WASHINGTON: Under the massive, round roof of the Tacoma Dome, a button-down crowd from across the state gathered last weekend for CannaCon, billed by its organizer as the largest cannabis business conference in the nation.
While tourists and marijuana enthusiasts descended on Seattle’s more lighthearted Hempfest, this much smaller group was on a serious mission — learning how to cash in on the slow but growing legitimization of the legal cannabis industry in Washington. Pot smoking was not allowed. Instead of the music, celebrations and speeches going on in Seattle, the event was peppered with a wide range of seminars, entrepreneurial product vendors, growers, lawyers, insurance agents, accountants and even a group trying to set up a marijuana commodities exchange.
In the middle of all that action, a new business group, the Marijuana Business Association, worked to round more people into its fold. The Seattle-based group has opened a handful of offices around the state and plans to open one in Vancouver on Sept. 19th, said CEO Dave Rheins.
“Despite all the challenges, this industry is being built,” said Rheins, looking out at the wide array of booths. “This culture isn’t new, the product’s not new, but what is new is the whole business side. And we have a lot of education to do.”
What’s new is legitimization of a long-stigmatized product. It’s a new industry, with Washington and Colorado as test cases for legalization. Rheins notes that it will take a bit of time for the market to sort out — and weed the bad businesspeople from the good ones.