Hemp Shield: The Greenest Solution in Woodstaining
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By Erin Hiatt, photos courtesy of Hemp Shield 


Using a wood finish, in particular for decks and wooden furniture, can serve both form and function. Wood finish can give a rich and beautiful luster while simultaneously keeping out water, protecting from the sun’s rays, slowing down the growth of molds and mildew, giving traction to the surface, and helping ease the cleaning process. But any typical finish found at your local hardware store is bound to be rife with toxic chemicals and pollutants.

However, for the eco-conscious there is a very viable, if not superior, solution. Hemp Shield is a hemp seed oil-based wood finish that may be the greenest on the market. “The thing to understand is that the revolutionary basis of Hemp Shield is the hemp seed oil molecule,” explains David Seber, president of Hemp Shield. “Turns out the hemp seed molecule oil is smaller than all the other molecules that are in oils for coatings. Therefore, not only does it penetrate the wood better, but it causes this amazing synergy among all the other components in the mixture.”

A quick glance at the label of a well-known and ubiquitous Hemp Shield competitor says, “WARNING! This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” One of the ingredients causing such mayhem is ethylene glycol, which can cause intoxication, drowsiness, or coma. Finishes also frequently contain polyurethane that contain isocyanates, considered a potential human carcinogen demonstrated to cause cancer in animal tests. Within isocyanates are VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, that have been shown to induce vomiting, dizziness, lung irritation, asthma and can exacerbate migraines.         


“Starting out, Hemp Shield is a new kind of a coating,” Seber begins, “It’s called a hybrid and it’s waterborne. It’s oil-based but waterborne. The first thing this does, it allows you to eliminate the amount of VOCs.” Seber, who has a long history in the wood and timber industry, wanted to stay in the business but in a way that eased his conscious regarding the environmental ramifications. “I had a redwood lumber yard,” he recalls. “And I felt that I owed dues to the forest.” The myriad uses of hemp first came to Seber’s attention through Jack Herer’s treatise on the plant, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.”

Seber’s work in the lumber business harkens back to the early ‘80s, before the environmental disregard of the Reagan administration and the machinations of Wall Street caused him to reassess the industry. “So I did a study on what we could do to replace the amount of fiber that was taken out of the forest,” he continues. “In a temperate climate, the only one that would do it was hemp.”

Seber co-created Hemp Shield with Steve Neiswander, a former research director for a prominent paint company. “I met Steve in the depths of the recession (of 2008) without [either of us] knowing what the other person did. And the truth of it is that Steve is a world-famous paint chemist who’s been in the business for 30 years,” says Seber. “We collaborated together and Steve took every trick that he learned during his 30-year career and put them into Hemp Shield.”

Neiswander’s paint expertise and Seber’s extensive timber background enabled them to create an environmentally friendly finish that performs as well or better than their less conscientious competitors. ”Hemp Shield was designed consciously,” Seber says. “We established a principal with Hemp Shield of using the greenest components, the highest quality and the highest concentration possible on the market,” Seber explains.

There is a wood finish recipe, so to speak, that creates a synergy among the ingredients to create the final product. Standard Paints, Inc. writes on its website, “stain protection is accomplished mainly by three methods: pigment, vehicle, and bio protections. These three methods are the materials left on and in the wood and endure ongoing exposure to the elements water, temperature fluctuation, and ultraviolet light.”

Pigments, made from rare earth elements, are intended to deflect UV rays known to weaken wood, and absorb certain rays of light. About pigments, Seber explains, “They dig them up and they powder them, then they put them in something for color.” To protect the wood, Hemp Shield’s pigments are processed on a micro level into what Seber describes as a tiny needle-like formation, the same type of system used on Ferrari’s and other expensive cars. This pigment formation directs UV rays sideways, allowing the color and substance of the wood to shine through the sealant.

The “vehicle” is a solvent in which the pigments are suspended, and this is where Hemp Shield can really walk its eco-friendly talk. Seber uses Canadian-sourced hemp seed oil as his vehicle, another method to keep the environmental costs down. The hemp plant is known to grow well in a variety of climates and needs little water, pesticides, or fungicides. It has the additional benefit of being an excellent plant for crop rotation because it replenishes rather than depletes soil like many other crops.

And lastly, biocides, or bio protections, also present in wood finishes, are chemical substances intended to kill harmful organisms like mold and mildew by biological means. “Hemp Shield does have biocides in it,” says Seber. “We’ve tested them for toxicity. Hemp Shield is .00126 parts by volume. That’s less than your body, or my body, or any plant or animal in our environment.”

Seber says that using hemp seed oil helps improve the performance of the other ingredients, and that it’s not just for decks. “You can use it for anything made out of wood,” he says. Hemp Shield has in stock a formula intended for log cabins and can also be used on canvas. “Hemp Shield has no HAP (hazardous air pollutants),” he adds. “There are no fumes to Hemp Shield, you can use it inside.”

Mitigating environmental fallout continues to top Seber’s priority list. “From the very beginning, my main interest has been about the environment and I don’t think we have a lot of decades left before we have to do something heavy duty,” he says. “We don’t have enough time right now to do something about the paper or the textile [issues] before you kill everyone! That’s why I concentrate on Hemp Shield.” ♦



Developing the Future: Sunstrand is Making Construction Greener
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by Matthew Van Deventer


Kentucky-based fiber manufacturer Sunstrand is taking product development into their own hands. 

