Sales of hemp products will reach $500 million nationwide in 2015, according to a preliminary analysis by the Boulder-based Hemp Business Journal.
That’s up 25 percent over 2014, when Americans bought about $400 million worth of such hemp-based products as clothing, cosmetics and building materials, the majority of which were imported into the U.S.
That’s likely to change with the legalization of hemp farming, which became legal — again, after a 77-year prohibition — in 2014. Three states accounted for the majority of agricultural hemp in 2015: Colorado (leading the way with 2,000 acres in production) Tennessee (1,000 acres) and Kentucky (922 acres).
No current system exists to track what the hemp is being grown for, but in Colorado at least, the harvest was “primarily” for the non-psychoactive chemical compound cannabidiol (CBD), according to Sean Murphy, publisher of the Hemp Business Journal.
“That’s the real story — the CBD market,” he said. Consumer sales of CBD-infused products, typically for pain relief or anti-inflammatory medicines, are projected to reach $85 million in 2015.
“A couple of years ago, there was no CBD market,” Murphy said. “(Look) how fast that emerged in a year or two.”
More comprehensive data on CBD sales are still forthcoming, but given the share of U.S. hemp coming from Colorado (51 percent) it’s evident that “Colorado is really driving that,” Murphy said.
Some growers have estimated that the growth has been even more explosive.
Industry insiders believe the CBD market is closer to $300 million nationally, said Alexis Korybut, president of Boulder-based CBDRx, a grower and wholesaler of hemp and extracted oils.
“And that’s probably conservative,” he added, conceding that the figure was based on observation and anecdotal evidence rather than hard data. Either way, he thinks the scope of the market is being “vastly underestimated.”
CBDRx, which operates a 132-acre grow in Pueblo and a research and development facility in Longmont, has seen 20 to 30 percent growth each month, Korybut said, and his clients are experiencing similar gains.
“This business continues to surprise to the upside.”
In a pleasant twist, a buyer from the U.K. is in town this week, visiting CBDRx and its competitors to discuss buying Colorado-grown hemp for export to Europe.
“Most of (the hemp in the U.S.) comes from Europe,” Korybut said, “and this is now Europe looking to the U.S. for quality.”
Shay Castle: 303-473-1626, email@example.com, @shayshinecastle