 1.25 million square feet of indoor production.

A few of the growers and several academic institutions have obtained federal permission to do hemp research, but many farmers have simply ignored federal law and planted their crops anyway. And they have managed to do so despite the difficulty in obtaining seed.

Under federal law, hemp is nearly impossible to import. But enterprising farmers have figured out ways around the ban. In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Sinning explained that there was actually already seed in the state before legalization. Some was illegally grown, and some came from “naturalized stands” growing wild in the state.

“Before there was the farm bill there were people that have always been growing seed, just like there was marijuana in the state before there was Amendment 64, there was hemp in the state,” Sinning said. “They picked and harvested