The company originally focused on processing raw, natural fibers like hemp, kenaf, and bamboo harvested by farmers, working them to the client’s specifications for their own applications. More and more clients went to Sundstrand requesting they develop a proof of concept asking, “Can we offset a traditional synthetic material with our material,” said Patrick Flaherty, a seasoned mechanical engineer and Sunstrand’s director of product development. “So, we’ll play around in the lab.” 

Last December, they started looking at a variety of products they could start developing themselves, ones that would be widely accepted, yet cost effective while still utilizing hemp. They narrowed those down to about six ideas and are planning to launch two of them in the next year, a hemp hurd board and hemp insulation. 

While the two products aren’t necessarily party conversation, they do represent the longtime dream of a fringe industry nearing the mainstream by making quality, everyday hemp products. 

Flaherty says they start off “tensile testing” new products or performing small, basic pressure tests on them to get an understanding of what they need to do next with that product.

“Our whole goal was to meet or beat the existing products out there,” said Flaherty regarding the hurd board. They could have just made any slipshod job of a hemp hurd board because what it’s made of can be harvested every 90 days, as opposed to wood, which is harvested after decades of growth. So even a mediocre product would still be more environmentally friendly. But Sundstrand isn’t into mediocrity. 

Flaherty continued, “But we still have to meet or beat performance metrics. You don’t want to buy it because it’s hemp, you want to buy it because it has value. So we want to make sure it does that.”. 

The hemp-hurd board, which is scheduled to be released in the last quarter of the year, is about 35 pounds and has a “real neat texture,” according to Flaherty. It is competitive in strength and thickness and could be used in building structures, but the four-foot by eight-foot board won’t be cost effective right now at $100 each. It will, however, be comparable to other decorative wall boards on the market or could be used as substrate—walling other materials can be attached to—or used for sound mitigation. 

Their other product they chose to focus on is a hemp-mat insulation. Again, it will be competitive with  other natural-material insulation rolls a builder could put between two-by-fours to insulate a house. Small green builders more apt to spend a little extra for sustainable products will be their target market until their cost point meets the demands of larger box retailers.  

You won’t see it on the shelves next to the fiberglass rolls, “but eventually it could fit on the shelf right next to the other stuff, because currently the cotton shoddy stuff [fits there] as well,” said Flaherty. The R-13 insulation, the value you’ll find at Home Depot or Lowe’s, will come in eight-foot rolls, three inches thick, and 16 inches wide. They expect to release it the first quarter of next year. 

“We narrowed it down to the hurd-board and the insulation basically because no one else is doing it or people have done it in the past but weren’t successful with it, and we felt with our expertise we could be,” noted Flaherty. 

They’ll also be releasing a hemp spray application that can be used in existing fiberglass chopper guns. The device chops up fiberglass material to be sprayed onto surfaces. It creates that web-like surface on things like bathtubs, hot tubs, boats and recreational vehicles. 

Flaherty says an aerospace company is interested in using the hemp spray-up for their tooling — molds that help make other composite parts. Because it’s made out of hemp, more of the material can be sprayed on without making the finished piece too heavy. ♦


Steering 3-D Printing into Hemp Construction
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by DJ Reetz

Depending on whom you ask, hemp-based construction is either the savior of the world, or an impractical dream. The process of mixing milled hemp stalks with lime to create a concrete-like substance has seen some success, but the process remains costly, and the resulting hempcrete is not a true substitute for traditional concrete. A recent proposal to create 3D printed structures made of hempcrete may be addressing at least some of these detractions. The idea has gained attention after winning both the judges’ choice and popular choice award at the MIT Climate CoLab, a crowd-sourced scientific contest aimed at mitigating the impacts of global climate change.

The proposal was put forward by The Ancient Future Mystery People’s Pirate Academy, an organization aimed at empowering the population with locally sourced, environmentally friendly solutions to many of the problems facing the world. Naturally, these goals are well-met through hemp.

“I’d heard of hemp, and I knew that it was cool. I knew it was kind of like pot; I didn’t really know the difference that well,” says Chad Knutsen, the founder and self-described Captain of the Pirate Academy. Knutsen says he was first introduced to the enormous potential of hemp by a friend he met during the Occupy L.A. protests. His travels soon took him to Belize, where working to create an eco-community further exposed him to the potential of hemp. “Right away it became obvious that it was the plant that we needed in the world today to solve so many problems in so many industries. We can turn so much waste into abundance,“ he says. Utilizing hemp would allow for local control of materials, empowerment for farmers, and the wrestling of some control away from government officials. However, hemp farming was illegal in Belize, and the quest lead Knutsen to Colorado.

