Marijuana expo a high point for Edmonton advocates

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Marijuana expo a high point for Edmonton advocates

Hundreds crowded into Edmonton's Expo Centre on Saturday with questions about Canada's budding marijuana industry.

"People are coming down for all different reasons," said Kevin Blackburn, show director of the two-day Edmonton Cannabis & Hemp Expo. "It's just about what to expect when things become legalized.

"It's about getting prepared and getting as much education around the industry as possible."

The expo features information booths, demonstrations and seminars about how to use marijuana.

Canada's federal government is poised to announce legislation that would legalize the drug by July 1, 2018. 

Linda Northcott has been using medical marijuana for more than a decade to treat symptoms of rickets, a painful bone and muscle condition. As a member of Canada's Marijuana Party, Northcott said she has a blunt message for skeptics.

"It's just a plant," she said. "I don't care if it's recreational or medical, people should be allowed to experiment with a plant."

Events like this weekend's expo help clear the air around marijuana use, Northcott added.

"There's so many parts of cannabis and people just refer to 'the old pot head,' " she said. 

"The only substance I use is cannabis and I can't get what I need from my licensed producer ... people should just be able to purchase it."

'A great time to be a patient'

Philippe Lucas has dedicated two decades of his career to helping users like Northcott. He's the vice-president of patient advocacy at Tilray, a medical marijuana research and production company.

Lucas described the Edmonton expo as an encouraging step on the road to legalization.

"It's a really exciting time as a cannabis researcher because we're able to do more research than ever before on this amazing plant substance," Lucas said. "But it's also a great time to be a patient because there's more and more treatment options."

The weekend's expo is dedicated to exploring those options, said Jordan Smith. He staffed an information booth for Lift, the company that presented the expo this weekend.  

"We're at the precipice of people trying to figure out how cannabis can work for them," Smith said. "There's a thirst for knowledge around cannabis, especially today with proposed legislation being introduced.

"I think we're kind of at the tipping point of the learning curve where people are trying to figure out how to use cannabis in the best and most responsible way."

Smith and Lucas are two of dozens of exhibitors at the two-day expo, which wraps up on Sunday.