GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A locally based industrial hemp and natural fibers company announced recently that it has earned a place on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "BioPreferred Program."
That means the company, EnviroTextiles LLC, is approved to sell and promote hemp products to buyers that can include the U.S. government.
But company president Barbara Filippone said on Wednesday that she is stymied by a lack of cooperation from local banks, who do not want to loan her the capital needed to enable her to fulfill large government contracts and other orders.
Filippone, who has worked in China and other nations on hemp-related industrial and economic development, has long championed a U.S.-based hemp industry as vital to the country's economy.
She told the Post Independent that the Chinese army, as one example of a large-scale use for hemp, has abandoned cotton for its military clothing and switched to hemp, which she said is more durable, resistant to sweat and more comfortable over long periods.
Hemp was an important U.S. crop until the 1930s for making rope, clothing and other textiles as well as industrial products.
But hemp became entangled in the then-new federal anti-marijuana crusades, largely because federal agents were unable to easily tell the difference between the two plant types.
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, according to many scientific analyses.
Voters in Colorado and Washington last year approved laws allowing for the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp as well as recreational marijuana.
Hemp, like marijuana, remains illegal under federal law.
Colorado farm-industry officials have said they would support the production of hemp as an alternative crop in Colorado, but are wary of federal enforcement agencies putting them out of business and confiscating their lands.
Generally, Filippone said in a prepared statement concerning the FDA announcement, "It should be noted that the U.S. is one of the world's largest consumers of hemp-derived products."
She maintained that "hemp has over 25,000 uses including variations of food, fuel, feed and fiber," and could provide a significant boost to the economy of the U.S. and Colorado in particular.
Filippone, who has been promoting hemp and natural fibers for the past 19 years and has been in business at 3214 S. Grand Ave. in Glenwood Springs for six years, said she plans to continue looking for financing and lobbying for a change in state and federal laws to make a viable hemp industry a reality in Colorado.