One of the more noteworthy aspects to come out of the time Knutsen spent in Belize was a unique milling system, which remains an integral part of the CoLab proposal to create hempcrete blocks that can be assembled into homes in a similar fashion to Lego bricks. “With our milling system we’re not using any friction, we’re not using heat, and we’re using very, very little energy,” says Knutsen. Using a patented mill design, pieces of hemp stalk are suspended in fluid then hit with a resonating vibration that breaks the material into extremely small pieces. “It literally vibrates the cells apart and pulls everything apart along natural molecular boundaries,” he says. The process creates micronized particles that have a larger net active surface area, allowing them to form a better bond with the lime particles and create a stronger material. It’s a process that benefits any material put through the milling process, and Knutsen claims that conventional flour refined in this method will have a drastically increased shelf life thanks to the preservation of its cellular structure. The added micronization of the milling can also increase the strength of traditional concrete, says Knutsen.

When used as outlined by the proposal, the resulting hempcrete is denser, heavier, and more importantly, sturdier than traditional forms. This means the hempcrete blocks that are produced can potentially be load-bearing, unlike more traditional forms, which can only be used as filling in a support structure’s frame. The micronized particles also have the added benefit of reducing the time required for the hempcrete to cure, cutting it by half or even two thirds, says Knutsen. “That’s what we’re trying to make possible, making it lighter than normal cement, but maintaining the beneficial properties that hempcrete brings.” Under the proposal, hempcrete blocks will be either printed or poured into molds that have been created using a 3D printer. The blocks will be similar in structure to bone, though on a much larger scale, with material occupying only the areas required to maintain structural integrity. “Either way we go, the 3D printing is a necessary element for creating this style of blocks. But we don’t necessarily plan to 3D print houses every time,” he says.

The resulting material maintains the carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative effect that hempcrete is known for, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere as the hemp grows and continuing this process as the hempcrete petrifies. Additionally, the process of 3D printing, which allows for what Knutsen calls “waste-less construction,” compounds the environmental benefit. Unlike traditional construction methods, material is created in the exact amount needed, avoiding the waste of excess lumber that is seen in traditional home construction. The process also allows for a more mobile construction template. Using a portable mill and the pre-rendered molds, a structure can be constructed anywhere that hemp is grown. “Anyone that has hemp can build a house right on site, without having to leave their property,” says Knutsen.

While the current model relies heavily on hempcrete blocks, Knutsen says he would like to eventually adapt it to create structures using lighter, more durable hemp plastics. “That’s really the end goal, having a super modular, simple form of construction that would last hundreds of years once it’s built,” he says. For the time being, such an idea is still a ways off. Currently, Knutsen is working with hemp producers in Colorado to try and create a verifiable proof of concept. There are certainly still barriers to break, and Knutsen anticipates that the biggest challenge won’t come from the legal status of hemp. “The biggest obstacle is really not regulatory,” he says. “The issue really is the fact that the concrete industry is really one of the most cemented industries — no pun intended — in the world.”

“Our big mission is to start helping people think about the long game,” Knutsen says. “If we can get our society to stop just planning for their lifetime, then I think that’s going to be a really key goal in determining if we’re going to survive as a species.”

Hemp Earth’s Founder Has Soaring Aspirations for the First Hemp Plane
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by DJ Reetz

Hemp is taking flight, literally. The versatile crop is getting a new opportunity to soar thanks to a project from Hemp Earth. The idea: create an airplane made primarily of hemp.

“I wanted come up with something to draw a lot of attention to what we were doing, and to hemp,” says Derek Kesek, founder of Hemp Earth. The project, still in the funding and developmental stage, is attracting a bit of buzz these days, and that’s precisely the intention of doing something this bombastic.

“I discovered no one had ever built a plane of this scale from hemp,” says Kesek. After founding Hemp Earth in 2012, Kesek began to look for opportunities to make headlines with hemp. Already an experienced entrepreneur with a socially conscious inclination, he began a foray into the hemp industry with grand ambitions of changing the world.

Hemp Plane in Production

Hemp Plane in Production

“I’ve always loved cannabis,” he says. “I just saw a huge opportunity.” The potential growth in the hemp industry offered not just the chance to make money, but to make the world a better place along with it. Kesek sought a way to generate buzz around his company, thinking along the lines of Richard Branson (who he has no problem comparing himself to) creating large-scale publicity by doing something daring and over the top.

“We’re running it similar to Virgin. What I’m doing is I’m building a brand by doing exciting things like building planes and eco-villages out of hemp, then sublicensing out the brand,” says Kesek.
But the wild idea of building a plane out of hemp may have been a little too radical, and when he began shopping the idea to various aeronautical designers he was met with snickers and disbelief.

“Of course they laughed at me at first,” he says. “I guess they didn’t think it could be done. They weren’t really receptive.”

After finding many disbelievers, Kesek finally stumbled upon a company in Florida willing to undertake the endeavor, and he signed them to a contract stipulating that no less than 75 percent of the plane will be made of hemp. The design calls for hemp to be used in the wings, outer shell and interior features such as seats and pillows. It even calls for engines capable of running on hemp bio fuel.

The hemp will provide all the strength of traditional construction materials, says Kesek. “It’s pretty well the same,” he says. The hemp fiber is coated in a natural resin that creates a similar rigidity and strength to fiberglass.

“Basically it’s like building a fiber glass plane, it’s the same kind of method,”

Derek Kesek

Derek Kesek

The hemp textile that will make up the outside of the plane is being sourced by Enviro Textiles in Colorado, and in addition to being comparable in strength to fiberglass it comes with the added bonus of being environmentally friendly and will be completely biodegradable along with the resin coating.

