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

Why You Should Attend Cannabis Grand Cru in Seattle

Why You Should Attend Cannabis Grand Cru in Seattle

It’s impossible to deny that the cannabis industry is booming. Legal cannabis sales surpassed $5 billion in 2015, and are projected to increase by 25 percent in 2016. The cannabis market is growing rapidly for one main reason — industry leaders are working tirelessly to develop, innovate and drive it forward.

With the ability to create hundred of thousands of jobs in the United States, this industry brings great potential not only to those who consume cannabis, but to everyone. The only way to understand the full capacity of the cannabis industry is to lean how truly versatile it is, and the Cannabis Grand Cru (CGC) is the ideal setting in which to learn, discuss, and experience the most relevant and influential topics in the industry.

The Cannabis Grand Cru, taking place on Saturday March 19 at Fremont Foundry in Seattle, is the premier event bringing the most industry experts, leaders, brands and companies together under one roof to share their knowledge and expertise with attendees in an intimate setting. Whether you’re already knowledgeable, fairly familiar or know nothing at all, you will walk away from the CGC with more knowledge than you could ever gain from reading and research.

There are no better teachers than those who have done, and the Cannabis Grand Cru is the only event which will allow you to learn first-hand from the experts who are making it happen.

Tickets are limited, so click here to buy your tickets now while they’re still available. Lucky readers of this article will receive a 20 percent discount on ticket purchases with the promo code WHAXY20. Click here to see the full schedule of events.

Want to know more about what to expect from the Cannabis Grand Cru Seattle on March 19? Whaxy got the inside scoop from event speaker and owner of Green and Healthy Wellness Colorado Springs John Hunt, Cannabis Commodities Exchange CEO and Denver Post Cannabis Critic Sohum Shah, and professional model turned medical marijuana dispensary General Manager, Damsel W. Dank.

Read what they had to say about CGC below:

High Speaker to Attendee Ratio

No other cannabis industry event brings this many experts together under one roof in an intimate atmosphere that facilitates learning and networking with guests. John Hunt, event speaker and owner of Grimey Gatsby and Green and Healthy Wellness dispensary pointed out,

“The first aspect I feel is vastly different is the crowd to speaker ratio. Every-time I speak at the CGC there is a room filled with passionate people listening and asking questions to passionate people that are speaking about their business or journey in the cannabis industry.”

cannabis grand cru panelPanel discussion Cannabis Grand Cru 2014, Aspen.

Network and Mingle with Industry Leaders

The Cannabis Grand Cru has been described as the most intimate cannabis industry event with a boutique feel. Sohum Shah, Co-Founder and CEO of Cannabis Commodities Exchange and Cannabis Critique for The Cannabist (Denver Post) described it:

“The intimate nature of the events provide ample networking opportunities. More than anything, however, attendees leave the CGC with new friends who are passionate about responsibly legalizing and regulating cannabis.”

“The content of the show is also something that stands alone. Where else can you find more than 20 leaders of the industry from all over the country?” Added Hunt, “I have seen some great networking come from the event also. I hired the manager of my shop at the first CGC in Aspen.”

Learn from Industry Experts

John Hunt has been heavily involved in every Cannabis Grand Cru event, and he shared why the CGC is so unique:

“This event, more than any other, brings together a massive amount of brands and companies under the same roof. That synergetic energy creates an open discussion with everyone about the future, past, and present. It’s an amazing feeling to watch CEO’s, owners, scientists, and patients engage about cannabis with such a wealth of knowledge at hand. It’s something you don’t want to miss, that’s for sure.”

cannabis grand cru 2Bob Braudis and John Hunt at the first CGC in Aspen, CO.

Live Demonstrations

The scheduled culinary and extraction demonstrations for the Seattle event on March 19 include:

  • The Future of Cannabis in the United States
  • Equipment and Technological Advances
  • Cannabis Safety & the Future of Edibles
  • Cannabis Law, Regulation, Politics & Business.

Learn Aspects of the Industry You Didn’t Know Existed

Even those who are knowledgeable in several different aspects of cannabis and it’s industry still don’t know everything. Even speakers and experts can learn from each other, so as an attendee you’re guaranteed to walk away with a wealth of new information.

Even experienced cannabis activist Damsel W. Dank was surprised how much she learned at her first Cannabis Grand Cru:

“You can expect to learn about areas in the industry you may not have even known existed. I’ve been a cannabis user for a very long time, but prior to the first CGC event I knew nothing about the laws and regulations that make up the industry and I only had basic knowledge of the cultivation process.”

