There’s a common misconception that’s been confusing people for decades: Hemp is marijuana. But local advocate and educator Samandra Callender has a message for the misinformed. “It’s not. You can’t get high from it,” she says of hemp.
And as the mastermind behind DCNC Hemp, an organization that aims to educate the community on the industrial uses of hemp, Callender knows what she’s talking about.
“People think hemp and weed are the same things, but they’re not,” she affirms. “[Hemp] has up to 3 percent THC levels, so even if you wanted to smoke it to get high, buzzed even, you’d have to smoke two or three football fields of it.”
Truth is, hemp is known in some circles as a miracle drug, one that has the potency to treat and prevent a host of maladies. It’s not smoked, but used topically in cold-pressed form or consumed as oil. And unlike marijuana, it's available at health-food stores, though it is not for recreational use.
The herb has also been used for years. In fact, hemp has a rich history in the good old U.S. of A., “to the point that the slaves harvested hemp alongside cotton,” Callender adds.
But hemp's American history goes beyond that. Our country’s first president pushed for the growth of the herb in the United States and even grew it himself. Other presidents said to have cultivated the stuff are Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson. And during World War II, it was used to make uniforms, canvas, and rope for the soldiers, and was even employed as a form of propaganda, promoting hemp as a necessary cash crop to win the war.
If hemp is deeply rooted in our history, why is it illegal to process here?
“It has to do with greed,” Callender states. “The reason why is because hemp can replace 50,000 things on this earth and more. Paper, gas, anything you can think of, you can replace it with hemp. Why would you make it legal?”
The legality behind the processing of hemp in the United States is what forced Callender to convert her hemp production company into an educational platform.
“We wanted to start our processing here, but we can’t,” she asserts. “We need to be able to grow and produce hemp” — not just for the plant’s health benefits, which ran the gamut from treating high blood pressure and diabetes to allergies, she explains, but also for economic reasons.
“We are the number one importer of our own hemp that we export,” Callendar says of the States. “We import [millions of] dollars a year, yet we grow it here.”
While Callendar believes the processing of hemp will eventually be legalized in the U.S., to her, it all begins with education.
“The whole concept revolves around education,” she adds. And that’s where Hemptopia comes in.
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Taking over the Awa Kava Lounge this Saturday, the hemp fest will feature round-table discussions and presentations from industry pros, a farmers’ market filled with organic goods from the 305, vendors, local art, and live music from Kat Riggins and Blues Revival, among others.
“People who come should expect to gain knowledge, not just knowledge of hemp, but on how to live a greener and better life,” Callendar says. “I can’t educate others without educating my community first. Let’s try to actually fight for something we really, really need.”
5 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, January 7, at the Awa Kava Lounge, 3930 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-456-0018. Admission is free and for those aged 18 or older. Visit eventbrite.com.