“If it did just fall into the bush, then it would just go into the ground and not affect the planet,” says Kesek.

With the plan taking shape, Kesek hopes to have the plane making its debut next spring. And the location of its initial flight is of special significance as it is the site of the first successful flight by the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

“People that were laughing at me in the beginning are now crawling back,” says Kesek. The goals of Hemp Earth to spread awareness for the wealth of applications of hemp as well as its potential for profit are closer to realization than ever before, and Kesek sees the plane as a tangible demonstration of just what hemp will offer in the near future. “When people talk they’re like, ‘hemp can do this,’ or ‘ hemp will do this.’ No, Hemp is doing this right now,” he says.

While others struggle with dogged legal battles, Kesek sees himself as the action over advocacy type — or rather, action as advocacy. Whether it’s the hemp plane or the planned eco village Kesek is putting together in Costa Rica where he plans to headquarter his company, for him a successful business is the best way to change the world.

“I’m about doing things, I’m not about resisting or fighting,” he says. “Why fight the system? Just start doing stuff.”


Has the Cannabis Revolution Spread to Washington D.C.?
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by David Bush, esq.

It is said that revolutions begin in the streets, not in ivory towers. Popular acceptance of cannabis did not start with the federal government, but in spite of it. Twenty-three states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana, while 13 others have legalized limited cannabis extracts for specific therapeutic use. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. Twenty-two states have enacted laws regarding industrial hemp. Over a dozen of them have authorized or intend to authorize commercial hemp production.

We are in the midst of a revolution where state governments are telling their citizens that they may engage in conduct that is still federally illegal. The feds continue to view cannabis, all forms of cannabis, as Schedule I Controlled Substances, the worst of the worst. For all intents and purposes, America is facing one of the greatest continuing acts of mass civil disobedience for the greater good since Paul Revere tattled on the British and ruined their police action to subdue the colonies. It is taking time for the folks in Washington to catch up with the rest of us.

But what is cannabis, anyway? What does it have to do with marijuana and industrial hemp?

Marijuana and industrial hemp are the same plant. Both are cannabis. The Genus cannabis finds expression in three nominal species, or sub-species, respectively called sativa, indica and ruderalis. What we commonly refer to as “marijuana” and “industrial hemp” are merely variants of these sub-species. Marijuana varieties tend to have higher concentrations of delta-9-tetranhydrocannabinol (THC), the stuff that gets people high. Industrial hemp does not. The most well known chemical constituent of cannabis other than THC is cannabidiol, or CBD. Because CBD is non-psychoactive, it is commonly associated with industrial hemp. But CBD can be extracted from any variety of cannabis, regardless of THC content.

Most of the current legislative initiatives at the federal level are directed towards legalizing either industrial hemp, or cannabis used for medical purposes. Medical cannabis products are popularly referred to as either “medical marijuana” or “therapeutic hemp,” generally depending upon whether they are used primarily for the benefits of THC or CBD.

Federal law makes no distinction between varieties of cannabis. Under the current version of the Controlled Substances Act, all varieties of the genus cannabis are considered “marihuana,” without regard to THC content. Certain parts of the cannabis plant that lack significant concentrations of THC and are incapable of propagation are excepted. They include sterilized seeds, oil pressed from seeds, seed residue (“cake”) and mature stalks. But because the cannabis plant itself is still considered a controlled substance, its cultivation is still prohibited, even to make legal products. The current annual value of the hemp industry in America exceeds $500 million and expanding. Almost all of that value derives from raw materials imported from enlightened foreign countries, where hemp cultivation is not only permitted, but encouraged. Congress is facing increasing pressure to allow a home-grown cannabis industry, at least for industrial and medical purposes.

The first crack in the federal legislative armor appeared in 2014, with enactment of section 7606 of the Farm Bill, codified as 7 U.S.C. § 5940, and aptly named “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research.” The Farm Bill authorized state departments of agriculture and institutions of higher education to conduct “agricultural pilot program[s]” and “other agricultural or academic research.” But it permitted research only where the cultivation of hemp was already allowed under state law.

There is a growing movement in Congress to do more. Several proposals have been introduced that will either remove all federal restrictions on industrial hemp, or in the alternative, prevent the federal government from interfering in state-legal industrial hemp activities. Some initiatives extend to marijuana. Four such proposals are discussed below.
Federal Appropriations

The bluntest instrument that Congress can wield in the struggle to reform cannabis laws is simply to prevent them from being enforced. Three initiatives recently approved in the House of Representatives would deny funding to the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration to interfere with state-legal cannabis activities. The initiatives came in the form of amendments to H.R. 2578, an appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce and Justice for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The first amendment protects state-legal industrial hemp farming. The second guards industrial hemp research and development carried out under the Farm Bill. The third prohibits federal interference with the possession, distribution or use of CBD in states where it is legal. These measures do nothing to change the legal status of cannabis and, if signed into law, would last only as long as the fiscal year. But they are a step in the right direction.

