BURLINGTON, Vt. — For the second year, the Hemp Road Trip will make a stop in Vermont in Burlington on Wednesday, April 26 and in Montpelier on Thursday, April 27. On Wednesday, the Hemp Road Trip bus will be at the University of Vermont and in downtown Burlington during the day, and at the Cannabis Entrepreneurship Event in the evening hosted by KIND Consulting at Main Street Landing on the Burlington waterfront. April 27 will be a ‘hemp lobbying day’ in Montpelier at the state house with a lobbying schedule that includes mention of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont).
The Vermont stops are part of a national tour that started in early April and when completed in early June, will have visited 40 U.S. states on a loop from New Mexico to Atlanta to Vermont through the Midwest and back to California and Colorado. The Vermont stops are also supported and presented by the Vermont Hemp Company, who will be joining the Hemp Road Trip for the Burlington and Montpelier portions of the trip.
The Hemp Road Trip is now in its second year and is the brainchild of Rick Trojan, a Colorado-based entrepreneur who became a hemp advocate and evangelist after a serious injury left him with time to study and consider the potential (and prohibition) of hemp. Trojan became involved in what is now the nation’s largest hemp farm and gained a firsthand education in hemp cultivation, harvesting, processing, and distribution starting in 2015, when the Hemp Road Trip idea came to light.
The purpose of the Hemp Road Trip is both awareness and advocacy and seeks to make impacts at the local, state, and national levels by educating government and community leaders about the potential applications for hemp, as well as the political obstacles holding hemp back. Initially, the federal efforts were specifically aimed at finding sponsors for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, but after the 2016 elections, they’re looking for new sponsors for updated legislation.
The Hemp Road Trip has been busy in New England already, visiting the New England Cannabis Convention (NECANN 2017) in Boston this past weekend (April 22-23), where Trojan delivered several speeches and presentations. From there, the group visited Providence, Rhode Island and both Portland and Augusta in Maine for respective lobbying days.
Heady Vermont Editor Eli Harrington caught up with Trojan at NECANN and interviewed him briefly about the evolution of the Road Trip, the status of the national and regional hemp scene, the impact of the explosive growth of CBD, and the diverse innovative ways hemp is already being used in the U.S.
Full Interview Audio:
Heady Vermont: When you’re traveling around the country, what specifically are you advocating for at the federal and local levels?
Trojan: We’re looking to end the federal prohibition of cannabis across the board. Our focus initially was on the Industrial Hemp Farm Act, which was Senate bill 134 and House bill 525 from last congressional session. That bill got 75 House co-sponsors and 16 Senate co-sponsors — the new congress has not introduced an industrial hemp farm act bill yet, which we expect them to do, so we’re working with Representative Goodlatte (R-Virginia) and Representative Comer (R-Kentucky) to introduce a new one which will include consideration for Native Americans as well, and some additional language that will help the bill be better for cannabis proponents.
So we’re going all over the country educating people, educating legislators and pushing for the end of federal prohibition of this plant — we need it off the controlled substances act.
HVT: There’s been a ton of progress made over the past few years in terms of hemp and cannabis reform, but I want to ask about CBD (cannabidiol) and the role that this explosion of interest has had in the hemp community and the impact of all the new, more mainstream interest.
Trojan: CBD is a great product that can be made — one of the 30,000-plus that can be made — so it’s a naturally occurring component of the plant that’s nationally legal, internationally legal, there are no issues with CBD other than those states that are trying to make issues with CBD on a state level — states like Nebraska, North Dakota …
HVT: Those states that are paragons for progressive politics, right?
Trojan: Yea, they’re going the way that we’re used to them going, which is backwards … but CBD is great, people know about it and it’s helping a lot of kids out there, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN reporting about it helping epilepsy and the Grand Mal seizures, and Parkinsons and all the things that cannabinoids — and CBD specifically — have been shown to improve.
Instead of the conversation only being about fiber and fuel–which is fine, those are amazing things–this (CBD) adds another immediately gratifying component to the conversation. Kids are having less seizures and that’s an immediate, real-life impact, and we’re such an immediate gratification society, I think it feeds right into that dialogue. CBD is a foot in the door to have that conversation more generally about the rest of the house, which is hemp clothing, fiber, fuel, et cetera.
HVT: That seems like the most interesting part of where we’re at with hemp now with the growing understanding of hemp through CBD. For a long time, I think that advocates have come at it from a more agricultural angle and that hemp has had this kind of nobility around it because there can be real acreage and real farms making this incredibly useful commodity crop with over 30,000 uses. Do you think that we’re getting to a place where it will be more of an agricultural conversation and getting real scale in the U.S.?
Trojan: A lot of the farmers we’re talking to about CBD specifically are actually former tobacco farmers because planting high CBD cannabis industrial hemp is much different than planting industrial hemp for fiber or for seed.
My farm started with CBD, we’ve now pivoted to seed so we’re now on the more agricultural side. We wouldn’t have gotten there if we had started with seed I don’t think. It took us learning about CBD, planting it, growing it, extracting it, processing it, trying to sell it — all of those things — it took us going through that to get to where we’re at.
We’re going to have the largest seed-producing hemp farm in the U.S., two thousand acres is a lot of hemp seed, but we sell it all for food and protein. So I think that CBD got us, as a company, into the seed game.
HVT: How are things evolving nationally and within the industry? More plastics, more building materials, more textiles, fancy paper — where are things evolving and what are we going to see coming next in the hemp world?
Trojan: I think plastics is huge and is a big deal, and they’re already doing plastics domestically, particularly in North Dakota it’s huge. Energy, bio-char is something that’s up and coming, fuel is a big one.
We met a Virginia fuel (hemp) farmer, he did 10 acres of hemp and he’s running his farm on hemp biodiesel. That’s already happening and the thing that I think is cool is that he can run his tractor and all his farm equipment on hemp oil and he can also use that same oil tub that he fills his tank up with, to cook with and put on his salad — it’s not food grade, but you can literally eat what you put in your car and that’s INSANE to me, I want to do it.
HVT: This seems like the strength of the road trip is that you can take these innovations and share them with people around the country — show someone in Minnesota what someone in Virginia is doing … what’s the best way for people to check out what you’re doing and learn more?
Trojan: The best way to check it out is at www.hemproadtrip.com and you can find us on facebook with our events, as well as a gofundme site (here) for people that can help us with gas and funding as we go along on this road trip!