‘Progress’ seen in changes at U.S. HIA

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Hemp industry stakeholders generally welcomed recently announced changes at the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) – as long-time Executive Director Eric Steenstra was replaced by Colleen Keahey from the HIA’s Tennessee chapter, following a “formal review” by the Association’s board. The changes were first announced in a Jan. 14 statement.

“The hemp industry has been tumultuous for a very long time, but progress is being made,” said Morris Beegle, founder and owner of the Colorado Hemp Company (CHC), and organizer of NoCo Expo, one of the premier U.S.-based hemp industry trade shows. “I think the transition at HIA appointing Colleen Keahey will be positive for the Association and its role within the industry,” Beegle added.

About ‘bigger issues’?

Long-time HIA critic and hemp veteran Richard Rose, a consultant and founder of the Medicinal Hemp Association, had a sharper assessment: “It’s high time to end the HIA blacklist of industry pioneers and leaders,” Rose said. “Heal the rifts and close ranks against the Feds. The industry will be far stronger for it.”

Another long-time observer of the North American and European markets told HempToday: “It was basically a time for change, as I see it. It’s about bigger issues, like moving on to industrial thinking rather than the usual gardening scale production in the U.S., which has been HIA’s default orientation. It’s basically shifting gears, I hope.”

HIA challenging DEA

Keahey arrives at HIA in a bit of a flurry, as the Association has joined with two hemp firms in a suit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency over a recent notice that put American CBD sellers and their customers on edge.

Keahey previously worked with her predecessor, Steenstra, as National Outreach Coordinator with Vote Hemp, a lobbying group, starting in 2014. She later founded the HIA’s Tennessee chapter and worked on development and passage of that state’s hemp law as well as hemp pilot program rules and regulations. She was also previously publisher at a Tennessee non-profit trade association dedicated to rural water industries, according to the HIA’s Jan. 14 release.

New chapter added

Started in 1994, HIA, which is registered in California but works out of a D.C. office, is adding its 15th state chapter in Colorado this month. The other 14, according to HIA’s web site, are: Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia. Total membership is more than 500, according to HIA’s website. HIA is technically set up as a 501(c)(6) non-profit, a trade-group designation.

The changes ongoing at HIA will not disrupt current projects or member services, HIA said. The Association declined HempToday’s request for comment on this story.

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