Industrial Hemp Farming Act

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced in both the House (HR 525) and Senate (S 134). It seeks to create an exception under the Controlled Substances Act for industrial hemp, which is defined as cannabis with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. HR 525 has 56 co-sponsors, including 37 Democrats and 19 Republicans. S 134 has six co-sponsors, two Democrats and four Republicans.

Therapeutic Hemp (Charlotte’s Web) Medical Access Act

Like the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, the Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act (HR 1635) and the Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act (S 1333) aim to carve industrial hemp out of the Controlled Substances Act. But they coined a new term for industrial hemp by calling it a “cannabidiol-rich plant.” Curiously, the term is defined in the same way that industrial hemp is defined in the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, without any reference to CBD concentration. “Cannabidiol” is defined as CBD extracted from a “cannabidiol-rich plant.” Any CBD produced from marijuana varieties continues to be considered a Schedule I Controlled Substance. The bill would effectively grant industrial hemp growers a monopoly in the rapidly growing market for CBD products.

Respect State Marijuana Law Act

The simplest and undeniably the most radical proposal currently before Congress is HR 1940, called the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015.” The bill would render the Controlled Substances Act inapplicable to “any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.” It would effectively force federal recognition and acceptance of any state law legitimizing recreational marijuana, medical marijuana and industrial and therapeutic hemp. HR 1940 has 11 co-sponsors, six Democrats and five Republicans.

None of the legislative measures described above have been scheduled for hearings in the committees to which they are assigned. Prospects for passage of any them in the 114th Congress are low, but the mere fact that they have been introduced with bipartisan support and multiple co-sponsors is cause for optimism and hope. The federal government has not yet caught up with the rest of America in declaring its self-destructive drug wars at an end. Legitimate cannabis industries in this country are still in their infancy. Reform of our oppressive, illogical and anti-business drug laws still has a very long way to go, but change is coming. Stay tuned.

Hemp Phoenix
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by DJ Reetz

Up a winding mountain road, hidden among the charred pines left behind by the High Park fire, an otherwise innocuous construction site surrounds a cabin being built. Here, in the foothills outside of Ft. Collins, this particular cabin carries a distinction from the others in the area that share its sweeping views over the small town of Laporte and out to the plains, this one is being made using hemp.

“It’s practically impervious to everything,” says Melissa Rabe, CEO of the Loveland Hemp Company that’s providing the materials and one of the small group of people on site, as she pounds on the rough, grey material that makes up the cabin walls.

The modest cabin is constructed from a wooden frame, using the fire-cured standing timber from the surrounding area that gives even the interior space an exterior feel, but the truly noteworthy aspect of the cabin is the otherwise unremarkable grey material that is packed into the frame forming the building’s walls. It’s hemp, mixed with lime to form a sturdy, insulative, stucco-like wall.

“This whole thing will become like one piece of stone,” says Rabe. As the hemp and lime cures, it will absorb the CO2 from the atmosphere, creating a strong, and fire-resistant insulating wall. All it will need is a coat of stucco.

HEmp Cabin5

The project began after the landowner made the hard decision to rebuild the cabin he had lost in 2012 during the High Park fire. At the time, the fire was the second largest the state had seen, and homes in this densely forested area stood little chance to withstand the quickly spreading fire driven by high winds. The cabin’s owner, a longtime friend of Rabe’s, had owned the land since 1975, and the loss of his mountain retreat was heart breaking.

“We were able to do stuff up here and enjoy the land before it burned,” says Rabe. “He was very disheartened when it burned.”

Fortunately, Rabe, a hemp advocate and entrepreneur, was in a position to help. While not a strictly charitable endeavor, building the house out of hemp would be an opportunity not just to help a friend, but also to demonstrate the power and applications of hemp.

“On the one hand we’re helping a buddy out,” says Rabe. “On the other hand, it’s to show people what hemp can do. This is really our proof of concept.”

In March of last year construction began and a foundation was set. After some of the nearby dried timbers were lugged over by hand and set in place creating the natural frame, the process of creating the walls began. For this, roughly 8,000 pounds of processed hemp hurd is needed. The hurd is made up of processed hemp stalk and fiber, and looks a bit like wood chips, though it is much softer to the touch and less likely to give you splinters when handled. The hurd is mixed with lime and water in a ratio that is dependant on environmental factors of the area, and up here in the Colorado foothills, extreme cold can give way to blaring sun in a matter of days or even hours. It makes the process tricky, but Rabe says experimentation is key.

HEmp Cabin4

The hurd lime mixture is then poured into molds secured between the supports of the house and packed down to ensure it is dense enough. This is also made more difficult by the natural shape of the adjacently sourced wood, which requires the molds to be carefully trimmed to ensure the finished walls will be a uniform nine inches thick. After it has been allowed to cure the hemp is coated in a plaster stucco mix that the team incorporates hemp hurd into as well.

The end result is a sturdy wall that naturally dampens sound, is easily repaired, provides exceptional climate control due to its breathability, and is even resistant to fire.
“It’s a lot like sculpting a house,” says Rabe. “It’s fun, it’s creative.”

