By Maryann Lavelle
Veronica Carpio, a Colorado native, was born on 4/20 and, coincidence or not, the focus of her life has been with all things cannabis. In 2009, at age 31 and with the approval of the local chief of police, she opened a medical marijuana center in LaFayette, Colorado, called 420 Highways. She said that by doing so she became one of the first dispensary owners in the state, as well as the first female dispensary owner without investors or partners. She invested a lot of money and ultimately lost a lot of money. She decided to close that shop in 2011 when rules and regulations went into effect. About five months later she was a target in a police bust that ended with her taking a plea for felony possession of marijuana.
Being a single mom, she had to find work and, because she had always been self-employed, she opened a store called The Front—the name intended as taunt to the police. The Front was a tea and art shop where she allowed cannabis consumption. Because she had a felony on her record and was on probation, she could no longer sell or distribute marijuana, so the venue was bring-your-own. Eventually that was shut down and she began serving homemade hemp teas and coffees. That led her to try to grow hemp, and to learn the differences between hemp and marijuana (hemp is cannabis with less than 0.3% THC).
Once the regulatory system opened up so anyone could grow hemp, hemp seed was unavailable. There also was no education about hemp and few knew anything about growing it. Veronica said that she became the first registered female hemp farmer and one of the first three people growing hemp in the country.
In 2014, Veronica put together a website, GrowHempColorado.com and began sharing and gathering information and finding resources. The website is open-source and others are encouraged to share anything hemp. She also created a website—similar to a popular list site—and called it HempsList.org. It is a type of hemp marketplace. Veronica now has the largest hemp seed exchange in the state.
With business, hopefully, comes sales and income. The ability to bank is essential to the industry, but due to over-regulation, transactions are in cash and banks, credit card companies and even places like PayPal won’t deal with monies derived from cannabis industries. Veronica started to look into bitcoin for a processing solution. She even has a motto, “Join the Evolution”, which is about finding a way to buy and pay for products/services outside of physical currency.
Veronica says the biggest obstacle is that many hemp farmers and older generations do not understand the concept. To them it sounds far-fetched and possibly illegal. To work on solving this problem, she joined with hemp farmer and cannabis advocate Edgar Hemm to create a site, 1620 Solutions, to educate and clarify misconceptions that hemp farmers or purchasers may have about the bitcoin application.
Veronica says that hemp legalization has created a lot of other blockades that she is working with fellow activists to get over. They are currently writing a hemp foods bill to ensure that naturally occurring cannabinoids, compounds and derivatives from the hemp plant for human consumption and other uses are protected from big Pharma.
Looking toward the future, Veronica hopes to be involved with the progression of seed certification programs to help avoid growing seeds that will go over 0.3% THC. Her priority, though, is to ensure that all parts of the plant are treated like corn or carrots, for example—foods without specific regulations or guidelines outside of the food arena.
Hemp contains many non-psychoactive cannabinoids that may help the human endocannabinoid system. At this level of agriculture, different methods of extraction are needed when tons of hemp are processed.
Veronica believes that those in the hemp market should avoid focusing on medical aspects because of current regulations; hemp should be dealt with as an agricultural product and not a controlled substance.That may not occur, though, because GW Pharmaceuticals, with the backing of the DEA and FDA, is close to launching their federally-patented product that relies on CBD from hemp.
The bottom line is the money.