- ???? On February 18-19,
Vancouver played host to hempsters from across the nation and around the
world, as the Commercial and Industrial Hemp Symposium and Trade Show was
held at Vancouver’s posh Trade and Convention Centre.
By Dana Larsen
???? The Symposium was a well-run
event and I had a good time. The speakers were interesting, if dry, while
the Trade Show was both fascinating and fun. The highlight was the fashion
show, pretty girls and boys modeling fashionable fabrics are always a delight.
The event organizers managed to bring in most of the big names in the hemp
world, including pioneer Canadian hemp farmers Geof Kime, Gordon Scheifele
and Jack Moes, as well as Mark Parent of the Canadian Automobile Workers
Union, which has had a longrunning campaign in support of industrial hemp.
??? International speakers included
Dr Ryszard Kozlowski of Poland’s Institute of Natural Fibres, Dr Kai Nebel
from the German Institute for Applied Research, John Hobson of England’s
hemp-growing Hemcore, David Watson of the International Hemp Association
in Holland, and Jace Callaway, who spoke on growing early blooming hemp
for seed in Northern climates such as Finland.
??? All of these people have been
doing fascinating research in industrial hemp cultivation and application,
but their speeches were probably only thrilling to the true hemp devotee,
and likely a bit boring to anyone who wasn’t fully entranced by hemp and
agriculture in general. Of course, such people wouldn’t have paid the $325
to hear the 14 hours of hempsters speeches, and neither would they have
been at the conference centre by 8am for the start of the day’s discussions.
It was only $25 for a pass to the Trade Show, a more affordable and interesting
option for the mainstream hemp crowd.
Jean Peart from Health Canada
??? The final and most anticipated
speaker was Jean Peart from Health Canada. It had been rumoured that she
would announce that commercial hemp cultivation would be legalized in Canada
by 1998, but unfortunately, this was not the case. In fact, it’s safe to
say that she was not very well received by the crowd.
??? Jean explained how cannabis
was prohibited under international treaties and Canadian law, and how only
the regulations could provide exemptions to those laws, but that the regulations
to allow for industrial hemp farming under the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act would take a “looooong time” to write. This was ok though, because
once written they would be in place for a “looooong time”. None of this
seemed like good news.
??? Why the cannabis regulations
need to be so complex can only be explained by the bureaucracy’s desire
to swallow the hemp movement into an abyss of paperwork and uncooperative
bureaucrats. This is a typical government strategy, if they cannot defeat
the cannabis crusaders, they will absorb us.
??? Since the Controlled Drugs
and Substances Act allows the Minister of Health to arbitrarily add or
remove items from any schedule, all that is required for hemp to be legal
in Canada is for the Minister to announce that any cannabis plant with
less than 0.3% THC is not to be considered as marijuana. There needs to
be no more complexity than this to any hemp regulations, anything more
is simply obfuscation.
The Secret Committee
??? Jean Peart assured her hempen
audience that the committee which would be writing these all-important
regulations was fair and objective, and that its members were drawn for
all different government departments, some even from the public sector.
Yet she refused to give the names or titles of any of the committee members,
explaining that she couldn’t give out this information because there would
be too much public pressure directed against them as individuals.
??? Instead, she assured everyone
that she would forward all materials and concerns to the other committee
members, and encouraged everyone to send her a fax with their information.
She gave out her phone number as well, but made sure to mention that she
was “hard to get ahold of” and that she preferred faxes to phone calls.
??? This is not what the audience
wanted to hear, and some of those who asked questions after her speech
were downright hostile. Most were upset that she could not guarantee that
the regulations would be complete in time for the 1998 planting season.
??? Ian Hunter of the Vancouver
Island Hemp Alliance informed her that he and many other active hempsters
would be openly planting hemp all over Vancouver Island this spring, regardless
of whether they received a license. Peart responded that this had nothing
to do with her or her committee, but was rather a matter for law enforcement.