“It’s one of those things that’s just really hard to screw up, like an oatmeal cookie,” says Josh Rabe, husband, business partner and construction assistant to Melissa. “It’s a natural building process, you really just have to try it.”HEmp Cabin3

Because of the variable and climate dependent nature of the hemp walls, a lot of builders will be intimidated by the process as there really is no definitive formula to follow, says Josh. But with a bit of experimentation and a willingness to let the process play out organically it really isn’t too hard to figure out, though he says he does recommend retaining an engineer as they have.

For now, the hemp being used comes from foreign sources, which for the time being is about half the cost of the limited amounts of domestic hemp. But Rabe says she foresees a time when the hemp used in these projects is sourced from Kentucky or Colorado.

HEmp Cabin2

The process is also more costly than some traditional construction methods due to the increased labor necessary to prepare the hemp walls, and the cost of the lime needed also plays a factor.
But so far, the project is shaping up to be quite a success, and if all goes as planned the cabin should be ready for occupancy this summer.

If you’re interested in learning about hemp construction be sure to check out the upcoming workshop Loveland Hemp Company is putting on June 13. Check out their Facebook page for details.


When it Comes to Hemp the Seeds of Change are Still Hard to Come By
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by DJ Reetz

A year and a half into Colorado’s legal adult-use marijuana sales and the market is rolling along. With shops open and tax dollars pouring in, the marijuana market seems to be living up to the promises made by Amendment 64. But while the psychoactive and medicinal aspects of marijuana are being seen as a success by nearly everyone involved, the promise of domestically produced industrial hemp remains largely unfulfilled.

With no definitive source of seed, farmers in Colorado are still lacking the essential jumping off point to truly get the domestic hemp industry started. With the legal framework already laid out by Colorado’s Amendment 64 and codified federally by the recent passage of the Farm Bill, hemp farming on an agricultural scale remains on the cusp of realization in the state, yet the crucial issue of seed remains tantalizingly out of reach.

“Right now hemp is in the baby stages of certification,” says Rick Novak, Director of Seed Programs at Colorado State University. Currently, CSU is the designated recipient of hemp seed bound for Colorado from recognized foreign sources, where the university’s highly acclaimed agricultural department will begin the process of certifying seed for farmers to use.

For most crops, certified seed is an important facet of commercial farming. Certification means seed is recognized as safe to plant by the Department of Agriculture, indicating the seed has gone through the rigorous testing necessary to ensure it is free of disease and is not carrying any noxious weeds that would potentially overtake a farmer’s crop, and currently no such certification exists for hemp within the United States. This poses a problem for many farmers, who may be years away from being able to purchase and grow such seeds.

For certified seed to become a reality, the first step is importation of seed from recognized sources, such as Canadian and European seed breeders. If ownership and genetic lineage can be tracked, the imported seed begins life in the CSU Foundation Seed Lab, where plants can be tested to ensure they are under the legally mandated .3 percent THC threshold and for any genetic aberrations. Once the seed has been demonstrated to be safe for planting, the foundation level seeds can then be sold to farmers as registered seed, which will then be shipped to farmers all over the state. After successful harvest and inspection, the registered seed will be designated as certified, and can be sold as such, giving farmers access to seed that is demonstrated as viable and safe to plant.

The process is the same for all agricultural crops, the only real difference with hemp being the added regulation of THC levels, says Novak. “It doesn’t happen overnight as some people may think, and hemp won’t be much different,” he says.

For seed to be certified it must have a clearly identified genetic lineage and ownership. The seed must also have a clear variety detail, meaning plants grown from it must be botanically identifiable and unique beyond the simple fiber or seed variations that most people think of when it comes to industrial hemp.

“This is really the issue that the hemp industry has,” says Novak. “The problem going on right now is people have acquired seed from all over the world, we don’t know who owns what variety.”Without this clearly mapped out source, there is no path to certification, so farmers who have already planted and harvested hemp crops from smuggled or wild seed would not ever be able to have their seed certified, says Novak.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well I can go out to Kansas or Nebraska and I can harvest a plant and I can plant that,’” says Novak, but wild hemp will never be certified for this reason, and any seeds generated will never be marketable as such.

If these stringent requirements of ownership and lineage are established, the next step in the certification process is demonstrating to state officials that the seed in question will never yield plants with a THC level above .3 percent by weight when dry. For this, the seed will have to be tested in multiple environments throughout the state, as differing environmental factors can lead to different levels of THC. Test crops will need to be planted at different latitudes and elevations to ensure that the seeds will yield legal plants in any environment, a consequence of the extreme genetic variation within the cannabis species and the varying climate of the state.

When all these factors are considered, the timeline for certified seed to be available to farmers stretches years into the future.

“We know nothing in this state because we haven’t done the testing. Everything is what someone believes,” says Duane Sinning, Assistant Director of Plant Industries and Program Manager for Industrial Hemp with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “Until we trial it here we really don’t know what’s best.”

“The earliest we could do inspections is minimum two, probably three years,” says Novak. However, Novak and Sinning both agree that if a foreign source could bring their established genetics to Colorado the certification process could be shaved down to two years, provided they are the recognized owners of the seed variety.

“Three years is what I would of told you two weeks ago,” says Sinning. “It could be sooner if somebody can take the risk.”

