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Inside the Cannabis Industry’s Luxury Business Conference

Inside the Cannabis Industry’s Luxury Business Conference

The premier boutique cannabis symposium, Cannabis Grand Cru, returned to Seattle in March for the first of multiple 2016 events. The Cru took over three venues around the city including the Fremont Foundry for Saturday’s main event.

The event opened with a Friday-night screening of “Evergreen: The Road to Legalization” at Central Cinemas, sponsored by local extraction company, Evergreen Extracts. The documentary chronicled the industry-driven controversy surrounding Washington’s 2012 legalization initiative, I-502. After the movie, the select group of attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions of the film’s director, writer, and producers.

More than 400 cannabis enthusiasts and curious onlookers joined nearly 50 speakers for a day jam-packed with education, networking, and fun. Having spoken at every Cannabis Grand Cru including the Inaugural Aspen event in November 2014, I am impressed with the constant improvements being made to the series — especially given the high caliber of the first one.

best cannabis industry conference

In an industry that is flush with expos and conferences, it’s often hard for us to decide which to attend. The Cannabis Grand Cru’s high speaker-to-attendee ratio, once again, provided an intimate atmosphere for networking and interaction.

Session topics varied from products and branding to legislation and advocacy, to our staple Cannabis Technology panel.

AC Braddock agreed that the event provided “much higher quality networking as the event is smaller and more intimate.” Braddock, who is the CEO of extraction-tech company Eden Labs, spoke at her second Grand Cru on “The Future of Extraction Technology” panel.

While networking is an integral part of any industry get-together, CGC also focuses on education. Ettalew’s Edibles CEO, Alison Draisin, said her favorite part of the event was “educating new people about the power of the plant.” Draisin was also speaking at her second Grand Cru, and was part of the “Cannabis Infused Journey Through Culinary Pairings”, a live cooking demo where they discussed terpene-pairings of cannabis and food, as well as antidotes for when you’re too high.

best cannabis industry conference

The final sessions of the day featured the “Four Horsemen of Washington’s 502 Legislation” on a panel about the state’s legal landscape on the main stage. Alex Cooley of Solstice Grown was joined by Aaron Pelley, Josh Berman, and Brian Caldwell to discuss current concerns surrounding the transition from medical to recreational cannabis and the future outlook on legislation in Washington.

Up in the penthouse, I was joined by my close friends and colleagues in our CGC-regular discussion about “Cannabis Technology, Data, and Analytics.” Cy Scott, Marie Veksler, Stewart Fortier, John Kagia, and myself convened to emphasize the importance that technology and data play in the legitimization and progression of the cannabis industry.

Once the day’s programming ended at 7:10pm (aka dab o’clock), the speakers and select attendees headed to the closing afterparty at Georgetown’s Brass Tacks which was sponsored by Calyx King, Whaxy and Pelley Law Group. The party allowed me to catch up with Grand Cru regulars like Addison DeMoura, John Hunt, and Sheriff Joe Disalvo of Pitkin County, as well as some new faces. We enjoyed the night over delicious food, beverages, and smoke.

The next day we all packed up and returned to our respective home cities. I know I am not alone when I say that I cannot wait until the next Cannabis Grand Cru.

Alison Draisin agreed, “This is a great group and I excited to work with them in the future!”

Sohum Shah

What I learned About the Industry At the Cannabis Grand Cru

What I learned About the Industry At the Cannabis Grand Cru

The first ever cannabis symposium in Aspen, CO wrapped up Sunday after a weekend of cannabis culture, lifestyle, business and community at the Sky Hotel. Industry enthusiasts and professionals came together with law and science at the Cannabis Grand Cru to discuss the importance of foundation in this newly budding industry.

The intimate setting inspired a sense of unity, encouraging a laid-back vibe of positivity and hope throughout the entire event where the speakers and panelists were approachable, and just as excited as the attendees. This is a group of not-so-average looking, free thinking, educated and experienced enthusiasts and professionals of all ages who are playing key roles in the establishment of a new, more impressive cannabis culture that steers clear of the stoner stereotype, without trying to glamorize the industry.

The whole event was bigger than just legalization. It was about education and ideas for policy reform with an unintentional focus on what is best for the industry in terms of sustainability and the big picture. The cannabis industry is still in stages of infancy, and this like-minded group realizes they are building it from the ground floor.

Listed below are four things that I learned from attending the inaugural Cannabis Grand Cru.

