Last month was Hemp Month here at The Green Fund, where we explored everything hemp related. This included the global hemp industry, the history of the plant and different uses for it such as in LEGO, clothing and the growing array of CBD-based products.
During this time we also took a trip to the Sydney Hemp Health and Innovation Expo, which showcased many of Australia's cannabis related companies and industries.
In 2017 the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) approved the sale of low-THC hemp foods, opening the floodgates for what could be a multi-million dollar industry in just a few years.
Estimates peg the hemp industry to sit at $3 million by the year 2023, which hardly puts a dint in America's $150 million hemp industry. Though given Australia's population size, $3 million isn't anything to snark at either.
Since hemp legalization has caught on, cannabis is finding it's way into healthcare products, foods and fabrics, showing the versatility of the plant and it's potential for widespread adoption across many different industries.
And if you want to gauge exactly how much hype surrounds the hemp plant in Australia, the Hemp Health and Innovation Expo is the place to go.
Held in several states across Australia each year, the 4th Annual Hemp Health and Innovation Expo was home to many speakers, ancillary businesses and medical services for Cannabis focused patrons.
The events have drawn in over 30,000 patrons in the past four years, and is the only event in Australia which focuses purely on hemp and cannabis.
Living in Australia there is definitely some catching up to be done with regards to our stance on cannabis.
The HHI Expo was a breath of fresh air precisely because of this. While you might see the occasional hemp product on the shelves at your local supermarket, there really isn't much dialogue surrounding the plant. Though while there may be a lack of information around hemp, that's not to say there isn't a demand for it.
The expo was bustling with all sorts of event-goers, from suited-up businessmen, to entire families wanting to learn more about hemp and hemp-related products.
From hydroponic systems to health-foods, each stall holder had a wealth of knowledge about their specific hemp-based niche with interesting facts to boot.
Because cannabis remains illegal federally in Australia, many of the ancillary companies had to be very careful about the marketing of their products. Whether it be lights, water filtration systems or specific soils to grow in, many of these products were marketed for fruits and vegetables. Though as we all know, most event-goers were not looking for ways to grow their tomatoes more quickly.
Alongside hemp and ancillary products were also stalls which helped educate users on drug use harm minimization, and informational tents for those interested in being prescribed medical marijuana.
The event also held a number of esteemed speakers within the cannabis space, some of whom we were privileged enough to sit down and chat to. Here's are some of the people we spoke to at the Sydney Hemp Health and Innovation Expo of 2019:
Health House International
Since the 2016 legalization of medical cannabis in Australia, the Perth based Health House International has become a supplier of medical grade cannabis to the Australasian market.
The company primarily supplies two products: Satipharm and Cannimed.
Satipharm sources capsules from Switzerland which contain 50mg worth of CBD, utilizing their patented GelPell technology. Satipharm states that their GelPell technology leads to higher concentration and absorption of the CBD in patients bodies.
Cannimed is a Canadian company which produces a range of CBD and THC oils for medical purposes.
Health House serves as a distributor of these products, and was the first company to have received a medical cannabis import license in Australia. We were fortunate enough to speak with Paul Mavor, the companies director and a speaker at the Expo, who informed us of the many conditions which cannabis can be used to treat such as dementia and chronic pain.
Paul has had nearly three decades of experience in the pharmacy industry, which he now brings to the cannabis space.
"There's quite a bit of work being done on dementia and chronic pain where nothing else seems to be working. Cannabis seems to be working for some of those patients. To reduce the pain score could be huge for their quality of life. We're still early days of a quite exciting industry."
Epilepsy Action Australia
As the name suggests, Epilepsy Action Australia aims to assist the estimated 250,000 Australians suffering from epilepsy. The organisation provides educational information for those living with epilepsy, as well as a range of products which aim to alleviate the stresses and the symptoms of the disease.
The 65 year old organisation is very research focused, which has led them to analyse cannabis products for the treatment of epilepsy.
