by JEFF HAWKINS
Ana Rodriguez-Mueller stood behind the table at her corner booth with nearly 20 hemp products on display. She smiled and introduced herself as the "Hemp Queen." One day, she says, Rodriguez-Mueller will live her life solely off the plant that the federal law classifies as marijuana.
At a side booth, Stephanie Ripley proudly rehashes the homemade menu she serves her husband, Chris, and two young sons on a daily basis: hemp pancakes, hemp biscuits and a big glass of hemp milk to wash it down.
On stage on Saturday, Charlotte Hempfest organizer Xavier Alexandre Veille performed the riff that was chosen for the soundtrack of a new hemp-related documentary. Hundreds of Hemp History Week supporters attended the eight-band musical gathering at Salvador Deli & Market that capped off seven-day event. Many tasted and tested a variety of free hemp products.
Charlotte natives Josh Mallory and Morgan Diep sat behind a table, offering free hemp cookies and milk.
"Try my favorite," Diep said excitedly, pouring a half glass of chocolate milk. "Good isn't it?"
Not bad, but where's the buzz?
"It's not a drug, it's a plant."
The third annual Hemp History Week billed itself as a grassroots education program aiming to re-establish hemp farming in America. Hemp is a form of marijuana that does not contain enough THC to create the high of smoking pot. Hemp stalks are utilized in thousands of industrial products like plastics, paper and nourishment. Recently, Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, introduced an amendment that would remove industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. By doing so, local farmers could discover a profitable crop, one that can fulfill all the basic needs for living, said Rodriguez-Mueller, who runs Ana's Corner in a Belmont farmer's market.
"I want to survive on hemp [products[ solely. I'm not there yet. That is my goal."
Aided by hemp products, Rodriguez-Mueller figures she can one day live in a hemp house, eat hemp food, wear hemp clothing and take hemp medicine.
"With God, that's it," she said.
Stephanie Ripley grinned when asked about the reactions she gets from mothers when she discusses hemp as a primary source on her family menu.
They usually ask, "You feed your children pot?"
"I do get a lot of that. We just have to show them the research," said Ripley, owner of Earth Force Naturals. "Hemp is not pot. There is no [or very little] THC in it."
What is in hemp, she added, is Omega 3 and Omega 6, two essential fatty acids. It also helps the heart, brain, joints, skin and nervous system because it's high in fiber, vitamin E, iron and magnesium.
Veille estimates industrial hemp has ".3 percent" of THC found in typical strains of marijuana. "You don't get high off it. You would have to smoke a telephone pole."
Last Saturday's event at NoDa was one of about 100 across the nation, supporting the Vote Hemp campaign, the leading advocate for industrial hemp farming.
"It's all about education," Veille said after the Xavier Project's set last Saturday. The founder of American Hemp Co., Veille's enterprise seeks to supply companies with raw industrial hemp hurds and fibers. Veille is setting up the company to become an industry leader if Wyden's bill passes.
"We are jumping the curb, but there are no hemp processing companies in America," said Veille, a 2007 UNC Charlotte graduate who's in talks with "serious investors."
Speaking over the reggae-influenced band Jah Fisherman, Veille praised the vendors for having the foresight to set up at the event. The vendors appear to be getting in on the ground floor of a potential business boon.
"We're just trying to the get the info out," Chris Ripley said. "The door is open."