Transcript of the interview by Maria, our Co-Founder, with Mercedes, one of the founders of Expo Cannabis Uruguay. In it, we will share more about this incredible woman, while bringing important information on what it was like to do an event in the first country that regulated Cannabis in the world!
Hello Girls in Green, how are you? Today I am here with Mercedes, she is the founder and creator of ExpoCannabis in Uruguay. We will talk a little with her about entrepreneurship, women, the movement in Uruguay and everything else.
GG: Tell me a little about how your relationship with marijuana began, but as a user, not as a job.
Mercedes: I started my relationship with the plant when I was a teenager, but at the beginning, with a little bit of fear with the social resistance. Little by little I got to know the plant better and developed a bond with it which one day became, really, a great life partner. I am very grateful for the feminine spirit of the plant for everything we have been through together. In college that was more assiduous, until the first day I bought cannabis, I tried to buy a little and bought a lot. So, it was like the first time I experience the spirit of sharing weed and that is very important with cannabis.
GG: And how did Expocannabis start?
Mercedes: The exhibition emerged as a project to do in Uruguay, we were like the first country that regulated cannabis. We did an event that came out of the underground, really throwing the industry to into the light. The intention was to make an information and articulation platform for cannabis, linking medicinal, adult and industrial uses. Well, the truth is that it has been a very interesting way to see the whole evolution of the event along with the regulation in Uruguay.
GG: What is your main objective with the expo? We know there is a lot of presence of companies and people from all Latin America at the fair. Is promoting industry and interests in the region a main objective of the fair?
Mercedes: Yes, totally. Precisely, the event seeks to be as a platform just so that people can come to learn about what is happening in Uruguay, the process of regulation and conferences, research, political developments and social developments. Also, we offer workshops on cultivation and how to create the cannabis clubs. Our intention is really that as, as that is a taboo topic in society, the more information we have, the more autonomy we will have to make the right decision for our life. We are not saying that cannabis is good and that it is necessary to use it, we simply avoid prohibitionism and bring information so each one be free to make their own decision.
GG: How do you perceive Latin America’s relationship with cannabis?
Mercedes: Well, I think we have a very close relationship, in truth everyone has a somewhat close relationship with cannabis because it is a plant that since ancient times and since ancient times we have used and had a relationship with it. We all know, or many, but hemp what is the fiber of the plant, is used to make batteries and the entire Navia and war industry of the world throughout history was based on this industry. That means that cannabis has been planted in many different places in the world. The first papers, papyri, was made with hemp fiber, papyrus in China, the Constitution of the United States was written on hemp paper and its flag was made with hemp too. Chile was always one of the big producers in South America, now Paraguay and Colombia. We have an interesting productive link, and Brazil, of course, is included because they have an incredible productive capacity.
GG: When you think about the first ExpoCannabis and how the event is now, do you see a lot of difference? What are the main changes?
Mercedes: The expo evolved with the process of regulating Uruguay without a doubt, in the first year getting arrested was a possibility, and we requested the approval fot the event only 13 days in advance. 5000 people came, it was like “wow”, we could not believe in it . It was amazing that there really was a lot of need for information. And it was the year of the regulation and we were surprised by the number of Brazilians who came, we did not know how they had figured out about the event. Year after year we see the growth of the assistance of Brazilians, we are really grateful for how much they value the access to quality information, they are very interested in the topic.
GG: What do you want to further evolve for the 2019 edition?
Mercedes: well, the industry is evolving, and it is evolving, and the event evolves with it. In the beginning we had fewer stands, the recreational environment industry because it was the first to shoot. Today we are already separating into two rooms, separating the medicinal environment from adult use and is already diversifying to the business, taking different lines. The medicine and hemp industry and the adult use industry are separated, and this driven by the ban, also translates into the event. We respect that they have independent entrances, so that the public goes where they want. In the future, we think of separate events, because Uruguay is small, but we still have a lot of market space.
GG: What is the political body of an event like this, both for Uruguay or for Latin America and the world?
Mercedes: Already doing the sixth edition in a regulated country, and having declared the national interest with the presidency and with the social acceptance that it has, having much acceptance with the event, having medical offices inside. I think we had a lot of impact in Latin America, with many things that arose in our event that today are replicated in other fairs in the area, such as medical offices, the presence of a cultural activity such as a museum, to recapitulate the industrial use we had historically, because everything happens very fast and you forget that this is nothing new. It is an industry that arises after a political and economic lobby, was vetoed and criminalized. Today, it came back to light that has great benefits and applications for a lot of things and the potential for Latin America. Cannabis is much more than smoking and staying placed, potential for Latin America, speaking in terms not only strictly of hemp, but also of the medicinal plantations of CBD and THC, without trying the ban because the cannabis plant has a chemical compound, which Yes, it is medicinal.
GG: What are the sectors involved in the expo?
Mercedes: Without a doubt, in the beginning we had a lot of cultivation shop, the first business boom in Uruguay were the cultivation stores and, somehow, today we are evolving, they are granting more licenses for hemp production, more jobs are emerging Additional for the industry. Agronomy trained personnel, they are beginning to offer services to the industry that is growing not only with the cultivation stores and everything that also has to do with the crop, but also with other applications that are interesting for the development of the Industry of cannabis/