1. Everyone wants to eliminate the stoner stereotype.

The stoner stereotype, exemplified by Sean Penn’s character Jeff Spicoli in the 1982 film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High has been associated with cannabis use for decades, but that just is not a realistic picture of cannabis users today. Not every person who uses the plant can be identified by looks, profession, race, or gender, and it is important that the world erase that negative perception from memory in order to move forward. Plenty of professional, extremely successful people use cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes. Many of the United States report greater than sixty percent of the population having used cannabis at least once, while the lowest reported was still forty percent of the population. There is so much more to this cannabis culture that is finally able to come out because it is no longer being forced underground. In the future, there will be no stereotypical cannabis user because this culture sees no barriers.

2. Soon enough, scientists will be able to design and breed your ideal cannabis plant.

Have you ever wished you could combine qualities from one plant with qualities of another to make your ideal cannabis strain?  That may be a reality in the future because evolutionary biologist and cannabis genetics expert, Dr. Daniela Vergara, has teamed up with evolutional biologist, Dr. Nolan Kane to study the genetic make-up of the cannabis plant at Colorado University, Boulder. The genetic DNA of more commonly grown cash-crops like corn, rice and wheat are already charted, but this information has not been properly developed for cannabis. The work of these two evolutionary biologists will identify which chromosome is responsible for which displayed plant traits from the height, shape, and color of the plant and flowers all the way to which chromosome is responsible for creating feelings of euphoria, body tingling, dry-mouth, etc. in users. This will revolutionize cannabis breeding, and create the opportunity to isolate the desired chromosomes from the ones less desired by consumers in all realms medicinal, recreational, and industrial. This will especially be a huge breakthrough in the world of medicinal uses because plants will be able to be tailored to treat each specific medical condition.

3. Cannabis-culture language and branding will play a defining role in the cannabis-culture shift.

This sizable sample of cannabis industry enthusiasts and professionals are equally aware, perhaps even unintentionally, of the importance of appropriately representing the emergence of a culture being reborn. A noticeable shift in language was observed in the presentations, panels and seiminars of the weekend, as well as in attendee conversation. For example, people used words like ‘medicate’ and ‘consumption,’ rather than the widely known term ‘getting high’ when referring to using all forms of cannabis. It is important to convey the real spirit of the plant to move forward, rather than continue using terms coined during the Reefer-Madness era. This is demonstrated in emerging words like cannatrade and canna-consumers, as well as the conscious effort being made to use the plant’s real name, Cannabis, in place of derogatory slang like pot and weed.

A focus on shifting cannabis branding down a more mature path was also apparent throughout the symposium as discussions and brainstorming sessions were lead on ways to shift street culture from the negative stoner-stereotype to the all-encompassing, boundary-less possibilities of the future. For example, cannabis product and accessory packaging and marketing is being steered more towards professional and even boutique, and further away from the days of plastic baggies. My only hope is that the good-word being spoken by these brave men and women who have only the best of interests at heart are heard before the likes of Big Pharma flank them with a hostile takeover.

4. Cannabis unites people from all walks of life.

The ages of people united by the first Cannabis Grand Cru spanned decades, and all generations were well-represented. There were people from all ages dressed in all possible attire, from sharp and classy in business suites all the way to comfortable and practical in ski pants and hoodies. Both retired and active law-enforcement was represented through the nearly seventy-year-old, retired Pitkin County Sheriff friend of Hunter S. Thompson, Bob Braudis, and the wise Joe DiSalvo, current Pitkin County Sheriff. Professional athletes were also personified in world champion mountain biker and panelist, Miles Rockwell, who has a felony record for cannabis cultivation, and also in attendance was Adam Lavender, the professional mountain biker who suffered a paralyzing spinal chord injury during a downhill race. Pro-cannabis advocates like John Hunt of Grimey Gatsby and Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project also graced the conference with their well-spoken, educated articulation of thought in participation with dispensary owners from Denver’s Wellspring Collective and Aspen’s own Silverpeak Apothecary. Younger representatives emerged to personify the new frontier of advocacy in the MassRoots and Cannabis Commodities Exchange teams.

Those named above do not even begin to scratch the surface on the impressive roster of symposium participants, but it does demonstrate how the cannabis culture knows no boundaries. Cannabis is one of the only common pleasures shared among people of all ages, race, religion, gender, profession and background, and may be even be a symbol of hope for a future of unity and coexistence in the world.

Cannabis Education Symposium

Cannabis Education Symposium

Cannabis Education Symposium

Cannabis Education Symposium

Learn to cook with cannabis from Chef Chris Lanter

Cannabis education symposium

Law Enforcement Panel

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