The Colville Confederated Tribes are trying a bold experiment this year, growing their first hemp crop.
They have planted sixty acres in hemp this summer, a project that has taken some time to come to fruition. The crop was planted late in the season as it took some time to legally procure the seeds, which eventually came from the Czech Republic.
The tribe was the first to be issued a permit from the Washington state Department of Ecology and the project is moving forward under the Federal Agricultural Act of 2014. Even so, Tribal Chairman Michael Marchand says the operation is treading on some uncertain legal ground,
“We’ve been able to navigate through it, but even doing our best there’s some risk, with new administrations. We’re not 100 percent sure it’s going to work but so far it’s been working and we are trying to keep everybody happy and let regulators know what we’re doing.”
Marchand describes all the efforts as an experiment, but says they hope to eventually find a market for the product, for which there are many uses,
“Hemp can produce paper, hemp can produce cloth, hemp can produce medicines, it can even produce biofuels. It’s even more effective than corn for producing bio-diesel, it’s a pretty amazing crop.”
Marchand says the tribe currently has about a half a dozen employees working on the project but they are hopeful they will be able to expand employment and acreage as soon as next year. He says they have already been approached by several customers for their product.