Hemp industry to get down to business at weekend expo

LOVELAND – Boosting the business side of hemp – while reinforcing the message about what it is and what it isn’t – is the focus of this weekend’s 2016 NoCo Hemp Expo at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland.

Movers and shakers in the hemp industry will drive home the versatility of the plant, make pitches to investors and display a multitude of wares to consumers – all while pounding home the mantra that hemp isn’t pot, it won’t get you high, but it could pump billions of dollars into the economy.

“Our emphasis is on the non-psychoactive parts of the cannabis plant,” said event organizer Morris Beegle, owner of Loveland-based Colorado Hemp Co. “This is nothing to do with recreational marijuana. It’s all about industrial and nutritional values of hemp. We want to show how it can be used in building materials, bioplastics, paper, foods, body-care products, nanoparticles, batteries, clothing and so much more. The hemp plant can be utilized in thousands of applications.”

In its third year, the expo started with a gathering at a 300-seat bar in Windsor in 2014. It moved to a 13,000-square-foot venue at The Ranch with 74 vendors last year. This year’s version, at the Ranch’s First National Bank Building, will occupy 36,000 square feet and include 130 vendors, including such local firms as Loveland-based Elite Botanicals and Loveland Molecular Labs.

“We really want to organize as an industry and move this thing forward globally,” Beegle said.

The expo will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Friday’s session will be an “industry day,” Beegle said, with a focus on law, banking, processing, seed certification, branding, marketing, science and genetics. Networking for growers, manufacturers and investors will be included.

Saturday’s session will be geared to the general public, he said, with spotlights on farming, health, wellness, nutrition, varied consumer goods and even cooking with hemp.

“We want to familiarize the general public with hemp and grow beyond the choir that has built up over the last several decades,” Beegle said. “Marijuana has been big news in Colorado, but we want to separate out the message and say, ‘Hey, there’s a difference here, and this crop should never have been illegal because it’s been a component for 10,000 years.’ But since Amendment 64 passed, we’ve got a head start on the rest of the country in Colorado.

“We’ll be at the forefront of technology and innovation,” he said, “and a lot of those technological innovations along the Front Range will transfer over to our industry.”

Speakers and panels will advocate for legislation in Congress to clear up what Beegle described as a situation that’s “very murky at the federal level as to whether it is or isn’t legal.” The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states that wanted to put hemp regulations in place to start doing test plots, he said, but further congressional action has gotten snagged in election-year politics despite bipartisan support.

Admission to the event is $20 for Saturday – or $25 at the door. Admission for both days is $60, or $70 at the door. A $100 ticket for Saturday includes a bag full of hemp-based products.

More information, ticketing and live streaming of the event are online at www.nocohempexpo.com.