On a cloudy Saturday afternoon
on the SW waterfront, I strolled through Portland’s annual Hempstalk Harvest Festival, excited at the idea of meeting other people involved in the hemp movement. The event spanned a few hundred feet on both sides of the Hawthorne Bridge and housed a scattered variety of tents and stands where small groups of vendors, entrepreneurs and hemp enthusiasts gathered.

The first stand I visited was run by a man named Eric, who passionately showed off a slab of hempcrete he had made himself. He explained that although it is incredibly light, it still manages to work for the same purposes that a brick of cement does. I quickly learned that hemp could be used to make practically anything, including clothing, rope, floor and countertop tiles, car parts and oddly enough, Frisbees, which looked so much like plastic it was hard to believe it wasn’t. According to Eric, the goal of the hemp movement is to create a more sustainable future for our planet, thus eliminating the excessive production and use of materials such as plastic.

As I moved on down the stands, however, I began to notice that the festival had a lot less to do with the amazing benefits and hopeful future of hemp and a lot more to do with getting high. While I am as enthusiastic as the next at our state’s legalization of the crop, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in the fervent focus on the drug’s ability to take you away from reality. There were many stands selling bongs, pipes and any other device an individual needs to get the job done. Some of the event’s speakers I managed to catch were up in arms about making the legalization of recreational marijuana a nationwide reality. “All we want is to get high in peace,” shouted one of them as I walked by the stage.

Nevertheless, there were a few stands that seemed to want to focus on using said legalization to its full potential. One stand was bringing the cannabis war to the forefront, urging our country not to throw people in jail for marijuana possession. Not only is it a waste of taxpayer money to detain people for such meager offenses, but additionally the number of individual’s lives that have been ruined by this process is tragic and unnecessary. There were a couple of companies who eagerly explained the benefits of cannabis tinctures and medicinal products for people suffering from a variety of ailments. They explained that while cannabis testing is still an up-and-coming movement, research thus far has shown that cannabis has varying degrees of positive effects for diseases such as cancer, epilepsy and auto-immune conditions, to name a few.

There were also stands dedicated to selling seeds for the individual grower as well as anyone interested in starting a business of their own. Portlandsterdam University, whose motto is “Your Place for Higher Education,” offers classes on anything from how to grow your own crops to how to make your own edibles and cannabis oils. A few stands down from there, you could even pick up your very own lighting system, indoor or outdoor, so your crops will get the love they need to make it through Portland’s dreary winters.

All in all, this year’s Hempstalk seemed to be a struggle in the right direction. While recreational marijuana is obviously a focal point in our state at the moment, we can hopefully expand on what the crop has to offer and educate the public on where it could take us into the future.