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The floor at Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s Back Bay was buzzing with excitement the weekend following the hemp plant’s biggest day of the year. Massachusetts legalized marijuana in the most recent election which made the convention this year extra special for vendors and attendees alike.
The two-day convention featured vendors showcasing everything ranging from hand-crafted paraphernalia to innovative medicinal marijuana products. Alex Phe is one of the owners and co-founders of Flytlab, a herbal vaporizer company which has experienced growing success in recent years.
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“We focus mainly on vaporizers/vapor systems and we design all of our own products,” Phe said.
Phe and his brothers founded Flytlab in New York but the company has expanded and has headquarters in Los Angeles now as well. Flytlab’s objective is to create a product that makes herbal vaporizing efficient and convenient. Phe says that vaporizers open the possibility to different types of experiences.
“This allows you to enjoy your herb at its core,” he said.
A great deal of marijuana consumption now comes in the form of edibles or straight THC/CBD oil. CBD is the cannabinoid responsible for many of the medicinal benefits of marijuana. Medicinal companies like CBD Thera who tabled at the convention specialize in using CBD from the hemp plant to treat conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, and depression to name a few. This opens the door to companies like Precision Extraction Solutions providing their services. Whether it’s for recreational or medicinal use, companies like Precision have the technology to extract CBD or THC oil from the hemp plant for vendors to then sell the oil straight up, or make edibles and cosmetic products. Charlie Richardson is a regional sales manager for precision.
“Our machines pull oil and concentrate out of the cannabis plant and allows clients to use it in medicinal capsules, distilling cartridges, and all of the products in dispensaries that are rooted in concentrates,” Richardson said.
Amid the clever inventions, vendors, and curious attendees were compelling stories about how marijuana has made a profound impact in people’s lives. Up until recent years, and still in many places around the country, marijuana has been looked down upon and immediately written off as bringing anything positive whatsoever. It also doesn’t help that cannabis is still considered a schedule one narcotic on the federal level.
However a group that was at the convention and is working tirelessly to end the stigma of cannabis and changing lives for the better is the New England Veterans Alliance or NEVA. The group was started just over a year ago and is a nonprofit that works to get safe access to cannabis for veterans struggling with the physical and or mental affects of their time in the service. Jim Preston, Director of Operations for NEVA and Cory Kupiec, a representative from Vermont for NEVA, say that their organization is making significant strides in combatting an ongoing opioid crisis amongst veterans.
“We teach a healthier, happier lifestyle without opiates or alcohol,” Preston said. “(We) find an easier way to cope with the stresses, the physical debilitations that our veterans have and those who working on post-traumatic stress.”
Preston is a twenty year firefighter veteran from Connecticut and dealt directly with some of the first responders in 9/11. Kupiec is an army veteran who served from 2005-2011 and spent a year in Iraq during that time period. Kupiec explains that he and most veterans’ health insurance is provided by the Veterans Affairs, which doesn’t prescribe marijuana. That’s when NEVA steps in.
“It’s overall about the health and welfare of veterans,” Kupiec said. “The majority of us (in NEVA) have medical cards but some of us do not because depending on what state you live in it depends on what dictates your access to the cannabis.”
Preston said that NEVA’s goal is to get cannabis as a first-round medication for veterans who are coping with PTSD and or chronic physical pain inflicted during the line of duty. Kupiec and Preston believe that the VA and mainstream psychiatric care does not understand the benefits that cannabis has brought and is bringing to veterans, and instead turns to prescribing opiates and anti-depressants, which has fostered the current epidemic. Both men agree that quality of life is more important that abiding by the current system.
“We’ve all seen some really really horrible things that life has to offer so if cannabis brings us together and we can talk about it comfortably to each other what’s better than that?” Kupiec said.
Contrary to what may be popular belief, the New England Cannabis Convention was not a gathering of a bunch of over-enthusiastic stoners. It was an event that fostered conversation amongst advocates, scientists, entrepreneurs, and people genuinely interested in the endless possibilities that the hemp plant can bring. All of the facts about the positives that hemp can bring are there, and events like the New England Cannabis Convention are real-life examples about an industry that has the power to create jobs and improve the livelihood for millions in this country.
Adrian is a student at Boston University studying journalism with a concentration in broadcast journalism. He enjoys traveling, playing tennis, and hosting/producing shows for his campus radio and TV station. He is passionate about covering unique people and stories and hopes to be an on-air personality in the future.