Originally published at Ministry of Hemp.
For a year and a half, Rick Trojan III and his friends traveled around the country demanding the legalization of hemp.
“We did 48 states total the last 18 months,” he told us when we talked to him by phone earlier this week.
Inspired by his experiences as a hemp grower in Colorado, Trojan wanted the Hemp Road Trip to show the nation why this valuable crop should be legal nationwide, and educate people about its numerous benefits. He found the biggest barrier was overcoming decades of fear driven by the War on Drugs, but most of those he met were open to listening and learning.
Now Trojan is transforming his experiences into a new documentary about the Hemp Road Trip and industrial hemp itself, in the hopes of reaching more people. While he already has many talented contributors lined up, an IndieGogo campaign that he launched on Tuesday should help finish the project and bring it to audiences worldwide.
‘Why don’t you do something about it?’: Legal frustrations lead to Hemp Road Trip
A company Trojan co-owns created CBD oil supplements from a hemp crop grown in northeastern Colorado, but he became frustrated when he found the confusing legal landscape around CBD prevented him from easily selling the supplements nationwide.
“We couldn’t sell it to friends in California or Kansas,” he explained.
While sales of CBD were legalized for research purposes under the 2014 Farm Bill, and consumers have yet to encounter significant legal difficulties buying or using CBD supplements, the Drug Enforcement Agency continues to insist that CBD is illegal under federal law.
“This not only is unfair to domestic farmers and producers, it’s completely un-American and just plain wrong,” Trojan said.
“I was complaining about it to a buddy in a bar and he was like ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’” he recalled.
So Trojan bought a bus outfitted to use biodiesel fuel, covered it in illustrations of the many uses of hemp, which can be made into everything from CBD oil to hempcrete to dozens of everyday products, and went on the road.
Starting at the Iowa Caucus in January 2016, the Hemp Road Trip traveled to all 48 contiguous states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The tour unfolded in three distinct phases. First, they followed the presidential primaries around the country, attempting to reach as many candidates and voters as possible.
‘How can we get hemp in our community?’
The journey was fraught with highs and lows from the start. “Of course the bus breaks down the first day,” Trojan told us with a laugh.
While they waited for repairs, Trojan said he encountered a local farmer who was initially hostile to hemp:
He goes “What do you do?”
“I have a hemp farm in Colorado.”
He refused to shake my hand. He goes, “I have a commercial drivers license.”
He was afraid that if he shook my hand he would go positive for a drug test on his commercial drivers license. That was day 1.
After talking for 45 minutes, the farmer had changed his tune.
He shook my hands and said, “I’ve got a lot more to learn but I think our state could definitely use this crop.”
So I think that was a very tell tale sign of how the whole trip went.
While people sometimes started out afraid of hemp, at other times they were enthusiastic about what hemp can do for their communities.
“A lot of people are struggling” in these economically trying times, but this also means hemp looks like an opportunity, Trojan said. He was frequently asked, “‘How can we get hemp in our community?’ It’s more of an economic and logistics conversation, which is a great spot to be, that means we’ve made a lot of progress as a industry.”
Even legislators were mostly open to hearing about hemp. Mostly, that is:
We drove to the Senators’ offices in Utah and they called the police and the K9 unit and wouldn’t let us go up to see the Senators. But three days later we ended up in front of the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy on accident, trying to speak with other Senators. The cops started out scared but then they came around.
Most legislators, however, were cautiously open to being educated because both Republicans and Democrats support hemp. Trojan explained:
As an advocate, I go into Republicans and I say this is a jobs issue. We need jobs. It’s also a less government issue. Less government, more jobs, economic stimulus, why wouldn’t you want it? So that argument is simple to the Republicans. To the Democrats, again it’s a jobs issue, but it’s also an environmental issue, it’s safety, it’s a health issue.
Despite the divisive atmosphere in Congress, Trojan expects the Industrial Hemp Farming Act to be reintroduced later this year with bipartisan support.
Hemp Road Trip documentary will motivate viewers to take action
While Trojan says it’s a “daunting task” to turn an 18 month road trip into a single film, he has big plans for the “Hemp Road Trip” documentary, which he hopes will be the most important hemp-related movie in almost a decade.
Production is already underway, but the Indiegogo campaign will help cover all the costs as well as raise publicity about the project.
“We’re coming from a shoestring budget but we want to make a big splash,” Trojan told us. “We’ve got independent bands we want to hire to make some music; we’re trying to make this as collaborative as possible.”
Donors to the crowdfunding campaign receive digital access to the film, and at higher levels get additional perks like a movie poster, a U.S. Constitution printed on hemp, and even VIP tickets to a special screening in Denver.
The film will focus on the “state of hemp” in the USA, following The Hemp Road Trip’s cross-country journey and featuring individuals from throughout the industry.
“We’re going to explain what hemp is, and focus less on the history and more on current events,” Trojan said.
Though hemp has been used for centuries in the United States, its history has been covered in other documentaries, including the government-made film “Hemp for Victory.” Instead, Trojan hopes the “Hemp Road Trip” film will educate people about the path to legalization.
“I want people to walk away saying they learned something, they didn’t realize what hemp could do, but also believing that our government needs to get out of our way,” he told us. “I want them to walk away excited about the possibilities but also motivated to take action.”
‘You can talk about it or you can do something’
He reserved his sharpest criticism for the DEA, who continue to oppose legal hemp and cannabis despite all their benefits.
“If they can no longer seize cannabis as a drug they’re going to lose a lot of people and jobs, a lot of money. They have a vested financial interest in the fear and that’s what they’re trying to keep going. That financial interest runs contrary to what’s better for America.”
But the trip also inspired Trojan. “I really got more involved in our political process.”
In addition to promoting hemp legalization, Trojan hopes his story will help others follow his lead and become more invested in improving our country:
Really what I think I learned is if you want to make change, you’ve got to just get out and do it. You can talk about or you can do something, and I’d rather just do something. So that’s what we did.