Hempie the Hemp Bus

The documentary “Hemp Road Trip” involves an oversized vehicle that racks up the cross-country miles as its owner seeks to educate those he encounters about the wonders of hemp, but it’s stretching it to say that it bears much resemblance to the cartoon creation “The Magic School Bus,” another motor vehicle known for its commitment to education.

More likely, the sight of Hempie the Hemp Bus (as it’s affectionately dubbed) will bring to mind Ken Kesey’s colorful and customized school bus Further – or, returning to a fictional vein, the van seen in Kevin Smith’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” a spoof of the “Scooby-Doo” series’ “Mystery Machine” that was packed with “doobie snacks” rather than Scooby snacks.

Indeed, “Hemp Road Trip” founder Rick Trojan and filmmaker DJ Nicke have their work cut out for them on several fronts, including making the public aware of the differences between hemp and marijuana.

Hempie the Hemp Road Trip bus in Waterbury

Filmmaker Rick Trojan takes a break in Vermont with Hempie the Hemp Bus.

[Photo courtesy Rick Trojan]

The Hemp Road Trip Tour will reach the Carolinas in October, with stops including Asheville on Oct. 1, Wilmington on Oct. 4, Myrtle Beach on Oct. 5, and Charlotte on Oct. 8. For more information, go to HempRoadTrip.com.

Watch a trailer for “Hemp Road Trip.”

As the film helpfully explains, “All monkeys are primates, but not all primates are monkeys. So, no, hemp is not marijuana. However, both hemp and marijuana are cannabis.”

And while the picture acknowledges that marijuana has received a terrible and misleading rap due to “horrific images and propaganda [that] are not based in reality” (cue Trojan’s use of scenes from “Reefer Madness,” reviewed here), its primary purpose is to make everyone (including – perhaps especially – politicians) aware of the infinite benefits of hemp.

It’s a noble and worthwhile pursuit, as hemp can be used to create clothing, building materials, and perhaps even cars (in 1941, Henry Ford created a so-called “Soybean Car,” and employed in its construction was a chemical formula that included hemp). But resistance remains strong against anything cannabis-related, as “Hemp Road Trip” makes perfectly clear.

” … no, hemp is not marijuana. However, both hemp and marijuana are cannabis.”

Hemp Road Trip stops in Lincoln Nebraska

In the image below, filmmaker DJ Nicke (l) and Hemp Road Trip founder Rick Trojan stand in front of a government building in Lincoln, Nebraska. The marble engraving on the building reads, “The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.” [Photo courtesy Rick Trojan]

When Trojan asks a farmer if he knows the difference between hemp and marijuana, the reply is a testy one. “I don’t want to go on that topic. I don’t need to learn about either one.”

Mike Lewis, a Kentucky-based farmer, veteran, and founder of Growing Warriors, rightly notes that “there’s still a stigma. We’re in the South here; this isn’t Colorado, you know. This is still dope. So education is key.”

Even Trojan admits that his naivete was no match for the reality of the situation, a realization particularly pronounced as he initially sought to meet with politicians during the 2016 primaries to discuss legalization. “I was naïve,” he confesses. “I thought we would have it done in a couple of months. Hillary and Trump … everyone would be all about it, and obviously that wasn’t the case at all.”

Hemp Road Trip” is packed with plenty of textbook-style information, but there are humorous interludes as well: One lengthy sequence finds Trojan and two of his buddies attempting to eat nothing but hemp seed for 10 straight days, and it’s amusing to note their various reactions to this rather unenviable task.

But the film includes plenty of justified outrage as well, particularly in the passages detailing the bullying of indigenous people and the destruction of their hemp crops by the DEA. For his part, Trojan takes care to focus on Native issues such as these, and some of the interviewees are quick to mention the spiritual side of hemp. Muriel YoungBear, a member of the Meskwaki Tribe in Tama, Iowa, and an activist involved in tribal economic development, particularly offers some tantalizing food for thought.

“This is a plant,” she notes. “How can we deny a plant? Our creator made sage, he made tobacco, he made sweet grass. Was he wrong with cannabis?”

“Our creator made sage, he made tobacco, he made sweet grass. Was he wrong with cannabis?”

Hemp Road Trip with Muriel Youngbear in Iowa 980x

Muriel YoungBear, a member of the Meskwaki Tribe, takes a ride on Hempie the Hemp Bus in Iowa.

[Photo courtesy of Rick Trojan]

Matt Brunson

Matt Brunson

Film Critic

Longtime Charlotte-based movie critic.