A Colorado Senate committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill authorizing the industrial cultivation of hemp.
Hemp is a marijuana lookalike but with little or no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot that makes users high.
Advocates say hemp is poised to become a big industry in Colorado. The passage of Amendment 64 in November allows its legal cultivation pending legislative authorization.
The seeds and fibers of hemp have dozens of commercial uses in foods, cosmetics, textiles and building materials.
The bill sponsored by state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, would enable farmers to register for 10-acre research-and-development plots to test the viability of different hemp varieties.
The legislation would not prohibit larger commercial farms, but backers say it is unlikely that most farmers would choose to start on a large scale.
The bill requires passage from the full Senate and House before going to Gov. John Hickenlooper for signing into law.
By Steve Raabe