Pubdate: Thu, 03 Jan 2013
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2013 Summit Daily News
Author: John Colson


Colorado Wholesaler Eager For Hemp-growing To Become Legal

GLENWOOD SPRINGS - The founder of a regional hemp textiles company,
Enviro Textiles LLC, believes Colorado is poised to enter a new era of
prosperity thanks to the recent passage of Amendment 64 to the state

Barbara Filippone, 56, who founded Enviro Textiles six years ago, has
been promoting the beneficial qualities of hemp nationally and
internationally for 24 years.

She and her daughter, Summer Star Haeske, 30, run the company with a
staff of about 10 people, providing hemp and other nontraditional
fibers to manufacturers and working to change the perception of hemp
in the U.S.

The business, located in Glenwood Springs, is largely a family

"I've got my mother, my fiance, my uncle, my aunt all working for us,"
Haeske explained. She said nearly 4,000 people work for other
companies at hemp manufacturing facilities in countries where hemp is
legal, such as Mexico, Eastern Europe, the United Kingdom and China.

The Glenwood Springs facility, she said, is a warehouse stocked with
more than 500 different samples of hemp fabrics, blends and other
textile products. The Glenwood shop ships orders to small businesses
and orders as large as four pallets of canvas to a Volkswagen factory,
Haeske said.

The company arranges for shipments of larger orders direct from the
manufacturing facility to the customer, she said.

The only Colorado manufacturing, she said, is the spinning of yarn in
a Palisade facility, and special orders of T-shirts and other items of
clothing for in-state customers.

Aside from serving as hemp fabric and garment wholesalers, Filippone
and Haeske are dedicated promoters of hemp as a vital part of
America's economic future.

Hemp lumped in with marijuana as illegal

"The possibilities of hemp grown in Colorado are endless," Haeske told
the Post Independent in a recent interview at the Enviro Textiles shop.

"We have to really do it right, and bring real job creation with us,"
she said.

Haeske said there are 25,000 known applications for industrial hemp,
and the list is growing.

State-level agriculture officials agree that hemp could be a valuable
addition to the roster of cash crops in Colorado. But they are not so
sure it will happen any time soon due to a continuing federal
prohibition against growing the plant in the U.S.

"We are supportive of industrial hemp," said Chad Vorthmann, vice
president of the Colorado Farm Bureau. "And we will be very supportive
of research into the viability and economic potential of hemp for the

But his organization and others are concerned that the federal Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) will never permit a hemp crop to be
grown and used in Colorado.

According to Vorthmann, the DEA already has said its agents, driving
by a field, can't tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.

"The feds are not going to let farmers grow it," Filippone said,
without a fight.

She noted that hemp was an important crop for use in making rope,
clothing and other textiles, and a host of industrial applications.
But in the 1930s, the federal government put marijuana on its list of
banned drugs, along with opium, codeine, morphine and heroin.

Hemp is botanically related to marijuana, but it has scant amounts of
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical compound that produces the
psychotropic effects that make marijuana so popular.

Still, federal authorities lumped hemp in with the marijuana plant,
and still do, Filippone said.

In Colorado, the passage of Amendment 64 has legalized the
recreational use of marijuana by anyone over 21, and legalizes the
raising and processing of hemp for commercial applications. State
regulations for marijuana and hemp have yet to be developed.

But federal drug enforcement authorities reject any talk of hemp's
usefulness because they worry that hemp is too close in appearance to
marijuana, according to Vorthmann and others interviewed for this article.

The federal government, therefore, is firmly opposed to allowing
hemp-based agriculture, claiming that it would allow farmers to hide
marijuana plants in the middle of a hemp crop, Vorthmann said.

The federal stance contradicts general information about the hemp

"Of the approximately 2,000 cannabis plant varieties known," according
to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, "about 90 percent contain only
low-grade THC and are most useful for their fiber, seeds and medicinal
or psychoactive oils. Hemp is one of the earliest domesticated plants

Value of hemp has been misinterpreted

Filippone said she has worked in other countries to help launch a hemp
industry. Canada, for example, has taken 13 years to work out its
current set of laws enabling the hemp industry.

She also has worked in China, Romania, Poland and Hungary on similar
projects, she said, pointing to photos on a wall showing her in
various foreign locales.

The U.S. needs to follow a similar path with respect to hemp, she
said, brimming with passion as she described hemp's hardiness and
myriad of uses.

"This is a research and development center," Filippone said, pointing
to a table overflowing with different kinds of natural fibers, hemp
among them.

She emphasized that her work is not at all associated with efforts to
legalize marijuana, the drug.

"I'm not a marijuana factory, and no, I don't have Chinese children
working in the warehouse," she said, mentioning that her work in
promoting the value of hemp has been misinterpreted.

"This is a representation of support for alternative agriculture," she
said. Hemp is not intended to replace traditional textiles such as
cotton, but to supplement the national and international market for
all kinds of textiles.

Hemp is easier to grow than many conventional crops, uses less water,
and is resistant to drought, frost, pests and pollution, Filippone

Hemp plants also provide protection from pests and drought if planted
alongside other, less hardy plants, Filippone maintained. It has a
90-day growing cycle.

Time is right for pro-hemp effort

In a conference room at Enviro Textiles, Filippone pointed to a file
box filled with papers that she said lay out a broad-based business
plan for hemp agriculture in western Colorado.

But agricultural experts say Colorado is not quite ready for a revived
hemp industry, even it they feel it is a good concept.

"Anytime you have an alternative crop, it can be good for farmers,"
said Pat McCarty, Garfield County agent for Colorado State University

He cited the example of sunflowers, which some have tried to grow as
an alternative to corn, wheat or alfalfa.

Sunflowers grew well on the Western Slope, he said, but there was
nothing set up for processing, shipping or marketing the crop, so it
failed as a source of income for area farmers.

"I guess the same would be true of the hemp crop," he

"I'm sure there's lots and lots of uses for hemp. But, again, it's a
big, bulky product. When you start adding freight costs to the things
we grow here, it becomes prohibitive," he added.

Filippone and Haeske believe hemp could become a cash crop for
Garfield County.

McCarty said local farmers might like to learn more about the crop.
"But we'd have to have a totally different marketing scenario than
anything I've ever seen," he said.

Haeske, however, said the time is right for a pro-hemp

"Right now, we need people contacting their senators and congressmen,
saying they support this new initiative," she declared, so that
Colorado can get out ahead of other states in gearing up a hemp industry. 
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