Find Your Niche

The first Cannabis Grand Cru turned Damsel W. Dank’s uncertainty into confidence. “I was worried that all the attendees and speakers would be experts on cellular/molecular plant biology and I would come in looking like a total amateur,” Damsel confessed. “However, I quickly realized that everyone attending the Cannabis Grand Cru had something different to bring to the table. Marketing, accounting, public relations, cultivation, extraction, edibles, topicals, constitutional marijuana law, informational online resources…every speaker had their own expertise and found their niche in the cannabis community. After attending several panels I realized there was a place for me in the industry even if I had never grown a marijuana plant before.”

cannabis grand cruDamel W. Dank wearing her Cannabis Grand Cru shirt.

Land Your Dream Job (potentially…)

While Cannabis Grand Cru is by no means meant to be a job fair, the right person may just end up with their foot in the door like Damsel W. Dank did after the 2014 Cannabis Grand Cru in Aspen.

“Attending the first Cannabis Grand Cru event in Aspen was truly life changing for me. I am now the General Manager of Green and Healthy Wellness in Colorado Springs and my husband has also landed a job in the industry. I’ve been passionate about cannabis for over 10 years, and CGC was the place where I turned my passion into a career.”

Explained Damsel.

Save 20 Percent on Ticket Purchases

Lucky readers of this article will receive 20 percent on the price of their ticket with the promo code WHAXY20. Click here to buy your ticket now.

While every speaker, panel, symposium, exhibition and demonstration is sure to please, it may be difficult to decide which to attend, so we asked our experts to recommend a few of their favorites.

Shah is most excited to check out “The Bleeding Edge of Cultivation” to learn about how cultivators can improve or maintain quality while decreasing costs.

Hunt made several recommendations for those which not to miss. “Listening to Bob Braudis, the famous Pitken County (Aspen, CO) Sheriff and long time friend of Hunter S. Thompson, explain his approach to cannabis laws and regulation is always a crowd-pleaser, as well as hearing Gerry Goldstein speak about his relentless drive to support the cannabis movement. I also love to catch the extraction panel with X Tracted Labs, The Clear Concentrate, and the branding panels are some of my favorite.”

Scheduled Speakers are listed on this poster:
cannabis grand cru poster

Denver Cannabis Tourism

Denver Cannabis Tourism

Colorado has been a tourist destination since before it became a state in 1876. The beauty of the rough landscape and the Rocky Mountains is undeniable, even to those who aren’t normally inspired by such natural majesty. Traditionally, the tourism enjoyed by the Centennial State has been for activities such as skiing, fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, and nature photography. In 2016, however, cannabis tourism, or cannatourism, must officially be added to the list. Needless to say, those interested in such excursions should be 21 or older.

It has been two full years since Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize adult use cannabis. Since its debut, sales of permitted pot has poured tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues into the coffers of the state’s municipalities and school districts. A significant part of this growth — and much of the money — has been generated via cannabis tourism.


Some ski town dispensaries have claimed that 60-80 percent of their business is derived from those traveling from out-of-state, typically on a personal vacation. Frustrated fans of cannabis in prohibitionist states are visiting Colorado in record numbers, seeking a taste of freedom and regulated safe access, similar to how North Americans used to travel to Amsterdam to sample a more liberated environment for cannabis consumption and fellowship. 

Toking in Legal Limos

Cannatourism services are available in many forms. These include cannabis-friendly limos that will make a beeline from Denver International Airport to the nearest reputable dispensary, specialty tours that explore quaint mountain dispensaries, and cannabis-friendly hotels and bed and breakfasts. The future may even bring cannacafes and social gathering places for cannabis consumers, much like how those who enjoy alcohol can visit a tavern or pub.

Let’s spend a fantasy weekend in Denver, a city that — much like Portland and Seattle — is becoming a mecca for patients and lifestyle cannabis consumers who prefer to partake of strains like the rare sativa Durban Poison or top shelf samples of Girl Scout Cookies when vacationing. Given the stress of modern life, a weekend learning about and responsibly consuming cannabis, in a variety of forms and among plenty of fellow enthusiasts, might be just the ticket to managing anxiety and maintaining a healthy, balanced perspective on life, including family and career.


The first stop on this cannabis vacation isn’t a stop at all, but rather a ride in the 420 Airport Pickup limo that travels directly to the dispensary that best caters to one’s preferences. Really into concentrates? How about edibles? Want to try that hip new whole plant extract called live resin? Given the number of specialty shops in the Denver metro area, this canna-shuttle can help, allowing patients to medicate before they even reach their lodging. This company also offers cannabis tours and a nice discount to those who purchase a round trip. Travel back to the airport in style — and avoid the worry and hassle of returning a rental car or getting busted while driving stoned.

Canna-friendly Lodging

Stocked up on cannabinoid-rich medicine, the next stop is the hotel. There are many options for canna-friendly lodging in the Mile High City, including a chain of locations by Bud+Breakfast and a premier downtown hotel that just happens to allow residents to toke up in its sumptuous suites. Bud+Breakfast (the company with the tag line “We’ll keep the bowl burning for you”) offers multiple properties, including the famous and classically beautiful Adagio Bed & Breakfast in Capital Hill, as well as multiple mountain cabin properties.

