Picture this: Two dreads in a Lexus, talking about marijuana. Sounds unbelievable, but it actually happened not long ago, while riding to an industry conference with my old friend Jermyn Shannon-El, leader of the Cannabis Kollective and a co-founder of Northeast Florida’s NORML chapter. The 44-year-old Duval native has played a key role in the emerging medical marijuana movement in the area, leading up to his latest venture, the CannXperience, which is going down on Saturday, June 30 at the lovely Tree Hill Nature Preserve in Arlington.
While all this is still fairly new for local audiences, cannabis has been a passion for Shannon-El for quite some time. “My appeal to the cannabis industry was inspired by my big brother, Larry Smith Sr., owner of G-Five Cultivation, a legal black-owned medical and adult-use cannabis operation in Las Vegas,” he says. “Well, I’m doing the same here. It’s the same gravy, just heated over.” The resulting work has taken him from coast to coast, but it always brings him back to Northeast Florida.
Tree Hill was the site of last year’s Freedom Fest, which has been rolled into the inaugural CannXperience for 2018. “The CannXperience Tour is a multisensory, participatory approach to learning more about the origins and root science of cannabis—infused with medicinal cannabis education with subject matter experts, professionals, and members of the creators [arts and music] community,” he says. “The event is designed to bring together the key players, physicians, farmers, processors in a B2B cannabis-focused platform to create a unique experience around health and wellness.”
The CannXperience will include growers, distributors, doctors and lawyers, and all kinds of vendors; but the day’s highlight may be a discussion panel, moderated by me. “A Neophyte’s Guide to the World of Industrial Hemp” will include Chip Griffin of Nature’s Healthy Harvest, Dr. Kelly King of ReleafMD, attorneys Scheril Murray Powell and Carrie McClain Knight, who’s recently set up her own dedicated practice here in town. The panel will break down some of the hype and confusion related to industrial hemp, while pointing noobs toward the wide range of products available.
For Shannon-El, events like these are about more than just civil liberties, or even the physical effects of the plant on the human body. He takes a special interest in the issue’s agricultural side, and in making sure people get the right information. “The business of cannabis is rolling in billions of dollars into America,” he says, “with the recent legalization in Canada and the islands on the verge and more receptive. But the soil here is still virgin, so it’s critical people get the facts before the pesticides and fertilizer cascade.”
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