Scheduled for a three-day run at the National Western Complex March 25 through March 27, the NoCo Hemp Expo will be following all current health and social distancing guidelines, according to organizer Morris Beegle, who says he's been working with complex property managers, local fire marshals and the city and state health departments on his plans.
In its first half-dozen years, the expo proved so popular that Beegle had scheduled the 2020 edition for the National Western Complex, where it would have plenty of space. But as COVID-19 cases rose in Colorado and Governor Jared Polis banned large public gatherings, the expo was postponed from March to August. And when the pandemic showed no signs of abating, the 2020 expo was moved completely online.
The 2021 edition will be a hybrid. A virtual conference experience will be available for those who don't feel comfortable attending, but the expo will include versions of the usual investor, business and farming symposiums, as well as the always-popular trade and vendor hall — though Beegle notes that it will be more industry-focused and "less consumer-facing" this year.
"We are excited to be able to do the event, which will be scaled back and spread out, socially distanced, and more focused on B2B for the entire hemp supply chain," he explains.
Although COVID-19 has paused most in-person hemp-industry events, the evolution of federal regulations and market prices has not stopped, and not all developments have been great for hemp farmers, Beegle notes. Wholesale CBD prices fell after an oversupply of hemp biomass saturated the market in 2020, and the United States Department of Agriculture's pending testing and storage rules are still viewed as too restrictive compared to those of state-run hemp programs.
"The industry needs to figure some things out in 2021 and get back on track after oversupply has dominated the CBD market and COVID created a whole slew of other problems," he says. "But lots of opportunities abound, and the future for hemp is bright."
The number of new COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and hospitalizations in Colorado has declined steadily in recent weeks, according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment statistics. Under current guidelines, the expo should be able to allow up to 100 people in each large room, Beegle says, adding that he's staying updated on state and county event rules, and that the expo's limited capacity will be monitored and controlled by security.
Tickets for the seventh annual NoCo Hemp Expo start at $25 for general admission to the trade and vendor hall on Saturday, March 27, and go to $339 for four-day attendance and symposium passes. Find out more at nocohempexpo.com.