Vendors display hemp-based products at the NoCo Hemp Expo. Courtesy NoCo Hemp Expo

Changing laws, perceptions promote hemp

Besides vendor displays, panels discuss issues affecting the industry at hemp expos. Courtesy NoCo Hemp Expo

“Hemp can do almost anything,” said Morris Beegle, co-founder of Colorado Hemp Co. and producer of NoCo Hemp Expo.

Beegle has explored the possibilities and pushed the boundaries of hemp since the mid-1990s. In 2013 he launched Tree Free Hemp, a hemp paper and printing company under his umbrella company, We Are For Better Alternatives (which also houses Colorado Hemp Co.), and he’s currently preparing to launch his own hemp guitar line. Beegle also started NoCo Hemp Expo to showcase all that hemp can do.

The NoCo Hemp Expo has grown steadily since its launch in 2014; in 2018 the event attracted more than 6,000 attendees and was recognized by the Hemp Industries Association as the Hemp Event of the Year. The event is moving to Denver for 2019 because, according to Beegle, it has outgrown all the conference venues in northern Colorado. The success of the NoCo Hemp Expo has also led to the launch of the first annual Southern Hemp Expo, to be held in Nashville, Tenn., on Sept. 28 and 29.

“NoCo is not your traditional conference,” said Beegle. “We blend a business-to-business trade-show day and a business conference day with a business-to-consumer market day, with farm and agriculture, so we kind of cover the gamut between B2B and B2C, and we have entertainment and interaction and an energy that’s just different than traditional cannabis shows. … Nashville just seemed to have the right energy [for the Southern Hemp Expo]. The response [to the Southern Hemp Expo] thus far has been absolutely off the hook, it’s been great.”

Beegle said changes in public perception and changing laws are allowing the hemp industry to thrive right now.

“I think that it’s kind of the right time,” said Beegle. “I think the political environment and the activism components are helping … you just see a lot of people right now driving the messages home about stuff that’s important to them.”

Margaret MacKenzie, co-founder and co-owner of Salt Creek Hemp Co. in Collbran, Colo., agrees.

“It’s a fight that advocates have been fighting since the early 60s,” said MacKenzie. “People have been fighting this and gaining momentum and educating people for a long time, and we have finally got to that point where we’re breaking down stigmas and realizing that cannabis is not this terrible, scary schedule 1 drug.”

Legislation has played a role too, said MacKenzie, who started growing hemp on her family’s ranch on the Western Slope in 2015; Salt Creek Hemp Co. produces a soft gel hemp supplement.

In June, the U.S. Senate voted to pass the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), which includes U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) measure, The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which moves to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances.

“Starting with the legalization of medical marijuana and then just gaining more momentum off of that, and then the recreational legalization and then the 2014 Farm Bill, and now we’ve got the 2018 Farm Bill and the Hemp Act … it will hopefully be off the schedule 1 list once and for all,” said MacKenzie.

Beegle noted that while the 2018 Farm Bill has received praise from hemp activists, it contains a provision that would result in a lifetime ban from growing hemp on anyone “convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance under state or federal law.”

“This amendment would prohibit individuals with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry,” said Beegle. “Totally bogus that someone convicted of a felony cannabis crime in the past could not be able to participate in this industry. They can grow corn, wheat and soy, so they should be able to grow hemp.”

Still, laws help change perceptions, and when perceptions change, said MacKenzie, the hemp industry — and cannabis industry overall — can grow by leaps and bounds.

“If the House can get [the 2018 Farm Bill] passed that is in itself a big deal,” she said. “We in the hemp industry listen to speakers at these different events and try to educate people, and that’s one thing, but when it’s written into law and laws are changed, that right there educates and re-educates a lot more people.”

Besides vendor displays, panels discuss issues affecting the industry at hemp expos. Courtesy NoCo Hemp Expo

“Hemp can do almost anything,” said Morris Beegle, co-founder of Colorado Hemp Co. and producer of NoCo Hemp Expo.

Beegle has explored the possibilities and pushed the boundaries of hemp since the mid-1990s. In 2013 he launched Tree Free Hemp, a hemp paper and printing company under his umbrella company, We Are For Better Alternatives (which also houses Colorado Hemp Co.), and he’s currently preparing to launch his own hemp guitar line. Beegle also started NoCo Hemp Expo to showcase all that hemp can do.

The NoCo Hemp Expo has grown steadily since its launch in 2014; in 2018 the event attracted more than 6,000 attendees and was recognized by the Hemp Industries Association as the Hemp Event of the Year. The event is moving to Denver for 2019 because, according to Beegle, it has outgrown all the conference venues in northern Colorado. The success of the NoCo Hemp Expo has also led to the launch of the first annual Southern Hemp Expo, to be held in Nashville, Tenn., on Sept. 28 and 29.

“NoCo is not your traditional conference,” said Beegle. “We blend a business-to-business trade-show day and a business conference day with a business-to-consumer market day, with farm and agriculture, so we kind of cover the…