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‘Rocky Mountain High’ Chronicles a Year in the Early Hemp Craze

Finn Murphy
Finn Murphy is the author of the just-released "Rocky Mountain High."

Hemp Business

‘Rocky Mountain High’ Chronicles a Year in the Early Hemp Craze

Author and former long-haul trucker Finn Murphy became a hemp entrepreneur in 2019. His humorous book about his hemp experience has just been published. Murphy spoke to Let’s Talk Hemp from Longmont, Colorado.

How did your career lead you to hemp?
Rocky Mountain High tells my hemp story: I was living in Boulder in 2019. The Farm Bill had just passed in late 2018 and all of the talk in Colorado was about hemp and how it will be a lifeline for small farmers. Nothing had worked – corn, beets – for the small farmer. I was reading about clearing $85K an acre growing hemp. You would go to breakfast and the waitstaff would be talking about hemp and the opportunity. 

I have started almost a dozen businesses in my life and thought (hemp) was interesting. I figured real estate was underpriced considering what the hemp multiplier would be from all the talk. I purchased a 36-acre farm in Longmont and I was going to be a hemp farmer.

I ended up not growing hemp because I didn’t get the registration in time from Colorado. So then I have this million-dollar farm and I am not growing on it, but I was still energized. I figured in the first year of legal hemp there has to be some piece of the business that was open. 

I went into post-harvest processing for smokable flower. We hung-dried 45,000 plants and came out with some beautiful hemp flower in 2019. That is when the price crashed from $350 per pound to basically zero. You couldn’t give it away. We were processing flower for the farmers and giving back beautiful product. None of them paid us. 

Tell us about becoming an author and your new book.
My whole family are writers. When I was young, the way to get parental approval was to write something. I have a brother who has written six books and a sister who has written three. I have to say, even as the black sheep of the family I have outsold them.

I spent 20 years driving trucks as a mover for van lines. My first book (The Long Haul) is about moving people, the impact moving has on people’s lives and the changes I saw across the country. I used to talk into a microcassette recorder about my experiences when I was driving. When I got serious about writing, I realized I had some interesting vignettes. I proposed and sold the book to W.W. Norton. It became a national bestseller. When I decided to write about my experience in hemp, they agreed. It’s very fresh in my mind and experience. 

The two books are my personal experiences within an industry or space that people are not familiar with. People move a couple times, but not a lot, so (the first book) shines a light on an industry that people don’t see. “Rocky Mountain High” is my story of what it was like for one particular hemp entrepreneur at that crazy time and how it all shook out.

I think it will be of interest to anyone in the hemp business now and certainly if they were then. I talk about the hemp industry and my own history in business. Most people had not run so much as a shoeshine stand. So many people tried to get into hemp with no business experience at all. 

There were a lot of nefarious characters who were attracted to this. Every sleazebag broker and everyone sick of their jobs got in to see how they could pull money out fast. Their attitude was “who cares what happens to the people you are in business with.” 

I loved being in the middle of the hemp boom. We built a factory in two and a half weeks and filled it with machinery. I got to work with my nephew and godson and we prepared the flower into a great product. I wouldn’t trade the experience. 

This is a positive book about my experience and the people I encountered. The financial part was obviously horrible. This book talks about the dark side. I think it’s a story that needs to be told and I try to be fair to everybody in it.

It took me a while to get to the humorous approach because I was disappointed and somewhat annoyed. I lost so much money. I started writing about it and it was kind of a cathartic experience. The bottom line is we made a great product for these farmers and then they didn’t pay us. I sent the first draft to the editor and he said, “You need to make this funny, not angry.” Once I looked at the situation more dispassionately I was able to do it. 

What new projects are you working on?
I’m out of the hemp space now completely. In Boulder County the whole place smelled like hemp for years. Now you can’t find a backyard plot with hemp growing on it. 

I lost about $600K, but I do have a beautiful 36-acre piece of property. We are doing strip grazing on some part of it, which makes about $3,000 dollars a year — $100 an acre versus the $85K I was expecting from hemp. Everybody I talked to back then expected this money. 

I have another book contract with Norton about cashmere. Through the ‘90s I was a cashmere importer and did a lot of work overseas in Mongolia, Scotland and other parts of the world. So the rest of this year I’ll be promoting “Rocky Mountain High” and working on the next book.

What are your observations about hemp?
Hemp has been a classic boom like a gold rush. All of the same components were in place. You had exuberant expectations from people at large. You had government support. You had outside investment coming in talking to farmers and then a massive influx of outside capital. You had a public outpouring of organic support. That’s exactly what the gold and silver rushes were in Colorado and what fracking is now. Colorado is the poster child for booms and busts. Most people lose money; only a few benefit. 

The mention of companies and other enterprises in news stories and Q&As does not imply an endorsement by Let’s Talk Hemp or any business relationship.

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