Located in one of Denver’s most beautiful historic neighborhoods, the Adagio B&B is a beautiful Victorian — and a stark contrast from the company’s cabin properties that are nestled within the mountains. The Adagio offers six “elegantly decorated” private suites that range from $200 to $300 per night and provide ready access to the attractions of downtown — including dispensaries and retail outlets.


At $300 a night, the company’s smoke-friendly cabin in Aspen isn’t cheap, but considering that it provides the utmost in beautiful mountain scenery and consummate privacy for up to six adults, it can actually be very reasonable. Another option is this hospitality company’s cabin in Silverthorne, Colorado, which offers five suites priced from $130 to $250 per night and is perfect for a romantic getaway while vaping a nice concentrate or smoking some sticky buds purchased at the dispensary stop on the drive from the airport.

Another option is The Nativ, a swank hotel in downtown Denver that just so happens to be friendly to cannabis (and owned by culture-friendly entrepreneurs and advocates). This luxury destination offers 24-hour room service and features suites replete with a 60-inch high-definition display panels, private patios, and oversized hot tubs. The Nativ’s focus on luxury may not appeal to the more bohemian members of the cannabis culture or those on a budget, with room rates ranging from $330 to $535 per night.

However, those who prefer or are habituated to high-end accommodations, especially international business travelers, will appreciate the ability to smoke or vape without risk of being booted from their room or paying a ridiculously steep fine for having smoked in it. Nativ offers a rare mix of old school luxury and a 21st century respect for cannabis consumers, including a coffee and champagne bar and the ability to chill in style with several friends in a full-size Jacuzzi — or by oneself with a bowl of medical-grade flowers or a handy vape pen. All legally purchased and consumed.


Denver is nothing is not a hotspot for cannabis themed tours of nearly every shape and size. Many focus on dispensaries, while some offer tours of large cultivation facilities. Others focus on mountain vistas and dispensaries or retail shops that serve the slice of the skiing community that embraces cannabis for mind, body, and spirit.

The High There Bus, dubbed the Hopper, is a 20-passenger limo-style, cannabis-friendly party bus that tours Denver. But there’s a catch: Tour guests are users of the High There app, a Tinder-style dating service targeted at cannabis users. The Hopper is a legal alternative for cannabis tourists who may find a lack of desire to violate their hotel smoking policy or toke in public and risk encountering a strict police officer.

What is interesting about the Hopper, which debuted in 2016, is that it is free to ride. It is legal and, theoretically, safe to consume cannabis on this party bus, but the intent is obviously to promote the High There app. Until cannabis lounges and bars emerge that allow safe, casual use of cannabis for tourists, the Hopper will be a valid alternative — for those who are willing to sign up for the High There dating service, that is.

Some of the best, and most affordable, tours in Denver are offered by My 420 Tours, which features dispensary and grow tours beginning at only $50. A unique Sushi and Joint Roll dinner is available for $60 per person. Most tours, including the four-hour Budz & Sudz Tour (that includes time in a brewery tour, a tasting session, and dinner), carry a $100 fee, including a popular cannabis cooking class.

There’s no doubt that Denver currently offers some of the best, and most interesting, cannabis-centric tours in the nation. Another example is Cultivating Spirits, a tourism company offering a range of unusual cannabis excursions, including a three-course “cannabis pairing” dinner and a Food, Wine, and Cannabis tour.


For foodies who love to consume superlative cannabis, get the munchies, and dine in style, Cultivating Spirits is a dream come true. Wine fans who would never walk into an incense-drenched head shop may love the classy tours offered by this company. Although pricey (the Food, Wine, and Cannabis tour is $250 per person, but offers the advantage of being limited to only 10 guests), tours from this company last several hours and have received praise from picky guests. Said one customer:

“I was taken care of the whole night by the guide, never having an empty glass, dull moment, or question unanswered.”

Another credible source of pot-friendly tours is Colorado Highlife Tours, which proudly proclaims that it has been providing “safe, fun, and discreet” tours since 2013. The Denver Stony Saturday Tour, which costs $90, is a 3-4 hour sight seeing jaunt that allows guests to smoke or vape while riding the party bus. The tour includes stops at a glass blowing shop and an indoor cultivation facility, as well as a 4:20 pm smokeout that makes available vaporizers, dab rigs, and water pipes. Guests can smoke or vape virtually any way they desire — even if they come to the party unprepared in terms of a smoking implement.

The Unique Stuff

From the perspective of its psychoactive effect and euphoria, cannabis is known to both generate and enhance creativity. For painters, those who practice yoga and meditation, and many other artists or creative types, pot is arguably a performance enhancer, aiding sometimes intrepid artistic efforts for both amateurs and professionals alike. For many, cannabis eliminates “writer’s block.”

