CANNABIS Kyle St. Hi­laire is us­ing prof­its from his or­ganic-hemp rolling pa­pers to help re­for­est dev­as­tated Mada­gas­car.

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - By Piper Courte­nay

KPiper Courte­nay

yle St. Hi­laire is only stop­ping in Van­cou­ver for a few days be­fore get­ting back to his cross-coun­try road trip. Three weeks ago, the 25-year-old en­tre­pre­neur hit the high­way in his con­verted 1995 Dodge camper van, named Big Blue, to spread the word about his line of en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious rolling pa­pers.

Holed up in a café in the heart of Gas­town, the Cana­dian cannabis no­mad shares the story of how a trip to Mada­gas­car in 2016 in­spired his mis­sion to com­bat global de­for­esta­tion, one joint at a time.

“It’s pri­mar­ily for­eign com­pa­nies that go into Third World coun­tries and mine and fish and log, suck­ing up the re­sources with­out hav­ing the proper li­cences or fol­low­ing reg­u­la­tion,” St. Hi­laire tells a Ge­or­gia Straight re­porter.

“If they get caught, they just pay their way out of trou­ble. Be­cause of that, al­most 97 per­cent of the rain­for­est and fauna in Mada­gas­car is de­stroyed, just com­pletely gone. There is bar­ren land ev­ery­where.”

On his trip, St. Hi­laire was of­fered a job to stay in the re­gion, work­ing for a min­ing and re­source com­pany. He turned down the op­por­tu­nity and re­turned to Canada, where he would launch his lat­est ven­ture, Hazo Rolling Pa­pers.

“I’ve al­ways worked in the cannabis in­dus­try in some man­ner, ei­ther trim­ming or mak­ing hash,” he says, most re­cently work­ing as a dis­pen­sary man­ager in Ver­non, B.C.

“I wanted to cre­ate a low-ticket item with a so­cial cause at­tached to it that wasn’t go­ing to get caught up in the miles of red tape com­ing with the then-pend­ing le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis,” he says.

A long-time med­i­cal-cannabis con­sumer him­self, St. Hi­laire de­cided on a line of rolling pa­pers, and he says un­bleached or­ganic hemp stayed true to his pas­sion for clean, low-im­pact prod­ucts. The word hazo, he ex­plains, means tree in Mala­gasy, the na­tional lan­guage of Mada­gas­car—fit­ting, given that each pack sold plants a man­grove tree along the coast of the is­land.

“Man­groves are na­tive to the re­gion,” he says. “When you lose the man­groves, ev­ery­thing in and around those ar­eas, the wildlife, starts to die.”

Since launch­ing in July 2017, the com­pany has planted about 30,000 trees in part­ner­ship with Eden Re­for­esta­tion Project. The non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion im­ple­ments Hazo’s plant­ing ini­tia­tive over­seas and is re­spon­si­ble for plant­ing more than 250 mil­lion trees in coun­tries like Nepal and Ethiopia.

He says the part­ner­ship with Eden was an easy choice based on their so­cially con­scious ap­proach to en­vi­ron­men­tal re­newal. The or­ga­ni­za­tion hires farm­ers liv­ing in the re­gions to plant trees in the most af­fected ar­eas, cre­at­ing a source of in­come and eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity within im­pov­er­ished vil­lages.

St. Hi­laire says that al­though his fo­cus now is on restor­ing Mada­gas­car’s forests, he hopes that with more sales he can cre­ate pa­pers spe­cific to dif­fer­ent re­gions.

“We may cre­ate themed packs that go to plant­ing in other coun­tries that see the same prob­lems, like In­done­sia or Haiti,” he says.

Hazo was re­cently nom­i­nated in the best-rolling-pa­per cat­e­gory in this year’s Cana­dian Cannabis Awards, along­side Kron­ico Lim­ited and Zen­abis 2-in-1. Pub­lic vot­ing for the award closes on Oc­to­ber 26 and win­ners will be an­nounced at the Cana­dian Cannabis Awards gala in Toronto at the end of Novem­ber.

Next, St. Hi­laire is head­ing to the In­te­rior of B.C. to visit dis­pen­saries that have weath­ered the first week of fed­eral le­gal­iza­tion. Af­ter that, he plans on vis­it­ing stores across Cal­gary, Ed­mon­ton, and Regina.

Hazo just launched an on­line store and has teamed up with lead­ing cannabis-ac­ces­sory dis­trib­u­tors BOBHQ and hum­ble+fume to put its pa­pers in brick-and-mor­tar stores, and St. Hi­laire says the road trip has been a fun way to get the word out.

Hazo is a Mala­gasy word for tree—and sales of Hazo rolling pa­pers are con­tribut­ing to the plant­ing of more than 30,000 trees, ac­cord­ing to com­pany founder Kyle St. Hi­laire.

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