SUFFOLK — A hemp farm is inviting people 21 and up to attend a diverse and educational event taking place on Sept. 16 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“A Day in the Garden” will feature live music, local vendors, food and beverages, glass-blowing, and multiple speakers representing nonprofit organizations, all taking place on the grounds of a working hemp farm.
Jay Lilley, farmer and CEO of Lilley Brothers Canna Co., has been growing hemp since 2018 — a relatively new feat for the Lilley family’s farm, which spans more than a century. Though he says he is no expert in the matter, his passion for farming and optimistic outlook on the healing potentials of hemp drives him to continue growing and processing the crop.
In the early stages of growing, Lilley used his plants to create all-natural salves and tinctures — concentrated liquid herbal extracts made from plants and used as herbal medicine — giving them out as gifts. The products proved popular and recipients praised their pain-relieving qualities, some going so far as saying they surpassed their pharmaceutical drugs. Due to demand, the products were soon branded and sold.
“I’ve found a real home in getting people healthy, not high,” said Lilley.
Lilley aims to cultivate a welcoming and light-hearted environment for the upcoming festival in the hope that it can establish a sense of normalcy around the once-outlawed commodity of marijuana.
Tamara Netzel, founder of the nonprofit Cruel Consequences, sees the festival as an opportunity to educate the community and encourage people, specifically those involved with cannabis, to make their voices heard by voting in upcoming local and state elections. Her cause is growing increasingly urgent, as this year, all 140 Virginia senators and delegates are up for election, and a majority of their stances on marijuana are unknown.
“What [people] don’t realize is that local and state law affects you the most personally,” said Netzel. “The stigma is still there and people don’t want to speak up. We need to continue to communicate with our legislatures and let them know that a legal retail market is what we want.”
Netzel was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disease, at age 45. Consequently, she was prescribed multiple pharmaceutical drugs, one of which made her liver fail and none of which subdued her constant agony. That is, until she was introduced to CBD — a substance that gave her “painful existence” unrivaled relief.
“I’ve learned so much about my own body through that experience. It opened up my eyes and gave me my life back,” said Netzel. “This gives me control over my own health.”
Since her life-altering experience with cannabis, Netzel has taken it upon herself to make sure others are able to have the same freedom and access as she does to cannabis products. Cruel Consequences was formed to not only advocate against the prohibition and legal bias of marijuana, but to serve as a platform for elevating voices of those victimized by “the war on drugs.”
Its website features stories of marijuana-users that underwent heavy legal punishment as a result of their involvement with marijuana. A single marijuana charge has the potential to deny an individual their rights to housing/property, employment, college loans, voting, and child custody, and though the state recently legalized the substance to an extent, some continue to pay the price.
“We forgot about the human cost. There are still people who are suffering because of charges they’ve had and they continue to have more charges after legalization, said Netzel. “The fight is to get people’s lives back.”
Tickets to “A Day in the Garden” are available online or at the festival.