Even with the confusion that has surrounded Texas' cannabis laws in the last few years, consumers and industry professionals from across the world gathered last week at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center for the first Texas Hemp Convention.
The place was flooded with people and hemp. More than 10,000 attendees were expected, but by the end of the week, more than 15,000 hemp enthusiasts had strolled through.
“We definitely did not expect such a great response,” executive event coordinator Juan Sandoval tells the Observer.
There were a handful of Dallas-Fort Worth CBD businesses throughout the showroom floor, consisting of more than 300 other exhibitors. Seeds, packaging, cooking demos and huge tractors could be found in the showroom.
Fort Worth-based hemp distribution company Duke Distro stood out with their matte black and solid gold accent display and product line. Duke Distro general manager Colton Hadaway said this was his second time attending a Dallas hemp convention.
“It’s been a super great turnout,” Hadaway says. "Everyone from the consumer to store owners, farmers and investors [were here]. I’ve met a little bit of everybody from all walks of life.”
More than 150 industry speakers held sessions for attendees to learn and ask questions about various hemp-related topics. Dallas resident Annie Epley was one of a few local speakers who got to share business knowledge and personal stories. Epley’s session was called “Sobriety With Cannabis.” She shared an in-depth and inspiring story about her family’s struggle with addiction, and how she was able to overcome those hard times in her life with the help of cannabis. Even after she stayed clean, Epley's doctors were prescribing her medications that were leaving her disconnected from reality.
“I knew I had my work cut out for me because I also battle with depression and it got so much worse over the years because of the pharmaceuticals,” Epley said in her lecture.
She said one of the biggest side effects she experienced was severe memory loss.
“I couldn’t remember time,” Epley said. “I forgot my kid at school [and] they called me and said, ‘Ms. Epley where are you? One more time and we’re going to get CPS involved.’”
Epley said she felt compelled to share her story to help people who could be in a similar situation.
“As an addict with my addiction, one of the biggest things that almost broke me was abandonment, solitude and not having people there that understood,” Epley said. “People that would come in and say, ‘Listen, you’re not crazy. The way you’re feeling, that emotion is normal.’”
The hemp industry extends beyond tinctures and flower. The ability to build houses and thread clothes are cost-effective, important areas in the hemp industry. Wendy Oldani, co-founder of Hemp Blnk, had been manufacturing clothing for big companies for 15 years before realizing how damaging cotton clothing and production are to the environment.
“I told myself, 'I know better now so I’m going to do better,' and I devoted my life to hemp,” Oldani tells us.
Texas state Rep. Tracy King was one of two keynote speakers at the convention. King, a South Texas Democrat, played a major role in introducing House Bill 1325 to legalize hemp in the state of Texas. He answered questions that pertained to the current state of the cannabis industry rules and regulations — or lack thereof in Texas. One woman was concerned that money-hungry outsiders would come into Texas and grab a bunch of land to plant, on soil that she felt belonged to Texans.
Another concerned resident asked about the new law set to go into effect in the coming months that bans the production of smokable flower in Texas, which was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From there, as questions to King continued, the room started to feel like an episode of The First 48.
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Even with the ban of manufacturing smokable flower, there was no shortage of weed in the building. There wasn’t any smoking going on, but there were at least a couple of hundred pounds of hemp flower shown and sold in the showroom.
There seemed to be a misunderstanding between some of the organizers and exhibitors. Some exhibitors said they were told they weren’t allowed to sell the flower, or in some cases, even bring it in at all. The confusion that surrounded the event went hand in hand with the current state of Texas laws and regulations on hemp and cannabis in general.
In the end, the Texas Hemp Convention met its goals. People from all over the world met in Dallas to get updated on the latest technology and techniques that are continuously increasing profits in the cannabis industry, and they left more informed and connected to a community that has a history of being frowned upon.