I attended the Cannabis Creative Conference recently at the Portland Expo Center. Organized by Mary Lou Burton, owner and founder of Bravo Event company, the two day conference brought in over 500 attendees, 58 sponsors and vendor booths, and more than 60 industry professionals participated in the educational sessions. The first morning began with a recorded greeting from Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, co-author of “The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy.” This was followed by speeches given on the present state of the cannabis industry by Steve Marks of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and Aaron Smith of the National Cannabis Industry Association. The second morning opened with a panel discussion on the future outlook of the industry, also focusing on the emerging Oregon market. Attorney Amy Margolis of Emerge Law Group encouraged participants in the cannabis industry to maintain transparency, and to respectfully communicate opinions to local government representatives in order to effectively create policy at the community level. Oregon is ramping up for limited recreational sales to adults on October 1st of this year, however there are still many regulations that are undefined.
Focusing mainly on the burgeoning legal market in Oregon, each day was packed full of educational sessions on everything related to the cannabis industry, from best cultivation practices to effectively attracting investors for your startup business. There were attendees, sponsor booths and speakers from all over Oregon, and other parts of the country. This conference was organized with not only every business sector of the cannabis industry in mind, but also for people at all levels of experience with cannabis. Representatives from several Colorado companies looking to expand into the Oregon market were present, whether related to cultivation, processing, retail, or other startups. I spoke with several people who were looking to leave their jobs in other fields and become involved in the cannabis industry, as well as others who have been cultivators for decades. I attended a session titled “Raising Capital For Your Business: From Prep To Pitch” which really stood out to me. The panelists were Sara Batterby, CEO of HiFi Farms and founding chair of Portland’s Women Grow Chapter, Matt Walstatter, owner of Pure Green dispensary in NE Portland, and Sam Chapman, founder of New Economy Consulting. This discussion was full of rich and useful information. One attendee commented that he had been traveling the country going to conferences and looking for different ways to invest in the cannabis industry for the last year, and this was the most fruitful discussion he had encountered so far.
According to the speakers at all of the sessions I attended, the most important issues facing marijuana related businesses at this time are working with regulatory boards to stay compliant, and safe access to banking. Many of the speakers I listened to went into detail about issues related to the financial and safety complications of cannabis startups being forced to operate on a cash only basis, and being blocked from opening accounts in banks. Even in states with legal medical or recreational use, ancillary businesses that provide equipment and other services to the cannabis industry have run into issues. We have a long way to go in our fight to legalize and normalize the cannabis industry at the Federal level, but the educational sessions and forum discussions provided by the Cannabis Creative Conference are exactly what we need to form a unified and cohesive movement.
The CCC provided the ideal setting for anyone looking to become involved in the legal cannabis industry, or to expand their already successful company. From understanding the most current legislation to pitching your cannabis startup to investors, this conference had it all. You can expect more cannabis related events from Bravo in the future, and hopefully Mary Lou will be successful in her hunt for a location suitable to host Portland’s first ever High Times Cannabis Cup later this year.