Weed Coast: The Cannabis Hemp Conference and Expo

Why this cannabis convention is worth exploring as we sit on the cusp of legalization.

Why are people endlessly fascinated with cannabis?Among the many, many reasons, I’d wager it’s mostly because the health benefits of this cherished plant are near limitless, even though advancements in the medical field have been suppressed by prohibition for the better part of the last century. But considering the fact that people are more educated about their health than ever before, coupled with the fast-approaching global meltdown due to climate change, our desire to become one with plants, and that land on which it grows, has never been stronger.For tens of generations before us, cannabis has been one of the world’s most-important industrial crops, cultivated for food, textiles, paper, ropes and much more. Historically, its therapeutic applications also date back at least 10,000 years, where it was used in ancient China, India, Greece and Egypt to treat a host of ailments including headaches, constipation, blood clots and complications from childbirth. Despite being oppressed across North America and most of the world, starting in the 1920s, people have never really stopped either working with, or researching the plant for its budding medicinal use.Today, many people can legally utilize the key chemical components of the cannabis flower—including cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, alongside aromatic compounds known as terpenes—as treatments for pain, anxiety, weight loss, seizures, arthritis, insomnia, depression, epilepsy and cancer. Countless others use cannabis for admittedly much simpler reasons – to take the edge off a busy day, to get amped up for a rock concert, or to loosen one’s limbs in advance of a session at the gym. Some people even use it as pure recreation—to relax or just to get high.But according to Salimeh Tabrizi, clinical counsellor, fearless plant medicine advocate and founder of the upcoming 4th annual Cannabis Hemp Conference and Expo (September 28-30), the most fascinating application of cannabis might be as an entheogen, a group of psychoactive substances, natural and otherwise, whose consumption is meant to promote a spiritual, religious, or shamanistic experience. She would further argue that connecting the spiritual and scientific uses of cannabis is an essential part of overall health and wellness. Salimeh TabriziBesides cannabis, other entheogenic plants include iboga (native to Central Africa), MDMA (also known as ecstasy), DMT (a major chemical component of South America’s ayahuasca), San Pedro (or mescaline, native to Peru) and psilocybin (aka magic mushrooms). Over the course of the three-day event, close to 80 speakers and exhibitors will showcase the scientific, medical, spiritual and ecological benefits of these complex plants.After completing a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from UBC, Tabrizi built a thriving practice as a clinical counsellor, before after assisting and participating in ayahuasca ceremonies deep within the Amazon rainforest about four years ago. This transformative experience propelled her to begin supporting individuals in integrating their experiences of entheogenic plant therapies into their counseling sessions, a process (along with organizing of the conference) that now occupies most of her professional life.“It’s an incredibly pivotal time, with cannabis legalization in Canada just weeks away. It’s critically important that the conference is able to showcase to the public the spiritual aspects associated with cannabis and other plant-based therapies, while connecting people to the recent significant advancements in science and technology,” she shared on the phone from her office in Vancouver.“Personally, I didn’t connect with cannabis until I was in university,” she said. “Even for me, I’ll admit that cannabis has not always been the easiest teacher. We do, however, now have an excellent relationship and I am very grateful for the psychological and physical healing I have received in working with the plant.”

It’s critically important that the conference is able to showcase to the public the spiritual aspects associated with cannabis and other plant-based therapies, while connecting people to the recent significant advancements in science and technology

After a brief pause, she continued, “My experience, though, has shown that even when people have a negative outcome after sitting with cannabis, it’s not about blaming the plant, but it’s about discovering what she is mirroring or magnifying what’s already inside you. Being humble and dedicated to seeing our emotional blocks and being willing to work on them is where true healing begins.”Helmed by some of the most recognized experts in the field, a number of panels and workshops throughout the conference and expo will educate upwards of 700 enthusiastic attendees (myself included) about the medical, sacred and spiritual uses of cannabis and other psychedelic entheogens, balancing divine content with deep-rooted sessions on plant genetics, legalization updates and modern cultivation practices.“We’re lucky to have been able to gather a group of passionate advocates, experts and educators, that can help people to experience hope and empowerment, not just for themselves, but for their community. But it all starts with education.”The breakdown: The fourth annual Cannabis Hemp Conference and Expo takes place at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts and the AMS Nest Student Nest (both located on the UBC campus in Vancouver) September 28-30. For more information, or to register, visit cannabishempconference.com.

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