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Hemp Economy Brings Jobs, Investment To Missoula

A lab at Socoti Montana, a Missoula hemp processing business.
Erika Peterman
Socoti Montana
A lab at Socoti Montana, a Missoula hemp processing business.

An Oregon company has acquired a Missoula-based biotech firm to help meet ballooning consumer demand for CBD and other hemp products.

Since passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is legal to grow again. Its various byproducts are big business, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

And now Missoula’s Blue Marble Biomaterials is part of the hemp economy. It’s changed its name to Socati Montana. Socati, a Woodburn, Oregon-based company specializing in hemp genetics, acquired Blue Marble a couple of weeks ago. Terms of the deal were not released.

"I think it’s a really good thing for Missoula and Montana because Socati’s going to do hefty investments not only in staff, but in improvements to this facility to make it best in class, a globally recognized facility," says Socati Montana’s general manager James Stephens, who until recently was Blue Marble’s CEO.

Since 2007, Blue Marble locally produced natural compounds for global food, fragrance and cosmetic industries. That same know-how will now be used to produce THC-free versions of popular hemp-based products like CBD. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that gets people high.

"And lots of consumers don’t want to consume THC, whether they’re worried about physiological effects, whether they're worried about effects with their employers," Stephens says. "So having an option where they can have something where there’s no detectable THC in it just kind of really starts to deliver what the consumer wants."

Non-detectable levels of THC may also help reassure companies who want to break into the lucrative hemp product market, but who are also wary of a Food and Drug Administration which has not yet clarified its position on certain hemp extract products.

Credit Erika Peterman / Socati Montana
Socati Montana

Socati Montana, one of the few hemp processing facilities in the United States, plans to use domestic hemp crops, including hemp grown here in Montana.

Stephens says the Missoula plant plans to hire up to 40 additional staff over the next 3 to 5 months. That’s up from 11 employees most recently.

When upgrades and expansions are complete by fall, the company says it will be capable of processing about 10 tons of hemp feedstock per working day.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at
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