This article is brought to you by Stewart Farms.
Everyone knows what medical cannabis is, but not many people know when and how cannabis came to be used as a medicine. Now one LP applicant in Canada is hoping to change that by launching a special exhibit on the history of medical cannabis.
Next month, Stewart Farms - a license applicant that is set to begin operating in St. Stephen, New Brunswick in the near future - will launch a temporary medical cannabis exhibit at Tuck Interiors in Saint John, NB. The exhibit - called 'Medical Cannabis: 5,000 Years and Counting' - opens on Monday, June 17 during the World Cannabis Congress presented by Civilized, and it will run until June 22nd.
The Stewart Farms team is putting on the exhibit to help people who are unfamiliar with medical cannabis gain a better understanding of the plant's long and rich history as a medicine.
"We're being as meticulous as possible in putting this together so that a person who knows nothing about cannabis ideally will walk in there and first understand, 'Oh, there's a long, long history here, pre-prohibition,'" Tanner Stewart - CEO of Stewart Farms - told Civilized. "We want to give them as much education about the plant as possible so that they understand where it may fit in the medical world now and where the future of medical cannabis may take us. Prohibition has delayed and prevented research in recent decades, so we’re still very limited in what we can conclusively say about the therapeutic effects of cannabis, but studies are occurring around the world…we’re just starting to unlock the secrets of how it works and exactly what it can do for humans medically.
"Everything in this exhibit will be scientifically and medically anchored. That's what we're doing and we're excited about it."
Stewart added that people can learn about cannabis through books, but an exhibit offers a more effective way to communicate the rich history of cannabis.
"There are tons of books out there and, of course, there are tons of research projects and papers being put out every day, but that's not as accessible to the general public. It's not in their faces, they have to be actively seeking out that information to get it."
So he and his team decided to put together an engaging exhibit that is broken down into four specific themes.
"We essentially landed on four themes for the exhibit—one per room," Stewart explained. "Room number one is going to be a little salute to the history of medical cannabis before and during prohibition. Room number two is going to be themed around the emergence of modern-day medical cannabis, the future of medical cannabis and how it fits into the pharmaceutical world.
"The third room is actually a kitchen, so we thought that room would be cool to dedicate completely to terpenes and maybe other flavonoids," Stewart added. "So the third room is going to be ‘The World of Terpenes.’ We're aiming for a bit of a sensory experience in there so that people can understand first what terpenes are in general, which plants have terpenes, and what the terpenes in cannabis do. And then the fourth and final room is going to be dedicated to the cannabis plant itself and its relationship with humans. So there'll be a bit about the endocannabinoid system and more."
What sorts of challenges have you faced while putting this exhibit together?
Tanner Stewart: What I discovered right away is that it's very hard to find pre-prohibition era antiques. We've had to search for these things. Luckily, we found a couple authentic pieces from pre 1930 that we now own.
It's also very hard to find fake cannabis plants for displays. You can't just type "fake cannabis plant" into Google and find something that works, so we're reaching out to movie prop companies.
One thing that I'm finding as we put this exhibit together is people will bend over backwards to do anything that's part of this industry. We were talking to a company that does 3D modeling and they were like, "I'd love to do this because you're in the cannabis industry." So while there are still stigmas around cannabis, there's also an equal or greater love, interest and curiosity with cannabis, and we really see that first hand as we're putting this exhibit together. The artists that we're working with were just like, "I wanna do anything I can do in the cannabis industry!"
What sort of message do you hope people get from the exhibit?
I hope they come out of there with a clear understanding that we as humans have had a millennia-long relationship with this plant, and it's medicinal potential is unprecedented. There's a permanent future in using cannabis to benefit our lives going forward.
I also hope that it helps to destigmatize cannabis. That's absolutely crucial, especially in the age group of people who are 50 or up. Hopefully they'll walk into the first room of the exhibit, and say, "Oh, there's a cannabis sativa bottle from 1920. Oh my gosh, these products from before the 1930s were everywhere. This was perfectly reasonable for hundreds of years."
Seeing is believing. And while medical cannabis is in the media almost every day, most people haven't had an in-person, tactile experience with the history of cannabis. That might be the final thing they need to change their mind about medical cannabis, especially for the over-50 crowd. Hopefully they'll see those antique cans and bottles of cannabis and say, "This was legal not that long ago. These products were sold when my dad or when my grandfather was a young man.' Right now, there are 90-year-olds who were alive when it was legal. Having seen those antique cans and bottles, I think will be most impactful for the older generations if we can get them through the doors here.
But that sort of change won't happen immediately. We're coming off of a relentless bombardment of 70+ years plus of institutionalized stigmatization of medical cannabis from 1923 to 2001. That's not going to be undone overnight. But seeing those artifacts and reading stories from real patients can make a difference, and we want to be a part of that.
What drew you and the rest of the team at Stewart Farms to work on a medical cannabis exhibit?
We're putting the exhibit together as an anchor point for our company. This exhibit and our whole involvement this year in the World Cannabis Congress really is the starting point for the type of company we're building. We're trying to design into this exhibit who we are and who we want to be as a company in the long-term. So this exhibit is about establishing for ourselves who we want to be in this industry.
I like to tell everyone that we're not building a cannabis company, we're building a health and wellness company. But, of course, the core of what's going to help us become a meaningful health and wellness company is how we use cannabis as a tool in the health and wellness industry. This exhibit is all about that. It's about providing this easy-to-digest information to the general public, to patients, to people who may carry a lot of stigma still around cannabis.
Some people will probably wonder why you're bringing this message and your company to a small market like New Brunswick. If you want to take on decades of cannabis stigmas, wouldn't it make more sense to set up the exhibit and the cannabis farm in a larger market?
I'm from Miramichi, New Brunswick, originally. Home is where the heart is, so in my 13 years and counting as an entrepreneur, I've always been looking for a reasonable business opportunity to do in New Brunswick. Since the day I moved to Alberta, there was always this burning desire to figure out how to do my part in bringing some sort of economic prosperity back to New Brunswick. It runs deep because we all grow up in an economically distressed province and it's a struggle. My family is your typical blue-collar New Brunswick family. We have this small community vibe, so our friends are our family, and our families are big.
An unfortunate amount of people that I went to high school with fell into addiction later on in life. And some of them didn't make it out. I've got some personal family experience with depression, anxiety, mental illness, dementia and Alzheimer's. Those issues are also very prevalent across Atlantic Canada. At Stewart Farms, we want to help addicts get off of opioids, and we want to help people who don't even feel human anymore because they're on so many pills. We want to help them feel human again. We don't believe there's any reason for people to die or become more sick from the medication they're taking. And I truly believe that cannabis can help people avoid those complications in a lot of cases.
So, of course the initial reason for me to look at doing business here is because I'm from here. But beyond that, New Brunswick has an educated and affordable workforce, some of the best electricity rates in North America, cheap land, cheap infrastructure—there's lots of empty building across the province waiting for new life to be breathed into it.
There's a reason Organigram is here and expanding exponentially, there's a reason Zenabis, Canopy & Tidal Health are here. They get it. And I agree with them.
Stewart Farms' cannabis exhibit opens on Monday, June 17 at 6 PM and runs until Saturday June 22. To get a free ticket, click here.
Stewart Farms is headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, with their farming operations located in St.Stephen, New Brunswick. Stewart Farms’ unique production and growing practices will produce medical grade organic cannabis sustainably. They believe that cannabis has the potential to help people live healthier lives. Their mandate is to produce high quality, clean and pure products, in a manner that respects the earth all while harnessing the power of technology!