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Blacksburg lab looks to play key role in growing hemp industry

Rebecca Hobden walked toward the rear of her lab and returned with a ziplock bag of hemp.

The crop and its derivatives are what she and her staff analyze on a regular basis at the ECC Test Lab in the Blacksburg Industrial Park.

Hobden is the CEO and founder of ECC (East Coast Cannalytics), which first launched more than a year ago out of a sub-leased space at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

ECC has since grown its staff to three full-time and one part-time, and in January moved just across South Main Street to another facility at the industrial park. The company now works out of an approximately 2,400-square-foot lab — a space more than four times the size of its first home.

Hobden, a chemical engineer with a background in renewable energy, recalled her reasons for starting the operation.

“I was interested in entering this high-growth market,” she said. “The need for a testing lab has become very apparent.”

ECC is one of many firms seeking to gain footing in an industry that is rapidly growing and legally evolving in Virginia and other parts of the country.

The federal government legalized industrial hemp in late 2018 — as long it has a tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, level of no more than .3% — and regulations at the state level have since followed.

Citing data from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, The Roanoke Times reported in July of 2019 that the state had 161 registered industrial hemp processors and 36 dealers.

Virginia, as of this past week, has 195 registered processors and 143 registered dealers, according to VDACS data.

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