“In order to get up to speed you’re going to have to attract companies that are willing to do research and development into varieties,” says Novak. “The industry won’t be sustainable for a long period of time if it’s just a bunch of wild plant material.”

“In the mean time there’s nothing stopping [farmers] from growing or selling their crop,” says Novak.

“It doesn’t mean the industry stops, it just means it continues with some testing constraints,” says Sinning.

Some farmers in Colorado are already licensed and growing hemp, albeit without certified seed.

“I think it’s overemphasized,” Alfonso Abeyta, a fourth-generation farmer in the San Luis Valley who sits on the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Hemp Rules and Regulations Board and currently holds a license to grow hemp. Currently, Abeyta is growing uncertified seed, which carries a certain risk. “It’s a gamble it won’t grow,” he says, and it’s also a gamble that what’s being grown will have an acceptably low level of THC. “Right now, what we’re growing we’re testing on a monthly basis,” he says.

The continual testing of THC levels is something farmers wouldn’t have to deal with if they were to grow certified seed, says Sinning. Certified seed would provide not just an assurance of quality, but also allow regulators the assurance of acceptable levels of THC. But without certified seed, farmers are left to contend with regular testing and the possibility of planting a field of unusable and possibly diseased hemp.

“That’s a really scary part for farmers currently,” says Novak. In this regard, having access to certified seed would function as a form of crop insurance, guaranteeing that farmers would be able to grow a crop that they wouldn’t have to cut down prematurely due to rising THC levels as the plants develop. It would also mean a lesser burden on regulators, who wouldn’t be compelled to inspect crops, according to Sinning.

“If you’re growing certified seed you don’t have to worry about that,” says Sinning. “On a whole different level it means that the seed is free of noxious weeds and disease. It’s really to provide some safety for all other agriculture in the state […] Nothing would be worse than hemp having a pest and moving that around the state,” he says. “That would be a huge black eye for the industry.”
While farmers and agricultural scientists may view hemp as just another potential crop, the newly legal status of hemp poses some obvious challenges.

“It is a slow process, and really it’s because the DEA are used to drugs and they view this as a drug,” says Sinning. Problems with the importation of hemp seed have delayed the process, says Sinning, and that could push back large-scale industrial hemp farming. As of this writing there were no imported seeds held by the Colorado Department of Agriculture according to Sinning, which means nothing that would be headed to CSU to be used as foundation seed and nothing to be sold to farmers for registration and eventual certification.

However, the chokepoint of DEA oversight has been cleared, according to Sinning, and It’s just a matter of the routine inspection by Customs and Border Control officials for pests, disease and other potential biological contaminants.

“It’s going through the same checks as any other seed would,” says Sinning.

With any luck, the seed will have cleared these checks and already be in the ground by the time this article is in newsstands and the arduous process of crating reliable, certified hemp seed will have begun.

“There are still many hurdles to clear,” says Sinning. Hopefully the largest of these hurdles has been cleared, and domestically produced hemp on a truly agricultural scale will be possible in the next several years.

Biorefinery Technology Developer PureVision To Pursue Industrial Hemp Biorefining—Creates PureHemp
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FORT LUPTON, Colo. – March 12, 2015 – PureVision Technology, Inc., a Colorado-based biorefinery technology developer, announced today that it has formed a subsidiary company to promote and develop industrial hemp biorefineries.

The subsidiary, PureHemp Technology LLC, has obtained exclusive rights to the PureVision biorefining technology for processing industrial hemp into traditional and never-before-produced products.

On behalf of PureHemp, PureVision is conducting a robust pre-commercialization program—using its laboratories and pilot plant and a milestone-based approach—to target a path to profitable commercial-scale hemp biorefineries.

PureVision’s patented refining technology takes in raw biomass—like corn stalks, wheat straw, or, in PureHemp’s case, industrial hemp—and produces sugars, pulp, and lignin for making hundreds of bio-products.  PureVision’s process has advanced from proof of concept, to bench scale, to an operating one-half-ton-per-day continuous pilot plant at the company’s Fort Lupton headquarters.

The company has processed many different biomass feedstocks for global clients, most recently conducting initial trials on industrial hemp.

“The PureHemp initiative offers new business opportunities for farmers, end-product manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and investors,” said Carl Lehrburger, a PureVision and PureHemp cofounder.

“The PureVision technology offers an entirely new way to process industrial hemp into consumer and industrial products,” he said.

“In Colorado, Oregon, and the 19 other states permitted to grow industrial hemp, we’re seeing increasing awareness and interest by farmers and skyrocketing demand for hemp-based products.  Emerging products include food supple­ments and sweeteners, specialty chemicals, papers and tissues, plastics, lightweight composites, and the many other products that can be sustainably made from the hemp plant.”

Presently, nearly all the hemp seeds, oil, and fiber imported to the United States are from countries like Canada and China.

Current practices of cultivating and harvesting industrial hemp result in significant underutilization of the whole plant.  The traditional applications of industrial hemp are fiber for rope and textiles, pulp for paper, and seeds for oils for food products and animal feed.  Once fiber and seeds are removed, the remainder of the plant is often underutilized.

PureHemp plans to revolutionize the existing global hemp industry by uniquely converting more of the plant to value-added raw materials and products.  New products that can be produced from industrial hemp include beverages, plastics, chemicals, and sweeteners.

