April 9th, 2015 – Whether we are talking about plastics, clothing, medicine, cuisine or construction, the forms and uses of hemp are exponentially expanding. Hemp, once a previously outlawed plant in America is becoming a legitimate crop where serious investments are being made in the states where it is legal. However one crucial requirement for full hemp production is missing – an effective processing system.
Colorado-based entrepreneurs and farmers have been among the first to act on the repeal of the prohibition on cannabis for industrial reasons in the USA. While this has allowed for limited farming of the crop, there still remains the question of effective processing with much of the plant’s inner stalk currently being wasted. If the processing infrastructure in the United States does not incorporate hemp, then for many farmers the shift to growing hemp would be a difficult and unstable investment. For example the Colorado Department of Agriculture will destroy hemp if the crop’s THC level is above 0.3% because THC renders hemp psychoactive and thus defined as recreational marijuana, regardless of the farmer’s industrial intent for the crop.
PureVision Technology, a Colorado processing company that produces fresh by-products of corn and wheat recently experimented with processing hemp, producing sugars in one of their latest laboratory experiments. The company plans on expanding their hemp processing, to make products like pulp for paper production, fibers, and Cannabidiol (CBD) extract. The company is working with another bio refinery company ZeaChem, Inc., in Oregon, under the name PureHemp Vision for their hemp processing. The reason PureVison Technology is outsourcing the processing facility to Oregon is because the “significant infrastructure in place at the ZeaChem facility will reduce the costs and timing to develop our 25-ton-per-day bio-refining project”, said Ed Lehrburger, co-owner of PureVison Technology. Lehrburger’s eventual goal is to have a large-scale bio-refinery in Colorado, but is waiting on more collaborators before moving forward.
This case demonstrates that without reliable and efficient processing capabilities in the United States, eager farmers who would like to cultivate hemp will be working within an unstable business environment, with their crops under scrutiny and potentially useless if they do not have access to appropriate treatment and hemp processing facilities. The opportunity to capitalize on hemp’s potential will be dependant upon companies like PureVison Technology continuing to invest in hemp processing infrastructure.