The International Cannabis Business Conference returns for San Francisco for the fourth year, and the stakes have never been higher.
Since California officials rushed to get the state’s recreational cannabis commercial market off the ground on Jan. 1, the nation’s largest cannabis industry has struggled to find its way to a cruising altitude.
The state’s largest city, Los Angeles, remains off the grid as the city’s regulators push to work through the kinks of their system. Reports of dispensaries having to rely on products stock-piled prior to Jan. 1 suggests a legal supply shortage is looming in the state that produces far more cannabis (mostly on the black market) than it consumes. Equity programs are becoming more established, licenses are still rolling out and almost everyone has their lawyer on speed dial because, of course, the nation’s top law enforcement officer welcomed 2018 by rescinding the 2013 Cole Memo.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, the International Cannabis Business Conference will take place in San Francisco — a city that only opened up for recreational sales on Jan. 5.
On Feb. 1 and 2, at the Hyatt Embarcadero by the San Francisco Bay, hundreds of cannabis business people will gather to hear speeches from people such as California’s pot czar Lori Ajax and her communications director Alex Traverso, explore the exhibitor booths and attend panels on topics such as compliance, investing in cultivators and the logistics of cannabis distribution.
Alex Rogers, the founder of ICBC, said that he’s excited to be the first major cannabis conference to take place in California following the state’s transition into recreational sales, especially since he’s hearing from more people than ever looking for guidance through the chaos.
“Our San Francisco conference has always been our flagship conference, but ever since Jan. 1, the emails and inquiries that we usually receive have doubled,” Rogers said.
“Having Lori Ajax and Alex Traverso speaking at the conference is going to be especially important,” Rogers said. “They’re both doing a sit-down interview at the same time with David Downs from the San Francisco Chronicle, and it’s going to be special because Lori is also going to take questions directly from the crowd.”
Rogers said that the questions he’s receiving from a lot of cannabis entrepreneurs — which the conference seeks to address — include questions about how to make a profit given the weight of new California regulations, how to connect with and distribute to customers and what people can do to stand out in California’s ever-crowded marketplace.
“The game has changed in California, so not only are there more regulatory concerns, but there’s more competition in general,” said Rogers. “Everyone’s business acumen has to improve. All of the hippies have to start thinking like CEOs, and I include myself first and foremost in that hippie category.”
Speaking of the conference founder’s hippie-at-heart philosophy, ICBC San Francisco is trying to make sure that it doesn’t become as focused on tech and investment as other cannabis conferences that make their way to the Bay Area.
“Of course, we cater to the big guys, the tech guys and the investors, but that’s not all the ICBC is,” said Rogers. “We also cater to the growers, the processors, the old school heads — and one of the ways we do that is we incorporate a lot of cultural elements to the ICBC. Whether it’s having revolutionary social activists keynote the ICBC or having Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs from Hieroglyphics perform the after-party, when you come to the ICBC, you’re going to find a lot of soul.”
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