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A water reservoir, which stores water temporarily before it is used for agricultural purposes.

Tim Green

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the fiscal year 2018 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill which includes the Industrial Hemp Water Rights Act. This measure would allow federally-controlled water to be used for hemp cultivation, according to a Westword report. Currently, the Bureau of Reclamation prohibits water under its jurisdiction from being used for hemp-growing purposes.

The measure was introduced by Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner in an effort to clear up the water-use issue for legal hemp programs. The 2014 Farm Bill allows state departments of agriculture to license farmers to conduct research programs, along with institutes of higher education; however, it did not address the water issue.

“This is a step in the right direction to ensure that Colorado farmers will have the water they need to grow industrial hemp and the opportunity to innovate and strengthen our agricultural economy,” Bennet, a Democrat, said in the report.

Gardner, a Republican, said the legislation “recognizes our farmers’ right to access Colorado water and makes sure the federal government cannot interfere with their operations.”

The bill, like other appropriations legislation, must still be approved by the full House and Senate before the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.

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