Webinar Q&A from Growing the Hemp Industry

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I was in Colorado last week for the first webinar session of SCALE: Growing the Hemp Industry. I want to thank our host, Ellis Smith of American Cannabis Consulting and our guest, Carl Lehrburger of PureHemp Technology. This was a fantastic presentation! We ran out of time to answer all questions from our audience, but Carl was kind enough to send the following responses:

Audience: Hi Carl- recently I was tagged in a meme of Ed holding a roll of hemp TP. What is the price point comparison between tree-based toilet paper and that made from hemp?

CL: It’s not so much a question of price point as it is the scale of production. At around 250-ton per day scale of operations, pulping hemp stalks using PureHemp Continuous CounterCurrent Reactor (CCR) technology is competitive with the cost of conventional pulping. There are many nuances of processing hemp compared to wood feedstocks, but no show stoppers I am aware of outside the capabilities of the pup & paper industry with some experience making hemp paper on large paper machines. With pulping operations at or over 250-tons per day the cost of pulping/processing hemp becomes competitive. Price point comparison also must address the pulp blend, which in the beginning would not likely be 100% hemp pulp. Also consider the cost of the feedstock, wood vs. hemp stalks. Wood chips will likely remain less expensive than wood chips for some time until the hemp industry can produce and provide comparable quantities and qualities of feedstock. Bottom line, hemp pulp will be more expensive than conventional wood pulp until large pulp mills begin using hemp as a feedstock.

Audience: In states where cannabis is legal do you still need to have THC levels below 0.3%?

CL: Cannabis includes both marijuana and industrial hemp. In most states where hemp is legal to grow the THC threshold is 0.3% THC and anything over 0.3% THC is consider and regulated as MJ. In states where marijuana is legal, hemp and MJ are regulated differently and often by different agencies. The main point is: in most situations, cannabis above 0.3% THC is considered MJ and regulated under state marijuana laws.

Audience: What is involved in getting FDA compliance for a CBD CPG company? Specifically regarding manufacturing/producing consumables with isolate and distillate?

CL: Not sure what CPG company is. One begins by defining the operation and end products and determining the governing regulations (municipal, state and federal). If it is being ingested into the body and a dietary supplement, it is not technically required to be produced in a FDA certified clean room. However, it can protects the producer from consumer claims and provides credible documentation to customers that the product is made in a certified lab. Also it is a wise move in case FDA compliance becomes mandated in the future. FDA and Good Manufacturing Process certification is not easy to obtain and many if not most companies hire a 3rd party firm who are certified and specialize in FDA compliance, approval and yearly maintenance of certification status.

Audience: Are basts from green versus retted stalks as strong?

CL: Green bast fiber is stronger and more desirable from quality of the fiber. However, heretofore processing green fiber is much more difficult than processing retted (cured fiber). In some applications (rope) it may not matter; but for other end products (textiles) green fiber seems to be a superior fiber.

Audience: Are hemp plastics biodegradable?

CL: Plastics, bio- or conventional-plastics can be formulated to be degradable OR recyclable/reusable. This characteristic has to be specified by the client. For example, a biodegradable plastic bottle will contaminate the recycling stream. Conversely, product made to be reused many times is not likely to be biodegrable. The product developer has to specify this quality as part of the product formulation process, which will designed to perform accordingly.

Audience: Thank you Carl... very informative and exciting new markets. In eastern Canada we have about 300 acres of hemp, getting hearts, oil, and flour have been created with existing infrastructure from seeders to combines to cold press oil mills and small flour mills. So far CBD extraction is not permitted.

CL: Yep, you Canadians own the market. We’re definitely in catchup mode on having infrastructure and production capabilities. My company is looking for a Canadian partner to help us establish seed processing operations, while offering opportunities for Canadians to JV and expand into the US market.

Audience: Can you clarify difference between seed and flower oil in terms of CBD/THC content

CL: It’s simple. There are two distinct “oil” products from cannabis: seed oil, which contains no cannabinoids (no THC or CBD); and the oils produced by flowers during extraction containing the cannabinoids (THC and/or CBD). For flower extracts, the ratio between CBD and THC (and any and all other cannabinoids) is directly proportional to the cultivar (hemp variety) being grown and it’s assay/cannabinoid constituents.

Audience: Can hemp stalks come to PA

CL: I was under the impression PA had legalized hemp, so as growers grow hemp the stalks will be coming. The question remains: who will buy/process them. Without infrastructure (stalk processing equipment/facilities) most of the stalks will go to waste and/or be left in the field. It usually doesn’t make sense to ship hemp stalks long distances and we suggest anything over 50 miles doesn’t make economic sense; however Colorado growers have traveled up to 100 miles one way to delivered stalks to our facility. Stalk processing is more of a decentralized operation that should be conducted near the source of supply. We’ve pitched working with PA stakeholders to design/finance/develop and operate hemp processing facilities but to date no one has indicated a willingness to invest resources in making it happen in PA.
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