I have had the opportunity to attend many business-to-business cannabis conferences over the last couple of years. After spending 14 years in the financial industry as a commodity broker and an IAR, it became abundantly clear to me that money is the biggest influence affecting lawmakers’ decisions. My logical conclusion then is that it is the business of marijuana that has the best chance of highlighting the economic advantages of marijuana legalization and fast-tracking the descheduling of cannabis. I was born in Boston and grew up just south of the city, and so all of the news about marijuana becoming legal in Massachusetts was very exciting for me. I attended CannaCon in Boston last July as a member of the media and thought it was one of the best networking events I had attended so far. With over 5,000 attendees and 150 exhibitors, the entire conference was abuzz with anticipation over when the first commercially sold adult-use marijuana would happen. It finally happened in November making Massachusetts the first east coast state to start selling cannabis legally.
At CannaCon Boston I met a lot of marijuana dispensary operators that had received their licenses to dispense, and other that were waiting on a final decision. Marijuana doctors were there ready to inform attendees on what they needed to know about the Massachusetts medical marijuana program and to help them find out if they qualified for a medical marijuana card. Wholesalers were there to show off their lighting systems, extraction machinery, trimmers and greenhouse engineering. Vaporizer manufacturers and paraphernalia companies were present along with advocates fighting hard to further the legalization movement. Investors also attended along with many curious entrepreneurs. I had the opportunity to interview a lot of great people and spread awareness about just how far along the marijuana industry has come. I even joined the cannabis cruise launch party the night before around the Boston Harbor.
The west coast though dominates the marijuana industry. There are now 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana and 10 states that have legalized adult-use marijuana, though a couple of them do not allow the commercial sale of cannabis. Of the 10 states that have legalized recreational marijuana, seven of them are on the west coast. Colorado and Washington are the first two states that took the wild chance to legalize and sell state legal cannabis back in 2014, and none of us should forget that their risks are what have led us to where we are now. This is why CannaCon Seattle, which takes place from January 31st – February 2nd at the Washington State Convention Center, is the their flagship event. They will have well over twice as many attendees as Boston and many more exhibitors, providing you the opportunity to see just how far along the marijuana industry has come. You will be able to network and learn from the experience of business people that have been in the industry for years now. Iron Chef Cat Cora will even be there to show you how to make some gourmet cannabis infused dishes that will leave your mouth watering.
The marijuana industry is challenging. There are few people out there involved in the cannabis space that would argue that point. We must contend with the Schedule 1 status of marijuana on the federal level which makes interstate commerce impossible, leaves us vulnerable to prosecution and allows the stigmas surrounding marijuana to continuously cast doubt upon the industry. The vast majority of banks refuse to allow cannabis companies to open accounts in fear of being accused of money laundering, leaving many of us with no choice but to keep cash on hand and therefore vulnerable to robbery. Not to mention that Tax Code 280E does not allow marijuana companies to write off normal business expenses making it incredibly challenging to turn a profit.
These challenges are what deter most business people from entering the cannabis industry in the first place, and also what makes the pioneers you will see at CannaCon Seattle incredibly courageous. At the end of 2018, The Hemp Farming Act became law as a part of the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. After 81 years, The Hemp Farming Act has now made industrial hemp legal on the federal level for states to decide how they want to build laws around hemp, with some limitations of course. It opens the door for CBD companies of all sorts to gain access to banking and the FDA is currently working on a way to make interstate commerce legal. Hemp’s legalization was a very promising sign for the marijuana industry.
Canada also legalized marijuana nationally in October of 2018. Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the illegality of marijuana consumption is unconstitutional last year as well. The United Nations should also be making its final decision in the upcoming months on whether marijuana should be descheduled, which would open the door for countries to export marijuana products to many industrialized nations around the world without fear of violating international drug treaties. It is only reasonable to assume that the United States federal government now has ample reason to deschedule marijuana. There are a number of bills floating around Congress now such as The STATES Act or the Marijuana Justice Act that would allow banking to become available for the cannabis industry and allow merchant services to relax. The midterm elections last November placed many more pro-marijuana legalization lawmakers into office, giving us even more reason to believe that the end of prohibition is on the near-term horizon.
The marijuana industry is constantly evolving and growing at an incredible pace. Estimates are that by 2022 the marijuana industry will worth more than $20 billion, and that is a conservative estimate. Long term projections has the cannabis industry rivaling the soda, snack, pharmaceutical and alcohol industries in size eventually. We all must stay current on this ever changing and evolving industry in order to keep up. That is why attending CannaCon Seattle at the end of January makes so much sense. Learn about how hemp and CBD products will benefit from the national legalization of hemp and what businesses are doing about it. Learn what new innovations in cannabis have come out and find wholesale relationships that make sense for your business. Go back to where it all began in Seattle where they have expunged the records of thousands of people convicted of nonviolent marijuana crimes and granted clemency to those serving time. They call it the progressive west for a reason, you will likely not find a better networking opportunity than CannaCon Seattle.