March 31, 1997
The following article is excerpted from the coming issue of Cannabis Canada (CC#8).
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.
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 farmersGeof 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 $150 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. 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 incutting 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 smokster 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 never know.
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 stillbe forced to smoke their herbs outside.
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 “when?”
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 bea 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 andirrational 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.
You can reach Sotos Petrides of Wiseman Noble at (604) 258-7171; email
You can reach Jean Peart of Health Canada at (613) 954-6524; fax (613)952-7738. Check out the federal government hemp web page atwww.hc.ca/hbp/drugs/hemp
NEW CHIC COUNCIL
The Canadian Industrial Hemp Council elected their new officials during the Symposium.
President: Jerzy Przytyk of Montreal’s HempCo and the Polish Institute for Natural Fibres.Vice President East: Larry Duprey of Montreal Hemp Store Chanvre en Ville.Vice President West: Martin Moravcik of the Emperor’s Clothing Company.
The Canadian Industrial Hemp Council can be reached through their Secretary, Sara Francis, at the School for Resource and Environmental Studies , 1312 Robie St, Halifax, NS, B3H-3E2; phone (902) 423-1661; fax(902) 494-3728; email[email protected]; web