Pubdate: Mon, 06 Nov 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Ryan Thorpe
Page: B1


Vendors hope to inform and educate

THOUSANDS of people streamed into Winnipeg's first-ever HempFest
Cannabis Expo this weekend to listen to presentations by industry
leaders and check out exhibits set up by cannabis and hemp businesses
from around the country.

More than 60 businesses tabled the expo, which was held Saturday and
Sunday at the RBC Convention Centre. Organizers estimated that about
15 per cent of the businesses were Manitoba-based.

"It's to give a platform for businesses to connect with people who are
hungry for information. Maybe they're interested in medical cannabis
and they don't know where to go or what to ask," event organizer Sacha
Hockenhull said.

"This provides a disarming environment where you can ask those
questions with industry professionals who know what they're talking
about. It also helps disarm some of the concerns of the public in
regards to what the industry is all about."

Walking into the expo, visitors could hear music drifting out from
speakers at one of the booths, and table after table of hemp- and
cannabis-related products lined the room. Everything from cannabis
paraphernalia to seeds, growing equipment, air purifiers, hemp
clothing and informational packets filled the displays.

At one of the vendor booths, Troy McDonald sat behind a table
glass-blowing a piece of paraphernalia. In front of him was a torch
with a flame extending four inches into the air, over which he worked
the glass, before blowing through a long tube to form and shape the

Hockenhull and his business partners began throwing HempFest Canada
Expos last year in Calgary. He said they were simply reacting to a gap
they saw in the market. Since then, they've expanded to Edmonton and
Winnipeg, and expect to see the events continue to grow in the coming

Around 3,000 people came out Saturday, which Hockenhull says was
consistent with turnout from past cannabis expos - except for this
year in Edmonton, where guest speaker Tommy Chong brought out a larger

"We've already seen huge growth in Calgary. We expect to see the same
in Winnipeg. All the vendors here today, they're also growing with us,
and we're growing with them," he said.

One local organization attending was Veterans Alliance of Canada Inc.
(VAC), a newly formed Winnipeg-based support group for veterans. The
organization aids veterans in the process of obtaining medical
marijuana licences, while also offering up a wider support network for
their members.

"The government has failed veterans in terms of medication and
treatments. I was on 13 different prescriptions at one point,
including three opiates. It

Talmost killed me. Medical marijuana saved my life," said Andrew
Macleod, a 34-year veteran with the Canadian Armed Forces. VAC,
launched in May, recently moved into its first office building and
plans on being fully operational by next week. The group is a
non-profit, run by veterans for veterans. But Macleod - who serves as
co-director - stresses it'll never turn away anyone in need, veteran
or not.

The organization currently has a clientele of about 70 veterans. It
offers services ranging from helping people navigate getting a medical
marijuana licence, to informational sessions on what type of products
may help them, to yoga and support groups.

"There are people out there who don't have the education or
understanding about what's available to them. We try to be a one-stop
shop. If there's something we can do to help, anything, we're here for
them," Macleod said.

He hopes events like Winnipeg HempFest Cannabis Expo will help their
organization reach a wider audience and provide knowledge about the
industry that the public lacks.

It's a sentiment echoed by Hockenhull, who said many in the public
have misconceptions about what the industry is all about.

"People wonder: are we all a bunch of stoners or something? Well,
obviously not. If they come out, they'll see that everyone here is
very professional. It's a really well-run show. We're all business
people here," he said.

Presentations Sunday included a number of speeches given by industry
leaders, as well as a "cooking with cannabis" demonstration from local
chef Allan Pineda.

As people wandered through the venue, milling about tables, checking
out products and talking to business representatives, a cannabis
mascot stood outside the entrance, waving and welcoming newcomers as
they strode through the doors.

One person who came to check out the event was Ken Squire of Winnipeg,
the publisher of a new cannabis lifestyle magazine called Pineapple.

He explained that at trade shows such as the HempFest Cannabis Expo,
people are able to acquaint, or reacquaint, themselves with cannabis,
while ensuring they're getting accurate information.

"There are so many undiscovered audiences for this industry, whether
it's medical or recreational. People have to get comfortable with
cannabis. So how do you get comfortable with it?" Squire said.

"You could go to the internet, but there's too many alternative facts
and bad information. At trade shows like this, there's a lot more
credibility. We need to inform, educate and reacquaint people with
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