We spoke with the company's CEO, Carol Ireland, who informed us of the immense benefit that cannabis can provide to children suffering from the disease.
"We've got children taking [cannabis] who have become seizure free. For some really sick people cannabis has been the only thing in their lives that's made a difference. There's a need for more education and acceptance by medical practitioners, we're just scratching the surface."Australian Cannabis University
The Australian Cannabis University is a not-for-profit site which hopes to reach 10,000 members in order to gain legislative traction to move Australia closer to recreational cannabis legalization.
The site focuses on dispelling the stigma surrounding cannabis, in addition to informing it's members on the benefits of the plant and how it may be used medicinally. The organisation hosts meet-ups every month and is also crowdfunding in order to develop facilities for their members.
We spoke with Dolph Cooke, the 'Dean of Green' at the University, who spoke about the benefits of cannabis to war veterans as well as those who suffer from opioid addiction.
"If [cannabis] can treat successfully someone from the army that's served for his country, then why are we stopping that? This is a fantastic frontier and cannabis is the mother plant. We see people daily who are getting off 25 years of methadone just because of CBD."
Cannabis Doctors Australia
CDA Clinics are an organisation which aims to expedite the process of being prescribed medical marijuana for patients. CDA provides information to both patients and doctors alike who are seeking additional knowledge about the plant.
Currently, medicinal cannabis can only be prescribed by an Australian-registered medical practitioner through special federal and state pathways, which are managed by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration)
Because of how relatively recent the legalization of medicinal cannabis is, patients must go through the Special Access Scheme (SAS) in order to be prescribed cannabis, which can be a confusing process. CDA Clinics aims to inform people when they are eligible for cannabis, how they can get it, as well as informing doctors about the benefits of the plants.
We spoke with Dr. Matua Jensen of CDA clinics, who let us know about the conditions necessary to be prescribed cannabis and how the prescription process works.
"Our clinics have had approval for over 50 conditions. Chronic pain, anxiety, stress, insomnia and inflammation. The time from us consulting with you to dispensing the medicine is approximately 7 days, which is a lot shorter than people think. I think the future is bright for people to access cannabis more easily."
Textile and Composite Industries Australia
Textile and Composite Industries have developed a 'Decorticator Machine', which is said to vastly improve the time and effort involved with harvesting hemp plants.
TCI states that much of the difficulty involved with hemp cultivation is in the process for separating fibre from the core. Currently, this is achieved via a rotting process of the crop that "badly damages the crop and reduces the available fibre and hurd for commercial use by up to 80%."
Due to this difficulty, hemp items, specifically clothing, can be much more costly than it's cotton counterparts, as well as sacrificing some of the strength of the hemp itself.
The Decortication method that TCI has implemented reportedly "produces a much higher quality and larger quantity of fibre. That fibre is a much more valuable hemp fibre than traditional methods can produce. The hurd ('core') produced is also of a higher quantity and quality, and therefore also more valuable."
We spoke with Charles Covess, the CEO of the company who described not only the benefits to the machine, but hemp in general.
"Hemp is a natural antibacterial and antimicrobial. Cotton uses 4-5 times more water than hemp. If you have any concerns with the environment, grow hemp. The other big opportunity is composite materials, such as biodegradable plastic," Covess said.
"We have contacted LEGO and they've informed us they want a biodegradable product. I have no doubt that hemp plastic can be that biodegradable product. Companies have to solve their environmental problems and greenhouse emissions, and hemp is the solution."
Until Next Time!
It was eye-opening to see just how much buzz surrounds hemp and medicinal cannabis, and it's likely that we'll see the HHI Expo continue to grow each year as ambassadors and speakers illuminate attendees on the benefits of the plant.
If you're at all interested in learning about cannabis or hemp, visit one of the above companies or better yet, visit your local Hemp Health and Innovation Expo.
You'll not only find informative companies, products and individuals, but also a like-minded community with other individuals that are passionate about cannabis.
Until next time!