Lets be real, we all know the image that comes to mind when the words hemp or cannabis come into a conversation. We think hippies, hot boxing and hallucinations are the epitome of the humble cannabis sativa plant species. The reality is so much more diverse and bursting with potential, which was celebrated at the Hemp Health and Innovation Symposium on May 27-28.
The expo was split into two sections. The first section was filled with stalls and demonstrations of how to use and cultivate hemp. I witnessed a wall being constructed with hemp concrete, salivated over hemp milk ice cream and browsed the array of beautiful hemp clothing. There was also an impressive range of medicinal hemp items for sale, creams, solutions and new age technologies to address countless ailments.
Regardless of the product or demonstration, there was an overwhelming sense of community and kinship. Every person I talked to exhibiting at the symposium were passionate about getting people the help and support they needed. They were striving to educate the public about the amazing health benefits and practical qualities this plant has, but are not fully embraced. These issues were addressed in the expos other section, the symposium that hosted speakers through out the day.
Former Hi-5 member Tim Harding was an inspiring MC, alongside his family at the event. He is a firm advocate of medical cannabis as his young daughter suffers from epilepsy and conventional medicine is failing to help her. Ben Oakley told his incredible story of living with the rare Stiff Person Syndrome. Without medical cannabis, and the support of his family, he may not have been alive today, let alone have the capacity to walk or speak publicly at the symposium.
Backing up these inspirational accounts were many academic contributors such as research associate Anastasia Suraev. She provided a simple yet informative explanation of the science behind medical cannabis, and some of the studies being conducted to tap into its variety of uses.
The goal of this event was to approach the cannabis plant in a holistic way, and get people talking. Hopefully the dominant discourse surrounding the plant—that it’s only function is a recreational drug—will be removed to accommodate its life-changing benefits.
Set to the soundtrack of a Jamaican style DJ, decorated with green ganja faeries posing for pics, this event will definitely be a conversation starter.
With the support of a massive community, new studies and information being discovered, hopefully this plant will shed its stigma and help the people who need it. No one should have to suffer if help is available, but the stigma prohibits this help being available and that is why events like this strive to educate and inspire change.