The third annual NoCo Hemp Expo this weekend attracted industry experts, vendors and attendees to the First National Bank building at the Ranch, transforming the 36,000-square-foot space into an epicenter of the hemp industry.
In 24 months, the hemp-based trade show and conference grew from a 300-person, single-day event at a Windsor sports bar into a two-day convention that this year attracted over 2,700 attendees.
Friday’s agenda focused on business networking for industry professionals, while Saturday catered more toward general interest hemp topics.
Colorado Hemp Company (CHC) owner and organizer of the NoCo Hemp Expo, Morris Beegle, said he did not predict the growth since holding the inaugural event in 2014, which featured between 15-20 vendors.
“This is the biggest event that’s ever taken place that’s really hemp-specific,” said Beegle, a Colorado State University alum. “If you look at a cannabis event that’s marijuana-driven, then there’s definitely bigger events, but ones that just focus on (hemp), there’s never been one bigger than this one this weekend.”
This year showcased over 130 exhibitors, 75 speakers and a dozen workshops covering topics related to the emerging industry. International representation came from England, Ukraine and China.
Discussion at the NoCo Hemp Expo focused on the myriad applications for industrial hemp, which the State of Colorado defines as any part of the cannabis plant, growing or not, containing a THC concentration of no more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.
A clause in the 2012-passed Colorado Amendment 64, which outlined the statewide policy for cannabis, mandated that the non-psychoactive side of the cannabis plant to be regulated differently than marijuana.
Among the cannabis-centric companies in attendance was Hemp Gene, which provides genetic strain identification, marker-assisted breeding guidance and strain commercialization services to the hemp industry. The cannabis plant has an untold number of potential uses that can be maximized for different purposes, according to Hemp Gene Chief Operating Officer Matt Gibbs.
“If you can breed the plant to achieve all these different uses, it’s going to be viewed as a commodity that is highly valuable for a lot of different reasons,” Gibbs said. “That gives it economic resilience, it allows people to diversify when it comes to products, fuel, fiber, all the possibilities are there—medicine—and to be able to harness the diversity of this plant is the beauty of it. (One way) to do that in a responsible and transparent manner is to use DNA to guide the breeding of plant that you are looking for, for whatever that purpose is.”
Also in attendance was the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a collective of hemp-based businesses united to advocate for the hemp-centric interests, including promotion, education and the handling of legal issues. HIA President Lawrence Serbin said the organization, though Vote Hemp, lobbies for hemp legalization and reclassification, while also fighting attempts by the government to prevent farmers or people from using or processing different hemp products.
“This is a new industry simply because it wasn’t legal up until recently. In the last year our membership doubled and this event looks like it more than doubled from last year,” said Serbin, who is also the owner of Hemp Traders. “(By) giving people freedom and the opportunity to grow hemp and collaborate, we can absolutely create a big industry and help that planet, do something green; create jobs, help the economy.”
Gibbs, a member of HIA, echoes similar sentiments concerning hemp’s potential impact.
“Hemp provides the best opportunity of a holistic view at a prosperous social environmental economic future,” Gibbs said.
Collegian Reporter Diego Felix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @FMTLturntablist.