??? Vancouver marijuana salesman
David Malmo-Levine tried to squeeze a speech into a question about the
government’s irrational fear of marijuana interfering with hemp cultivation,
but Jean showed masterful skills in cutting him off and thanking the audience
for having her before gliding offstage. David was outraged at being denied
a more honest non-answer, and in expressing his feelings used more decibels
and finger wagging than deemed acceptable by the MC, who politely but firmly
asked David to leave the hall. It was an uncomfortable moment, but one
that had to happen.
The Trade Show
??? The Trade Show part of the
event was much more fun, as there were plenty of hempen wares to touch
and familiar hempster friends to greet and catch up with. The two dozen
booths were dominated by hemp clothing and accessories, but there were
also foods, cosmetics, particle board, chain lubricant, and more. There
was nary a bong, pipe, nor grow light to be found, this was strictly hemp.
??? Some of the coolest things
I saw at the show included the 100 year old stylish hemp shirts from Grand
Forks, brought by Mayor Brian Taylor. Also memorable were the hemp seed
chocolate bars and snacks from the Kitsilano Hemp Co.
??? The fashion show models wearing
silky hemp lingerie and other stylish hempwear were a pleasure and a delight
to witness. Seeing Vancouver celebrity smokester schmooze-king Darren Morgan
mugging and hamming it up on the runway was worth the price of admission.
How he manages to get onstage for every hemp fashion show there is, I’ll
??? A moment that I found personally
amusing was standing outside the conference building, smoking a joint with
some of the booth exhibitors and fashion show models, and seeing event
organizer Sotos Petrides walk by, notice us through the glass doors, and
continue on, smiling and shaking his head.
??? By the end of the conference
a smiling Sotos was even promising that Wiseman Noble would be sponsoring
a marijuana symposium and trade show in the near future. I don’t know if
they’ll really try to pull it off, but I hope so. I’ll bet it would be
twelve times as much fun as the most exciting hemp show could ever be,
and would definitely require a much larger space as well. The only question
I have so far is whether the puffers would still be forced to smoke their
Visions of Hemp Fields
?? There is admittedly something unnerving
about a hemp conference being sponsored by the Bank of Montreal. On the
one hand, it is kind of a dream come true, a recognition of hemp as a real
thing by the powers that be. Even though the government is stalling and
delaying, there is official admission that cannabis hemp is something that
should be grown on Canadian soil. The question is no longer “if”, but rather
??? Yet, on the other hand, there
is the unspoken but universally recognized fact that all of the regulations,
hassles and bureaucratic bullshit faced by would-be hemp farmers are a
direct result of the prohibition of cannabis flowers. If marijuana was
not banned then hemp licenses would no longer be a concern.
??? It is difficult for a marijuana
visionary to get excited about discussions on techniques for breeding out
the THC from cannabis plants, or promises for a committee which will spend
years writing regulations to do nothing more than monitor farmers to keep
the level of THC below an arbitrary and irrational limit set by bureaucrats
creating work for themselves.
??? There is also the fear that
if hemp is fully absorbed into the mainstream culture it will somehow lose
what has made it magical in the first place. The whole concept of industrial
hemp is one that has been discovered, examined, explained and supported
by marijuana smokers. It is marijuana smokers that have nursed hemp to
the point of public acceptance and political approval which it now enjoys,
yet we are now faced with the prospect of our sacred plant being sponsored
by the Bank of Montreal and the Ministry of Agriculture. Sometimes it’s
hard to tell who’s subverting who.
The Canadian Industrial Hemp Council elected their new officials during
the Symposium. They are as follows:
President: Jerzy Przytyk of Montreal’s HempCo and an organic farmer
Vice President East: Larry Duprey of Montreal Hemp Store Chanvre en
Vice President West: Martin Moravcik of the Winnipeg’s Emperor’s Clothing
Treasurer: Marc Clement of Calgary’s Canadian Hemp Corporation.
Secretary: Sara Francis, a Halifax hemp researcher and consultant.
Contact the Canadian Industrial Hemp Council through Sara Francis: tel
fax (902) 494-3728
email: [email protected]