This weekend saw the third annual Product Earth 2017, the UK’s only Hemp and alternative lifestyle exhibition take place in Birmingham.
Product Earth is a two-day expo that brings together an ecliptic mix of exhibitors, knowledgeable speakers, diverse organisations and businesses and members of the wider cannabis community to celebrate and promote all the benefits and applications that cannabis and its derivable technologies can achieve.
This years event had to be moved from its previous location in Peterborough down to London and then subsequently found home in Britain’s second largest city, Birmingham.
Perhaps as a consequence of this location change, the event was much more stringently policed this year with a large security presence on site, including multiple decorative “dog units” and strict personal searches upon entrance.
The event was covered by the ironically named Freedom security who for the most part acted with respect and professionalism towards the guests – most of the attendees found their entrance to be uneventful if only a little bit excessive. However, for some unfortunate guests on Sunday in particular, their experience was antithetical to this with a few security guards seeming to operate a bribery ring at the gate.
These individuals upon finding cannabis on attendees while searching bags were demanding a “tax” or they would simply take it all away (subsequently at least one of the security team was apparently fired and the rest of them briefed on how to conduct themselves).
There were also various security guards telling people that police will be sweeping through further attempting to create a climate of fear amongst attendees who were peaceful enjoying the plant and the music provided.
Incidents like these just further serve as yet more evidence of the urgent need for legalisation as this kind of criminality wouldn’t be tolerated at any other type of event as theft is theft.
There was, unfortunately, no camping at Product Earth 2017, given the industrial warehouse setting. There was, however, still the music village, which saw performances from Akala, Natty, Iration Steppas, Channel One Soundsystem, Black the ripper, Foreign Beggars, Reggae Roast w/ Charlie P and Natty Campbell and more.
On Friday evening there was also a VIP-exclusive event featuring music from Arridim, Kenny Ken, Fearless and Virus Syndicate. There was also a Saturday night VIP event featuring a High Focus take over.
As with previous years, there were exhibitors from countries all around the world offering up their wares to attendees.
There was fashion, clothing and lifestyle stalls from Smoke Loud UK, Blue Cheese clothing, Dank of England, Absent bags, Lost on green mile, Count Dabula clothing and THTC in attendance at Product Earth 2017.
This years expo reflected the recent decision in UK law to allow the sale of CBD meaning there were also many exhibitors selling CBD and CBD infused products oils and various health products including Scotland’s CBD Tardis, Easy as CBD, quintessential, Canexen, CBD life Synergy of nature, NSUK oils and Cannasseurs UK who were attending their first expo.
All headshop needs at Product Earth 2017 were catered for by East London cannabis club, London Smoking Club, South Essex canna club, Dr Chronic, Snail, Urban Green Birmingham, Fat Tones Head Shop, Pure sativa, Steal gifts, Top shelf packaging, The Grengineer, The attitude smoking lounge, Rolls69 UK and Futurola Amsterdam.
Munchies were also not a problem at Product Earth 2017 as there were plenty of snacks and treats provided by the likes of Dutch snacks UK, Canna shock, the juicy joint, Hempen (who provided CBD infused hot chocolate) and Vegan Hemp burgers. There were also some hot street food vendors in the music area.
Many of the big seed names were of course in attendance: Humboldt, Dinafem, Sweet seeds, Bomb seeds, Delicious seeds, Green House seeds, Exotic seeds, Sensi Seeds, Bulldog seeds, Royal Queen seeds, Dank genetics, True canna genetics, 710 seeds and Medical Marijuana genetics all exhibited at Product Earth 2017.
There were also many seed banks providing access to a wider range of genetics, including Attitude seeds bank, Seedsman, London seed Centre, City seeds bank, Super strains, Bulk seeds bank and the Amsterdam seed centre who were excited to be attending their first Product Earth this year.
The expo also provided stalls from Extraction companies, wholesalers, A Terps bar, Critical skateboards, Vaporisers from PotPax, Pax, House of Vapes and Open Vape, as well as magazines from Cannazine to paper chasers Ink.
As with last year’s expo , one of the highlights is the live glass blowing featuring several prominent UK blowers giving live demonstrations and selling their individually crafted pieces, giving customers a really unique insight and experience.
There were also plenty of organisations from around the UK who are working to legalise cannabis and end prohibition in general in attendance including the United Patients Alliance, the UKCSC and LEAP UK.
The first day in the seminar zone was focused on science, education and CBD with speakers from CBD brothers, Blunt science, United Patients Alliance, Nature going smart, Harmony Hemp Nathaniel Loxley and Reverend Danny Nemu.
Sunday was primarily focused on prohibition and policy reform with the UKCSC’s Greg De Hoedt and Stuart Harper speaking about the tagged 9-plant collective model and how to start a cannabis social club.
There was also a Q&A panel featuring cannabis club admins from around the UK with representatives of Bristol Cannabis Club, Durham City Cannabis club, Glasgow Cannabis social club, Brighton Cannabis club and the Tottenham Cannabis club who all spoke of the great work that their clubs are involved in within their communities as well as future plans and projects that they’re involved with.
LEAP UK chairman Neil Woods also spoke about his many years in undercover policing and how prohibition is the root of a great deal of the issues around currently illegal drugs.
Dr Simon Jones spoke about the situation with medical cannabis in Jamaica.
Russ Belville, who hosts the daily podcast The Marijuana Agenda’s spoke about legalisation in the United states.
Michel Degens from Belgium’s Mambo social club spoke about the battle he and the club are locked in with the Belgian government.
We sat down with Michael afterwards to get his thoughts on the expo and the legal status of cannabis in both nations.
An interview with Michael Degens
What do you think about the Product Earth 2017 expo?
-Its my first time here, it’s nice, things are going well here, it’s a great event like a mini Spannabis in a place you wouldn’t expect it.
It will only grow as an event it’s a shame this wouldn’t be possible to do this in Belgium.
What do you think/know about the current UK cannabis laws?
-Not much to be honest, just that they’re very old, outdated and strict- They’re just as bad as everywhere else in Europe.
How has the court case been going?
-Well it’s done now but I’ve since been raided again this time for my personal use. It’s a bumpy road with its ups and downs- we’ll see what happens.
When do you think Belgium will legalise cannabis?
It’s a dark time in Belgium at the minute it’s never been so bad in 20 years as it is today.
It depends on the next elections because there are some people in Belgium that want to intensify the war on drugs if these people were to get in power it’ll be 10 years before its legal but if moderates win probably 2 to 3 years.
Do you feel like a criminal?
Not at all! I try to be a good citizen, a good ambassador for the plant. I only feel like a criminal when I’m in a cell, when they arrest you and put the cuffs on it makes you feel like a criminal.
Finally, what do you think of the UK cannabis scene?
-I don’t know the scene very well but it’s very much alive! There is a lot of people involved here, it’s a real community from what I can see on the surface.
As with previous years, there was no police presence or arrests, and aside from the early discussed issues, the majority of attendees enjoyed this year’s expo.
Global cannabis prohibition cannot continue for much longer. It is a matter of when, not if, and if we as a country wish to thrive in this brave new world we best get to legalising, growing and taxing it.
This year’s Product Earth has once again given us a glimpse at the unbridled potential and endless possibilities that a legal cannabis marketplace could create here in the UK.
Words and photos by Simpa Carter