Puff, Pass, and Paint is one of the more successful, as well as unique, cannabis-centric businesses that has emerged during the dawn of the age of adult use legalization that began in Colorado in 2014. Offering classes in the three top legal cannabis hotspots — Seattle, Portland, and Denver — this funky “cannabis-friendly, all-inclusive art class” is both daring and rewarding in its embrace of students puffing down or vaping their own herb or oil while trying to get inspired to create, learn, paint, and mingle.

A new class in the mix is Puff, Pass, and Pottery. Class fees are very reasonable and range from about $50 to $65. Said the chain’s owner, Heidi Keyes, “Puff, Pass, and Paint is a 420-friendly art class, which basically means that it is providing an environment to come and create — and feel very comfortable doing that.” She added:

“And also to be able to partake in cannabis, if you choose to.”

Those wishing to break from the traditional couples vacation should seriously consider Denver and the entire state of Colorado for their next adventure. A full catalog of services allows patients and consumers of all age groups and budgets.


The only unfortunate thing is the fact that cities like Denver, Seattle, and Portland are among the very few places in all of the United States where patients and fans of the cannabis culture can travel to enjoy legal adult access to regulated, lab tested, high-quality cannabis medicine and related products and services. Hopefully this will change in the coming years, especially if more states legalize adult use in the 2016 elections.

Some Advice for Cannatourists

One final piece of advice, especially for novice cannatourists. Those interested in Colorado edibles should seriously heed the mantra start low, go slow. Good tours will expose guests to professional budtenders who will preach likewise and give real world dosing (titration) advice to customers, with a full slew of warnings for first-time consumers. Due to the abundant sources of safe, tested, and properly labeled edibles in the state, visitors are warned to avoid edibles from the black market.

Photo credit: Bud+Breakfast (The Maryjane Group), Puff Pass and Paint, My 420 Tours

Seattle Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Face Closure

Seattle Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Face Closure

Several medical cannabis dispensaries in Seattle have received a surprise notice from the city government, telling them they have 14 days to relocate outside of Seattle or face the prospect of shuttering their doors.

The notices relate to legislation that had previously given the city’s dispensaries until July 1 of this year to become licensed to sell their product in the city.

The truncated deadline, according to the city’s Liquor and Cannabis Board, is reportedly owed to too many applications and too few available licenses. The notice asks aspiring licensees to choose a location outside of the city within 14 days or sign a form that acknowledges the prospect of not obtaining their license and being forced to close their businesses.

The decision by the city has incensed some local dispensary owners.

“We were supposed to have until July 1, 2016. Then this letter came out last week. It’s like, ‘Get licensed within 14 days or get out of Seattle,”

said Jeremy Kaufman, owner of CPC Dispensary in the Georgetown neighborhood, whose shop focuses on the care of patients suffering from debilitating conditions like cancer, epilepsy, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“I’ve been open for 6 years,” he continued.

“I pay taxes. I have employees who bought houses and have kids here.”

Another local dispensary owner, Maryam Mirnateghi, complained about the cost that she has already incurred building the business.

“It’s beyond frustrating. It’s absolutely beyond frustrating,” said Mirnateghi, who has invested over a million dollars in security and other features for a local dispensary. “To ask to me to sign away my rights or lose my application? That’s extortion.”

The city’s mayor, Ed Murray, has penned a letter to the LCB requesting a delay in the deadline, saying “it unfairly disadvantages long-time good actors.”

IRS Agent Charged With Bribing Dispensary Owner

IRS Agent Charged With Bribing Dispensary Owner

An Internal Revenue Service agent based out of Seattle has been charged with soliciting bribes and accepting payment from a local cannabis business owner in the greater Seattle metro area.

Paul Hurley, 42, was charged in U.S. District Court Monday following his alleged actions of asking for $20,000 in cash from a store owner in exchange for giving lenience in an upcoming tax audit.

It’s been reported that the business owner in question did not even ask for leniency being sent his way.

Prosecutors assigned to the case say that Hurley presented the business owner a tax bill for 2013 and 2014 that was just north of $290,000 but reported that Hurley had ‘saved’ the businessman more than $1 million. In exchange for lowering the tax bill, the agent prompted the $20,000 from the presently unknown cannabis business owner.

Cannabis business operate in a very difficult business environment when it comes to taxes. Standard business expenses are not allowed as deductions on federal tax returns – while their gross revenues are taxed.

Authorities were contacted on Monday, after the second successful exchange of cash between the two parties was recorded. Hurley has been an IRS agent since 2009 and will be charged with a total of 3 counts of bribery related crimes. If convicted, he faces up to a $250,000 fine and 15 years in prison.

Hurley was present in court Monday and released on his own warrant pending future hearings. The FBI and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration are still investigating, we will post updates as they arrive.

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