NoCo Hemp Expo Heading South

The 2018 NoCo Expo in Loveland.
The 2018 NoCo Expo in Loveland. Jacqueline Collins
In the wake of another successful NoCo Hemp Expo — a hemp trade show in Loveland that drew over 6,000 attendees last year — expo production firm Colorado Hemp Company now wants to dip its toes down south.

The Loveland-based company announced its inaugural Southern Hemp Expo on Tuesday, July 10. Scheduled for September 28 and 29 at the Fairgrounds in Nashville, Tennessee, the event touts a tasty slate of attractions for hemp lovers and industry insiders, including a full-scale exhibit hall, networking opportunities, presentations, workshops and plenty of hemp-based food.

Colorado Hemp has been putting on the NoCo Hemp Expo since 2014, with the event growing in attendance each year. With this latest expansion outside of Colorado, they're working towards providing a more accurate representation of the hemp industry, which is quickly becoming a national machine.

"Our shows are firmly grounded in the country’s strongest regions for hemp production," NoCo Hemp Expo and Colorado Hemp co-founder Morris Beegle explains in an announcement. "The South is a leader and will continue to be a leader in hemp production."

Although America's southern region isn't known for embracing cannabis, hemp is another story. States such as Tennessee and Kentucky have recently taken measures to relax laws on industrial hemp, which is still technically illegal at the federal level because it's classified as marijuana, a Schedule I drug under the infamous Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Tennessee passed a law allowing industrial hemp production in 2017, while Kentucky (known for its hemp production since the 1800s) created a hemp pilot program in 2014 after the FARM Bill allowed states to do so for research purposes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a long-time supporter of hemp farming, went so far as to propose the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 — a bill which would remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act's definition.

According to the Hemp Business Journal, American hemp sales totaled $820 million in 2017 — good for 16 percent growth from the previous year. In 2018, the publication projects total sales will surpass $1 billion.

Arran Stephens, co-founder of Nature's Path Foods, believes the energy behind the industry's rapid rise is discernible at their events. "I was amazed at the buzz of the show," he says of NoCo' most recent effort. "In some ways, it reminded me of the spirit of the early organic food trade shows. This is really the beginning of a strong new movement."

With the Southern Hemp Expo (nicknamed "SHE" by organizers), Colorado Hemp hopes to capitalize on this momentum by "bringing balance back to mother earth" while providing a "festive and effective forum for expanding crucial dialogue about the latest developments and opportunities" in commercial hemp, according to Beegle.
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Nick Maahs is an editorial Intern for Westword during summer 2018. Raised in Denver, he attends Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where he tries to escape his small-town blues by studying English and writing for the student-run paper, The Wire.
Contact: Nick Maahs