The 2016 election was a big shaker, a rumbler felt throughout the world. Cannabis victories across the nation were somewhat shadowed by the presidential contest. But cannabis won big, with residents of California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine voting to legalize recreational cannabis and residents of Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota approving various medicinal cannabis initiatives.
This is no limits cannabis; the pot is huge, the stakes are high, and we’re all just going to have to see where the chips fall. A majority of states in the U.S. have legalized cannabis use in some way, shape or form. And it’s big business.
Big trade shows come with big business, and Emerald Magazine’s Publisher Christina DeGiovanni and I attended the biggest trade show of them all between November 17-20: The 5th Annual Marijuana Business Conference and Expo at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The three day event was packed with over 10,000 attendees and a slew of vendors that were spread out over the Rio’s vast conference center complex. “Business-to-business” is how DeGiovanni described it, “There’s a lot of extraction companies here and lighting companies.” So most of the vendors — which included staffing agencies, sticker and labeling machine vendors and marketing firms — were not necessarily consumer-oriented. “I’d say it’s about 75 percent business-to-business and maybe 25 percent end user, consumer-based businesses here,” she added.
I walked around the event in a daze, and the daze was not from smoking weed. There was no cannabis allowed at the event one vendor told me when I asked if his display of vape pens included any that were loaded and ready to sample from. Like DeGiovanni said, the event hosted business-to-business commerce, it was not directly geared toward end users like me.
The MJ Biz Con featured speakers and networking sessions in addition to the three conference halls filled with vendors showcasing everything from safes and electronic dispensary menu display systems to soil manufacturers and industrial farming equipment, including the biggest dehumidifier I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, the dehum was probably five times as big as the biggest I’ve seen in use on small farms in the Emerald Triangle.)
Every time I leave Northern California, I am reminded of how good we have it here in terms of access to cannabis — mostly because a lot of people in these parts are growers. I talked with one woman that has hopes of opening her own medical cannabis cultivation facility and dispensary in Kansas City, Missouri. Too bad the Show Me State isn’t on board the recreational/medicinal train quite yet. But, she’s seen the green dream come to fruition: She’s been to Denver, post-recreational legalization, and she hopes her home state will catch up someday soon.
Tim Couch is a Humboldt-based sales representative for Primordial Solutions, a company that targets cannabis growers with its line of liquid plant supplements. Couch has had profound experiences with the medicinal power of cannabis. He wants to see pervasive progress for the treatment of brain trauma associated with athletics, and for those who suffer from traumatic brain injury as a result of serving in the military. “People need this,” he told me on the floor of the Rio Hotel Casino, “We need the education and the science.”
Couch’s overall conference experience since he arrived from Humboldt County is classic: “This shit is fucking insane, for lack of better words,” he said. I agree. All of the extraction equipment, vacuum pumps (for extraction equipment), investment firms, staffing agencies, policy people, milling and grinding products, testing labs, “aeroponic” growing systems, automated growing systems, pollination kits, seed-to-sale software tracking options, bioengineers, trimming machines, packaging companies, tax lawyers, insurance agents, edible edible labels… That conference was fucking insane!
“That’s why I love where I’m from…” Couch says of his home in Northern California. “We’ve been renegade style — against whatever the government says about pot, against whatever ma and pa said about pot. We’ve been like, ‘No, we’re going to grow it, we’re going to figure out how to do it best [in order] to suit each person.'”
More and more people are taking this sort of positive and defiant stance with cannabis: It is clear that the cannabis compass is pointing toward big biz.
Written by Emily Hobelmann