From biscuits, to baby clothes, to bongs – the Hemp Health & Innovation Expo seeks to showcase the plethora of products that can be derived from one single plant: the cannabis plant.
The HHI Expo has been running across Australia for five years, but this November, it will make its ACT debut at Exhibition Park in Canberra.
“Ultimately, it’s about a single plant,” says the Expo’s co-director, Evan Alexander.
“It’s about the cannabis plant, in all of its many splendid forms.”
While the only word that comes to mind for many of us is ‘weed’, the HHI Expo is about much, much more. As the name implies, it is the many uses of hemp – the derivative of the cannabis plant that can’t get you high – that steals the limelight of the show.
Hemp is an industrial powerhouse. It is a sustainable and affordable resource that can be used to produce food, textiles, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, and even animal feed. Its incredible health benefits have made hemp a hit in the health and beauty industry, serving as the selling point in anything from shampoos to supplements. Body-builders are even using it as protein powder.
The powerful benefits of the THC-containing component of cannabis are far from dismissed. A range of speakers and stalls – including Michael Pettersson MLA, who led the reforms to decriminalise cannabis in the ACT – gather at the Expo to shine light on the medicinal potential of cannabis, and to reduce the stigma and criminalisation surrounding its use.
“What the Expo is about is, essentially, trying to bring all of those components under this multi-splendoured plant together,” says Evan, “…and be able to speak some truth around some of the situations that are in place, legally or otherwise.”
Needless to say, the road hasn’t been easy.
The consumption of hemp as food was not legalised in Australia until November 2017. This was only facilitated by an amendment to the Narcotic Drugs Act in 2016, which legalised the commercial production of cannabis for scientific and medical purposes. Until this point, cannabis was classified as an illegal narcotic under Australian law.
A clear stigma towards cannabis, both socially and legally, still exists.
Evan continues to experience significant hurdles in organising the HHI Expo. He has had to manoeuvre through “stringent regulations” in regards to public advertising, and is still unable to advertise the event on social media.
“It feels a little bit ridiculous, in 2022, [that] you can go to your doctor and order something but you can’t talk about it on social media. It’s an interesting position we find ourselves in.”
Although unfortunate, this context of restriction only makes the purpose of the HHI Expo more pertinent. Through showcasing the versatility and potentiality of cannabis, the Expo seeks to cultivate a shift towards a more open and informed perception of this incredibly depreciated plant.
“Again, that is what the Expo is about. Get everybody together, have fun, and also look at what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how we’re doing it, where we’re trying to get to, and come up with some genuine outcomes around what that looks like.”
You can find out more about the HHI Expo here.