11 November 2021

Canberra: could it be Australia's hemp capital?

| Jeremy Jones
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HEMP in lights

The Hemp Health and Innovation Expo was originally planned to be held in Canberra. Photo: HHI Expo.

Is Canberra the hemp capital of Australia?

The ACT was set to play host to the Hemp Health & Innovation Expo this month before organisers decided to make the event free online. For many, even the existence of a hemp expo would come as a surprise due to the changing laws around the drug’s use.

Darren Steinhardt, co-founder of South Pacific Hemp, the first ACT store dedicated to hemp products, believes that Canberra is the hemp capital of Australia.

“Canberra has a highly educated and forward-thinking population with an interest in natural and environmentally sustainable products,” Mr Steinhard said.

“It also has the most liberal cannabis laws in Australia – you can have two cannabis plants in your backyard per person, with a maximum of four plants. You can also have a personal amount of cannabis on you without being charged.

“Events like the expo have helped change the perceptions of the hemp plant due to the showcasing of the many uses of the plant, like using it in building products, pet food products, clothing, sheets, medicinal products, and food and beverages.”

READ ALSO Reflections on Goulburn’s hemp crop pioneers

The event has been popular, with more than 35,000 attendees over the past five years.

However, due to the pandemic, the 2021 co-directors Michelle Crain and Evan Alexander decided to cancel the brick-and-mortar event in Canberra and, for the first time, take the Australian Hemp & Cannabis Industry to the world online.

Hemp

The Hemp Health and Innovation Expo is an opportunity for traders to showcase their products. Photo: HHI Expo.

The HHI Expo has been running for six years and seeks to raise awareness around the benefits of hemp and cannabis plants.

“Hemp/Cannabis Expo/Festival is a place where the like-minded, or those wanting to learn more, can come together in a family-friendly, fun environment to experience and learn all the benefits the Hemp/Cannabis Plant has to offer,” Mr Alexander said.

“We planned to bring the HHI Expo to Canberra in all its glory, with the addition of outdoor entertainment as the venue in Canberra allowed for this. However, due to lockdowns and border closures, we had no alternative other than cancel the physical event and go global with the HHI Virtual Expo for 2021.”

Featured in the HHI EXPO Virtual is The Lobby, for information on the expo; the Networking Lounge, to connect with fellow ‘cannaprenuers’; The Hall, for chatting and shopping from exhibitors; and the Auditorium, which features a curated program of exclusive panels, presentations and conversations from across the hemp and cannabis world.

Hemp Kombucha

From hemp oil to kombucha, there are uses beyond smoking. Photo: HHI Expo.

Speakers include Corvain Cooper, an infamous figure caught up in the changing opinions and laws of cannabis use.

Mr Cooper was eight years into a life sentence for cannabis trafficking when Ivanka Trump called him personally to inform him that he would be immediately pardoned.

“Corvain Cooper was serving a life sentence for cannabis possession, tax evasion, and money laundering, all non-violent crimes. While his crimes were possibly worthy of some form of punishment, one would agree that in this instance, a life sentence was certainly a case where the punishment did not fit the crime, given that the use and sale of cannabis are legal in many US states now. His sentence was ultimately commuted by President Trump in the last weeks of his Presidency,” said Mr Alexander.

READ ALSO Feeling good about sustainable hemp clothing

Another speaker is Dr Teresa Towpik, one of the first GPs in Australia to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

“Dr Towpik has really been the pioneering doctor in the area of Medicinal Cannabis and educating other doctors. She is also very inspiring to those who are or have been through cancer as she is a cancer patient herself and cannabis has been an integral part of her treatment,” said Mr Alexander.

Although the event shows the serious side of cannabis use, there are also fun activities, including a Scavenger Hunt.

“The Scavenger Hunt adds a bit of fun to the virtual event. Attendees must find hidden hemp leaves to win prizes. Who doesn’t like some free stuff?”

Tickets for the HEMP Festival are available for free here. The expo will be live for an entire month until 6 December.

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