Ryan Loflin's hemp seeds are divided into two parts, the lighter seeds yielding better plants and the darker ones producing hemp oil. (AAron Ontiveroz, Denver Post file)

Surrounded by hemp: Plan to use Colorado crop for building insulation

Colorado’s nascent hemp industry may get a boost from a grower’s plan to use hemp stalks for insulation. Baca County farmer Ryan Loflin said Monday he has formed a partnership with Hollis, Okla.-based Western Fibers for combining processed hemp stalks with recycled newspapers and cardboard to create wall and ceiling insulation.

Hemp is genetically related to marijuana but contains little or no THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana. Hemp has dozens of uses in food, cosmetics, clothing and industrial materials.

Commercial cultivation of hemp became legal in Colorado under Amendment 64, better known as the law that authorized retail sales of marijuana. Analysts say hemp’s potential to become a significant crop hinges on establishing in-state industrial uses for its seed and fiber.

“This could really help get the industry going,” said Loflin, who in 2013 planted the nation’s first commercial hemp crop in almost 56 years. “Until now, there really hasn’t been an industrial infrastructure for hemp in Colorado.”

Loflin said his company, Rocky Mountain Hemp, will use a farm building near Springfield in southeastern Colorado to shred hemp stalks into small pieces suitable for insulation, then mixed with cardboard and newsprint.

Western Fibers is working on a prototype of the material. Commercial sales could begin by later this year, said Western owner Mike McGuire. Loflin said he will employ three to six workers at the Springfield facility, depending on sales growth.

“Anytime we can bring in a business and create jobs for the county, that’s a very good thing,” said Sheila Crane, executive director of Baca County Economic Development.

Crane said southeastern Colorado is gaining momentum in the hemp industry. Last month, Whole Hemp Co. of Colorado Springs said it will convert a vacant building in La Junta into a hemp growing and processing facility with 30 to 40 workers initially.

According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, there are 159 registered hemp growers in the state who have filed to plant 2,648 acres this year.

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, sraabe@denverpost.com or twitter.com/steveraabedp

This story was first published on DenverPost.com