Last week, Carolina Cannabis News caught up with Rick Trojan, founder of the Hemp Road Trip. This month, his documentary film of the same name is screening in cities across North Carolina.
As we spoke, Trojan was preparing for a couple screenings of “Hemp Road Trip” at the Southern Hemp Expo in Nashville. The day before our chat, he says, his team drove 22-hours straight from Denver, Colo., to Nashville in Hempie the Hemp Bus.
The crew’s first tour for “Hemp Road Trip” took place in North Carolina in Feb. 2016. Trojan, who is based in Denver, Colo., says he’s now on his sixth nationwide tour only two and a half years later. This year’s tour began in Tennessee, at the Southern Hemp Expo, and will make its way through the Carolinas before heading to Kentucky and Kansas.
During part one of our chat we discuss how Trojan discovered cannabis, how his first cannabis business went bust, why he decided to make a documentary film about hemp and why traditional solutions for opioids are “insane.”
Next week we’ll get into why he could give a shit about your politics.
Here is part one of our conversation, edited for clarity and brevity. Look for part two next Monday, when the “Hemp Road Trip” screening tour stops in my city, Charlotte, N.C.
Hempie the Hemp Bus in Butte, Montana.
[Image: Rick Trojan]
Rick Trojan: I got started in high THC cannabis. I created an edibles company about five years ago called Sante, which means “health” in French.” So I started on the high side, but I didn’t know anything about cannabis.
I had just sold a software company in the health care space. I was looking for what I wanted to do next. What I wanted to do was move to Colorado to be close to family. So, I asked myself, “What business will allow me to live in Colorado?” And I started a cannabis company.
CCN: When people hear that you sold a software company and that you wanted a cannabis company so you – boop – created one, that makes you sound wealthy. Are you wealthy?
RT: (laughs) No. I’m still not cash positive. I sold the software company to fund my first cannabis edibles company which didn’t even bring a single dollar of revenue. That thing was a complete nightmare. I mean, the landlord didn’t pay his bills and the bank foreclosed on us because they couldn’t have an edibles company as a tenant. So, yeah, I sunk most of the money from that software sale into the edibles company and lost all of it.
CCN: That’s terrible.
RT: You know, it’s just business.
CCN: What did you do next?
On the first day of our first trip the bus broke down. I had $800 in my bank account and the repair was going to cost $1,200. Then — I’m not kidding — a sponsor came through out of nowhere with $1,500. That was a sign to me that we were on the right path.
I think that if you’re doing the right thing that things figure themselves out, so you don’t need to be concerned about money. I mean, I’m concerned about money, but it’s not my overall worry. We did broker a sponsorship deal for this current tour.
Hemp Road Trip stop in Montpelier, Vermont.
[Image: Rick Trojan]
RT: At first, we did. But we didn’t reach our goal, so we didn’t get anything. When we made the movie we did an IndieGoGo campaign. Our goal was to raise $10,000 and we raised $6,000. Then, again, a woman in California who is super into hemp plastics wrote me a check for $10,000 that helped finish the film. I’ve never even met this person; she’s amazing!
CCN: That’s amazing. But, you still haven’t told me why you chose to focus on hemp.
RT: Hemp is a plant that can impact everyone. But I didn’t understand that until I almost died due to a bad reaction to prescription medication. This was right after I started my first edibles company.
I was in three hospitals. I lost my eyesight and my sense of smell, which really hasn’t returned; all your skin peels off – it’s gnarly. My doctors said I had Steven Johnson Syndrome and a one in 20 chance of dying.
The silver lining was – once I could see — I started reading everything I could about cannabis. I literally had a month in the Munich, Germany, intensive care unit where, once I realized I wasn’t going to die that day, I would do nothing but read about cannabis.
I was like, wait a minute – cannabis can make clothing? Everything can be made of this plant? Not everyone wants to get high? This is crazy.
I realized that hemp is a better economic solution for our children. It’s a non-toxic alternative for almost everything, so why wouldn’t we do that? That’s what lit the fire.
It took almost dying for me to wake up. I’m hopeful my message will help people get there without having to go so extreme.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been touched by the opioid crisis, and that’s even something cannabis can help with … it’s just tragic that we have to get to that point, that legislators have to experience their own children dying of overdoses before they’ll do something.
Everyone I speak with can benefit from using cannabis.
Opioid overdoses are down 28 percent in Washington and Colorado – two states with legal cannabis.
Hemp Road Trip stop in Des Moines, Iowa.
[Image: Rick Trojan]
RT: It’s like prescription drug companies have lit our houses on fire. Companies like Narcan make drugs to help you get off the other drugs that they made. They set the house on fire and they’re bringing you the pail of water and charge you for it, too!
It’s insane that’s even a solution, that we’re giving addicts these drugs to keep them alive just long enough to overdose again. These people should be given cannabis instead.
CCN: Why do this, though – the tour? You could have donated money to pro-cannabis groups or become an activist in Colorado or Washington, D.C.
RT: I didn’t see any other alternatives.
When I returned home from Germany our hemp farm was the largest in the nation and it was only 300 acres. But it was still questionable if I could sell CBD to my friends in Kansas. I was like, ‘This law’s dumb.’
I’ve never been politically engaged. I mean, I knew what we’re taught in the fifth grade. I was so naïve.
I thought, “We’ll talk to these presidential candidates. We’ll help them learn about cannabis. They’re gonna think cannabis is great and we’ll be good.”
I didn’t realize how broken our system is on pretty much every level.
CCN: Did you meet with candidates?
RT: I met with all of these D.C. folks in their offices, but that wasn’t effective. I decided that we needed to get grassroots, that we’d have to go to their hometowns.
And we did. We went to their hometown offices and got farmers and business people and students and activists to go into their office and say, “We want this legal. You need to support this. Stop holding it up in the judiciary committee.”
Watch a trailer for “Hemp Road Trip.”
And check out our event calendar for information on the screening tour.
BY Rhiannon Fionn
Editor & Publisher
Rhiannon Fionn is an award-winning journalist based in Charlotte, N.C.