Xavier Veille is part Howard Hughes, part Shaggy Rogers, and all business. Wearing a T-shirt and sandals, he doesn't look like much of an entrepreneur. But ask him what he thinks of cannabis or "the ganja," and Veille excitedly widens his eyes and straightens his posture. He is at the ready with business proposals, figures, and the straight dope about dope. Through the founding of his own company, American Hemp Inc., and as head of Charlotte Hempfest, he is determined to school the masses on the benefits of the hemp industry. Creative Loafing had an opportunity to sit down with Veille to talk pot, politics and production.
Creative Loafing: When did you get started with your company, American Hemp Inc.?
Xavier Veille: I came up with the idea in the fall of 2009. I'd been doing activism with Charlotte Hempfest, and I felt like I needed a foundation. So I started doing a lot of research, gathering information, and I came up with the idea that fall. What we lacked was supply. It's currently the biggest issue for the hemp industry. There have been large companies that have examined hemp as a commodity and as a resource that's beneficial, but when it comes down to it, there's not enough supply. China is the leading producer of hemp, but a lot of the hemp they produce is used by the Chinese people. A lot of the textiles we've got are coming from the Chinese as well.
So that's the biggest problem — the fact that most of the hemp is being kept in China?
Yeah, you know this is a domestic commodity. It would create jobs for people, keep in-house costs down by having something that can be manufactured locally. It's going to keep jobs here because it's raw material that's not coming in from China or India. It's coming in from local farms and sent to a local manufacturer. It's all in-house and made in America; that's the main thing here.
What is the mission statement of American Hemp Inc.?
To provide an affordable, quality raw material to manufacturers of different goods [and] to help the environment. Let's not use timber for paper; we need something that's a renewable crop. Deforestation is a problem, and we need a solution before we destroy ourselves. We're heading in a direction that shows no sign of change.
Tell me about Charlotte's annual Hempfest celebration.
Charlotte Hempfest is a festival dedicated to promoting and educating the people of Charlotte and the surrounding areas about the benefits of industrial hemp and the cannabis plant. We're just here to educate. This stuff's not in history books. I mean, it should be, because it's really interesting.
Would you say that Charlotte Hempfest has been successful in raising awareness about the benefits and versatility of hemp so far?
It's been successful in the path that it's gone on. We did have complications with the second one ... it was just one thing after another. We continue to educate. Yeah, I feel like it's definitely getting people talking, which is really the goal. Actually, what we're hoping to do is get enough money by the next festival so that we can advertise through radio as a PSA and just really reach the masses. That's really the most difficult thing. You know it takes money to do that. Maybe that's part of why I'm involved in my company.
Your website mentions H.R. bill 1831. That's the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which proposes that the growing and cultivation of hemp be made legal in the United States. Have you done anything to support that?
Well, we have been participating in the national campaign that's put together by Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association, which is a lobbyist group in Washington. We put on the national campaign, "Hemp History Week." It's a national campaign, but I put together the local thing. A lot of people came out. We had about 300 people and about that same number of signatures. We had a bunch of samples passed out. We passed out hemp milk, which is delicious by the way. The hemp chocolate milk is the bomb! And then we had some hemp seed, hemp protein powder, hemp soap, hemp lip balm, a bunch of different products to raise awareness and to show people that this is an economy, and that this is a commodity that not only [creates] products that are healthy, but it also creates products that are delicious.
How do you realistically view the future of the hemp industry in the United States?
It's either going to come down to: we do this or we fail. A decade or five years will even make a hefty footprint. The fact is that companies are already going green. Consumers are conscious about the products they buy, and they want to buy green. So that's what manufacturers are selling. They want to "green up" their company images, and they want to use [green] materials. If hemp were available, they would use it. It's really just coming down to we need to pass legislation that allows farmers [to grow it]. And we need to educate the people.