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by John Dvorak
The Southern Hemp Expo (SHE), held at the Nashville Fairgrounds in September 2018, was organized by Cecily Friday of the Tennessee Cannabis Coalition, Colleen Keahey Lanier, Executive Director of the Hemp Industries Association and hemptrepreneur extraordinaire Morris Beegle. This trio of thought leaders worked tirelessly to replicate Beegle’s highly successful NOCO Hemp Expo in Tennessee. They did an excellent job taking care of the speakers and attendees alike. There was a lot of local media coverage of the Expo as people are realizing the regenerative effect that hemp can have for farmers and the economy.
For me, one of the many highlights was Eli Shalom’s hemp paper making lecture and demonstration. Eli, who has been producing beautiful craft hemp paper for years, described how hemp fiber and water are added to an oval shaped beater where they go round and round as the fibers are pulled apart, churned and made more pliable. The beater’s purpose is to macerate the hemp fibers, creating more surface area for them to link together during the papermaking process. The pulpy slurry is spread onto a framed screen where the individual fibers form bonds as the water drains. Pressure is added to squeeze out excess water resulting in very strong and flexible sheets of hemp paper.
After Eli’s talk, I realized that the SHE was a beater in its own right: thousands of individuals pouring onto the circular trade show floor where 100 vendors stood ready to break open any misconceptions about cannabis hemp. As people jostled with each other to make their way around, waves of hempformation flowed over them in a frenetic manner. Once this human slurry was mixed, the proto-hempsters poured into the lecture halls where they synergistically coalesced into something that is stronger than each individual. The speakers acted as pressure that squeezed out misinformation and helped turn concepts into coherent action plans. I was honored to contribute to this effort by giving my Cannabis Curriculum presentation. People left the Expo unified, strengthened and ready to write their own chapter of hempen history. Now, I’ll try to turn the page on this tearable hemp paper analogy and get my sheet together.
Similar to what I experienced in Oklahoma recently, Cannabidiol (CBD) has taken the South by storm. A large majority of vendors at the Expo were promoting this non-intoxicating cannabinoid and with good reason. Stories abounded of CBD’s healing properties: controlling seizures, relieving pain and anxiety as well as being an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotectant. A particularly poignant presentation was given by Janel Ralph of Palmetto Harmony who spoke passionately about how CBD has significantly improved the quality of life for her daughter, Harmony.
There were several more traditional hemp merchants there too including Sunstrand, which focuses on the many uses of the hemp stalk, from hurd based particle board to bast fiber insulation. The humble hemp seed was not forgotten either, as Laura’s Hemp Chocolates and Victory Hemp both had tasty products on display. Rick Trojan, who MC’d several speaker panels in an easy going and professional manner, was showing off his newly wrapped Hemp Road Trip bus in the SHE parking lot. Keep an eye out for a tour date near you!
Numerous hemp luminaries were in attendance including Vote Hemp lobbyist Ben Droz, a study in perpetual motion and genuinely kind fellow. Hemp pioneers Joe Hickey, Craig Lee and John Roulac were there to provide an experienced voice of reason and reality check. It was encouraging to see a new generation of whole plant cannabis advocates, like Cait Curley, taking up the hempen mantle in an energetic and innovative manner. I enjoyed finally meeting fellow hempologist, Daniel Isenstein, whose Hemp Highway of Kentucky website really drives home the canna-history of the Bluegrass State.
Ryan Loflin of Rocky Mountain Hemp shared his invaluable lessons learned growing hemp in Colorado while author, goat herder and uber-hempster Doug Fine lent good humor and poignant insights to the proceedings. Veteran Mike Lewis, founder of the Growing Warriors Project, talked about the challenges and opportunities awaiting members of our armed services.
The ever cheerful Coach Freddie Cecchini was there documenting the event for his ihemp Revolution podcast. He played his trademark washboard to complement the musical entertainment at the after party which also saw hempentainer and musical muse Aviva Vuvuzela perform her classic song Cannabis Car. All in all, the Southern Hemp Expo was a resounding success and participants are already looking forward to writing more hemp history at next year’s event.