In contrast to what most might expect, at least half of the attendees had no interest whatsoever in the legalization of hemp as a recreational substance (marijuana), and were openly concerned that their agendas were being compromised by their association with the "drug" aspects of the hemp debate. Their issues concerned the environment, medicine, and hemp's commercial potential for the production of industrial products ranging from paper to building materials.
One of the two key-note speakers at the gathering was Joe Stroble, a retired highschool teacher who happens to be the only private individual in Canada allowed to legally grow hemp on his farm outside Tillsonburg, Ontario. Stroble's interest in hemp is strictly commercial. He grows it for its value as a fibre.
"Certain politicians have told us that although they smoked marijuana in the past, they didn't inhale," Stroble told the audience in his opening remarks, "but I can honestly tell you that as a retired highschool teacher who has chaperoned many highschool dances where I've caught kids fighting up, I've INHALED marijuana, but I've never SMOKED it!"
On a more serious note, Stroble went on to explain the process to which he was subjected before being given legal permission to grow hemp on his farm, and cautioned against backing politicians and bureaucrats into a corner with an "all-or-nothing" approach to the issue.
Second key-note speaker was Chris Conrad, founder and director of the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp in the United States. As the author of HEMP: LIFELINE TO THE FUTURE and editor of the infamous EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES, Conrad's expertise on the hemp issue from every angle and interest was readily apparent. But most importantly, Conrad's remarks made it clear that he has also become an expert on freedom.
Stressing a responsible approach to lobbying for the eventual legalization of hemp, he emphasized that those who express fears about what might happen if hemp (marijuana) was legalized deserve to have their concerns addressed at all times and accommodated wherever feasible. Once they become comfortable enough with the knowledge that an end to hemp prohibition does not include allowing it to be smoked in public, or making it legally available to children, or an end to a host of other equally legitimate restrictions, the public will come to realize that prohibition is not worth its costs, and is in fact the cause of many of the very issues causing concern. His comments brought clear signs of relief from those who were concerned about being associated with the negative stereotypes attached to the whole hemp issue, and may have paved the way to a united effort that has never before existed.
last updated on April 28, 2002