There’s more to cannabis and Colorado than the crowd that’s smoking it. La Junta, CO is expanding production for another variety of cannabis that’s highly profitable: industrial hemp, used to make rope, canvas and paper products. (Photo: rockymountainhempassociation.org.)
Cannabis and Colorado tend to go hand in hand but for many it is because of the association with marijuana. There is, however, another variety of cannabis that hasn’t received the same amount of press, industrial hemp. Hemp is a cousin to marijuana but without all of marijuana’s psychoactive and addictive properties. Prior to the 1940s, hemp was used to make rope, paper and canvas among other goods. The Declaration of Independence and many Bibles were once printed on hemp paper. Today, one Colorado community is betting that industrial hemp can revitalize its town.
In April, the Whole Hemp Company announced that it is expanding its industrial hemp growing, processing and extraction facility to La Junta, CO. The project will take a long-vacant, big box retail location and repurpose it into a facility that will house up to 200 employees. After the announcement, Kashif Shan, CEO of Whole Hemp Company, said, “Whole Hemp Company is really excited to be in La Junta and has been overwhelmed by the support that the local community has already given.” Whole Hemp Company focuses on extracting cannabinoid (CBD) from hemp plants by using critical CO2 extraction. The CBD is then formulated and packaged for the nutraceutical and supplement industries. The potential of this compound could eventually lead to pharmaceutical applications and already has been approved by Brazil’s FDA equivalent Anvisa as a treatment to epilepsy.
After the extraction of CBD oil is complete, the company is then left with a fiber byproduct that can be refined into other raw materials. Once a region can produce 5,000 or more acres of industrial hemp, the doors are open for a bio-refinery. These bio-refineries can take the hemp fibers and create plastics, fuels, chemicals, pulp, packaging and textiles to name a few. Currently Whole Hemp Company plans to plant 250 acres in 2015 with plans to plant 3,500 to 5,000 acres in 2016.
2016 and beyond look to be exciting times for La Junta as they continue to rebuild the industrial hemp industry from the ground up. “As an economic developer, I am always looking for ways to improve the multiplier (number of times money circulates in the economy), and if we follow the value chain, the hemp industry has the potential to greatly increase the economic outlook for the Arkansas Valley,” explained Ryan Stevens, Director of La Junta Economic Development.
“La Junta and the surrounding communities are receiving direct jobs from the Whole Hemp Company and farmers are going to gain revenue from outdoor grow operations. The companies that follow Whole Hemp Company to extract the oils and refine the byproducts into other raw materials will create additional jobs,” Stevens added. “It is possible we will see additional manufacturers locate here in La Junta to be closer to their raw material sources. And then there are the indirect jobs that will come from all of these extra people having paychecks. Ultimately the community is able to capitalize on Colorado’s cannabis laws without opening our doors to marijuana.”
Whole Hemp Co. is a Colorado Limited Liability Company that is committed to producing CBD oil that is 100 percent U.S. grown and processed and 100 percent caustic solvent free.
La Junta Economic Development is committed to expanding the employment base in La Junta, CO by attracting new businesses and retaining and expanding existing businesses. For more information on La Junta Economic Development, please visit www.LaJuntaEconomicDevelopment.com, or contact Ryan Stevens at (719) 671-9499.