“The emergence of a new generation of hemp products, along with the U.S. trend toward legalizing industrial hemp cultivation, are driving forces behind the creation of PureHemp,” Lehrburger said.

For additional information, visit: and

About PureHemp Technology

A wholly owned subsidiary of PureVision Technology LLC, PureHemp Technology LLC’s mission is to commercialize PureVision’s biorefinery technology for converting industrial hemp to sugars, lignin, pulp, and many hemp-based products.  Industrial hemp is the world's premier renewable resource, approximately four times richer in biomass/cellulose per acre than nearest rivals: corn stalks, sugarcane, kenaf.  The 2014 Farm Bill allowed pilot programs of hemp cultivation by universities and agencies in states where hemp is legal: 10 at the time including Colorado, and now 21.  The bill defines industrial hemp as Cannabis sativa L. “with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis."  By contrast, marijuana—a variety of the same plant—has THC levels of five to 20 percent.  Canada lifted its ban on industrial hemp in 1998; now, a billion-dollar industry there and a growing piece of worldwide annual production, approximately 123 million pounds in 2014.

About PureVision Technology

PureVision Technology, Inc. is developing an advanced biorefining technology platform for converting nonfood biomass—straw, corn husks, industrial hemp—to biomaterials like sugar, pulp, and lignin for producing bio-based consumer and industrial products.  Bio-based products from PureVision sugars include ethanol, polymers, and biodegradable/renewable plastics.  Value-added co-products from the unique PureVision lignin biomaterial include carbon fiber for making lightweight composites.  Nonfood biomass, or cellulosic biomass, refers to wood, grasses, or the inedible parts of plants.  Cellulose and lignin are the most common organic (carbon-containing) compounds on earth.  Based in Fort Lupton, Colorado, PureVision Technology was founded in 1992 to develop technologies for refining cellulosic biomass.  The company remains privately held and is led by its three founders: Ed Lehrburger, Richard Wingerson, and Carl Lehrburger.

The Big Red Nation Goes Green
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by Erin Hiatt

State lawmakers often shy away from growing industrial hemp within their borders, citing its relationship to the psychoactive marijuana plant. The state of Nebraska took a stab at approving industrial hemp but was unsuccessful 13 years ago. During this year’s session, Nebraska State Senator Norm Wallman introduced a bill to allow production and marketing of industrial hemp and it cruised through virtually unopposed, 39-2. It seems the winds in Nebraska have changed. But have they?

Legislative Bill 1001 made the harvest of industrial hemp legal in the Cornhusker state thanks to Provision 7606 in the 2014 Farm Bill President Obama signed. This provision allows for institutions of higher learning, like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to grow and study industrial hemp without federal interference.

Senator Wallman introduced the bill with the intention of using industrial hemp to streamline and improve crop rotations, but he expanded his views to see that the harvest of industrial hemp could potentially be very lucrative for Nebraska farmers. Timothy Kettler, a soil scientist in the Department of Agronomy & Horticulture at UNL agrees with Wallman, telling The Daily Nebraskan that "crop rotation helps to break disease cycles that can be debilitating to a farmer’s yield. Hemp would provide a new, more profitable plant to rotate in fields."

Some who opposed the bill trotted out the predictable objections, claiming that growing hemp is simply done to disguise marijuana grows and also offering up the "slippery slope" argument, that having industrial hemp crops in Nebraska will be the first step toward a legal cannabis market, like those in Washington and Colorado.

Naysayers may have a few reasonable arguments, however. Nebraska shares their southwestern border with Colorado and reported that Nebraska law enforcement is having a difficult time with Colorado cannabis. Reports paint a picture of legal (in Colorado, that is) marijuana flooding the Nebraska market, law enforcement being diverted from serious drugs like methamphetamine and just generally being run ragged by lack of resources and manpower.

Nebraska Senator Steve Lathrop, who was a full supporter of the bill and debated it on the Senate floor, very thoughtfully reassured the dissenters, saying firmly that "the state of Nebraska is not getting into the business of marijuana like they are in Colorado."

Lathrop continued with his very practical approach saying, "This is actually a commodity. It has certain properties that make it very useful in the manufacturing of a variety of products."

As for addressing those who say you can hide marijuana plants in a hemp field, he says, "If hemp pollinates any nearby marijuana plants, genetically, the result will always be lower-THC marijuana, not higher-THC hemp. This stuff will ruin a marijuana crop if it’s in the same location."

It went through the Senate like a slam-dunk but that hasn’t given the green light for the bill to be put in effect. Last May, author Steve Elliott wrote, "Nebraska won’t be harvesting a legal hemp crop this fall, despite the Legislature’s passage of a law allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp for research. State bureaucrats at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture are still working on the rules."

The Department of Agriculture wants to research the industrial hemp programs of other states before moving ahead and adopting rules to support the Farm Bill provision. Agriculture Department spokeswoman Christin Kamm summed it up pretty succinctly, saying in an email to the Lincoln Star, "There will be no hemp research projects initiated under a program this year." A bummer of a stall tactic, but there’s always next spring. Nebraska’s waited 13 years, what’s one more?






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