Canada: Cannabis Expo Lights Up The Unenlightened

Photo Credit: Ryan Ademan

The stigma around marijuana is changing.

Sure, some politicians still have no functional grasp of the subject of pot. Before voting on Canada’s Cannabis Act last week, Senator Nicole Eaton said that “four grams is about four tokes.” But the marijuana community isn’t allowing ignorance to stop them. In fact, it is emboldening them to trudge forward in hopes of educating the unenlightened.

The annual Hempfest Cannabis Expo at the Shaw Conference Centre this weekend is drawing an ever evolving conglomerate of pot enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and educators. Yes, there’s still the dreadlocked bongsmith demographic (thankfully), but with the legalized weed on the horizon, the face of the cannabis scene is taking a different form – especially when it comes to informing those that don’t know much about the herb.

Education was a hot topic at the festival, which continues through Sunday. Mark Lindal, cannabis counselor and medical outreach educator at Canadian Cannabis Clinics, stepped in with an empathetic perspective for politicians and lawmakers: “It puts them in a tough spot because they have to ramp up their game very quickly in a short amount of time.”

His suggestion on how to get to the head of the class when it comes to marijuana?

“They should try it,” he said. “There is very little to lose and no risk in trying it. Especially when it is a chemical that is not harmful to the body. You can’t overdose, there is no possibility of death. Give it a shot. See how it makes you feel. And connect with people who are educated and understand the product completely.”

Hart Steinfeld, who does community engagement for Hydropothecary (a Health Canada-approved licensed producer of medical marijuana out of Quebec), echoes Lindal’s sentiment.

“I’ve heard other ludicrous things from other senators as well. They really have to sit down and educate themselves,” Steinfeld said.

To those not fully in the know, there are a lot of comparisons between pot and alcohol, and from Steinfeld’s perspective, those comparisons are unfair.

“In my opinion, and science backs it up, marijuana is more safe than alcohol,” he said. “So I really think there is a lot of hypocrisy going on there. Smarten up. Don’t base your ideas on hearsay from others. Sit down and do some research.”

The pot scene is doing its best to de-stigmatize itself. What was once underground is becoming mainstream with the Cannabis Act. Be it recreational, medicinal, or industrial, the masses are starting to embrace safe and legal weed consumption – or at least they’re becoming more curious about it.

Now in its second year with events across Western Canada, Hempfest is growing from just being a bong and weed culture wholesale market – although there are some pretty rip ass bongs for sale. The science community is represented in full as the Expo scheduled a series of informative speakers, emceed by Edmonton cannabis activist Ken “Dr. Reefer” Kirk (right).

First off the bat was Jodi McDonald (top photo), president of Keystone Labs, a Health Canada-accredited marijuana testing facility. As per her expertise (her bio states that she lives to test weed), she talked about the importance of knowing what you are taking.

“The whole purpose of Health Canada regulating marijuana is to provide safe products for patients to use,” said McDonald. “When we test at Keystone, we looking for potency as well as the absence of certain contaminants.”

This high level of testing, according to McDonald, keeps Canadians safe.

This cultural changeover seems like a breath of fresh of fresh air to those who are working the Hemp-Con, and getting a sense from the vendors, it’s been a long time coming. According to Hasia Glaim (co-owner of MMJ Total Health Care), marijuana has been on the planet longer than humans and it’s time for people to understand the benefits that far outlast the stigmatized “high.”

“There are so many benefits to the plant that the senate doesn’t even know about,” she said. “They are really doing a disservice to Canadians by not knowing what they are talking about. There are so many factors with different types of ingestion. Every single person’s endocannabinoid system is different. We really encourage microdosing in order to find your comfort zone. Cannabis should be invigorating, not debilitating.”

Glaim went on to say that her company has treated people with many types of debilitating diseases with great success. “I have seen walking miracles. You can’t ignore that. I don’t care what other people say. I will stand firm in what I believe and I will continue to educate people.”

There was an overlying sense of pride at Hempfest. There was the feeling of hope, as if someone was casting off a mask. There is money to be made, legal and safe. Sure, you can still buy your glass pipes and your wacky rolling papers, but you can also get to understand more about an underground culture that will be bursting into legitimacy. Yes, there will be many growing pains, some first time users driving high, getting carried away in public, falling asleep in movies – but the sense of the overall positive upside was palatable.

Who knows? Maybe in the next few years – if our senate isn’t abolished – the senators will be a bit more enlightened. Instead of antiquated falsehoods, they will be spouting more “dudes”, “mans,” and the ubiquitous “far outs!” At least the senate voted to pass the Cannabis Act last week, 44-29. That’s a start.