Thousands of attendees flocked to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (12-13 October) for the Hemp Health & Innovation (HHI) Expo.
Reputed as the largest hemp and cannabis event to take place in Australia, with over 30,000 attendees over the last 3 years in Sydney and Melbourne, the weekend marked the first time the expo was held in Brisbane, which, when we’re talking about the journey of medicinal cannabis in Australia, is the city where it all started.
In 2016, Brisbane’s Lindsay Carter became the first ever patient to be legally prescribed schedule 9 botanical cannabis in Australia, after tireless and tenacious lobbying by his mother Lanai to have the plant re-classified from a schedule 9 prohibited substance to a schedule 8 controlled drug under the Therapeutic Goods Act (TGA).
Since 2016, the TGA has approved 17,300 Special Access Scheme (SAS) Category B applications for medicinal cannabis products.
With the HHI Expo featuring workshops, displays, presentations and a huge range of exhibitors, the expo provided a dramatic reassessment of cannabis’ place in society and the escalation of the legalisation debate in capitals and local communities across the country.
Instead of a room full of dreadlocked hippies, visitors to the expo included families, senior citizens, young people, medical professionals, patients, students, business professionals, chefs – you name it – all eager to learn about this long-time stigmatised plant, which has become one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
The huge range of what hemp and cannabis is being used for, and the variety of industries it is playing a role in, blew my mind.
From food and beverages to clothing, textiles, oils and tinctures, beauty and cosmetic products, sustainable gardening and farming practices to carbon neutral building products – yes, they are building houses out of hemp now – to medicinal uses for not just humans, but animals too.
The boom in the Australian hemp food and beverage industry since hemp seed became legal for human consumption in November 2017 was very much apparent over the weekend.
The veritable smorgasbord of hemp-related foods on offer had me wishing I hadn’t had breakfast before heading out to the expo. While the incredible variety of oils, creams, clothing and hemp yoga mats had me seriously re-thinking my resolution to participate in the Australian initiative: 'Buy Nothing New Month' during October.
A highlight of the expo was definitively the 2019 Australian Cannabis & Hemp Symposium, which brought together leading local and international medical professionals, academics, research associates, pharmacists, activists and entrepreneurs for conversations and Q&A sessions around the many uses and benefits of the plant, including presentations from Cannabis Doctors Australia and even celebrity chef Pete Evans.
Cannabis Access Clinics were also at the expo, offering a limited amount of one-on-one, fifteen-minute appointments to determine interested patients’ eligibility for TGA approval for medicinal cannabis.
I can say, without a doubt, that I walked away far more educated about the uses of hemp and cannabis, and deeply inspired by the work being done across the sector to harness the incredible properties of this plant, to provide alternatives in medicine and the myriad of consumer industries it is involved in.
I can also say that I will have to try adhere to 'Buy Nothing New Month' next year instead.