The Stoner Wears A Suit Now

By: Benjie Cooper

When Californians voted to pass Proposition 215 in 1996, it wasn’t just a vote to change the legal status of cannabis in the state. It was also a vote to change people’s minds. Throughout the decades of cannabis prohibition in the United States, there has been a large effort by the federal government to discredit the idea that cannabis has any merits whatsoever. The plant currently resides in the DEA’s Schedule I category where substances are classified as having a high chance of addiction and exhibiting no medicinal value. Modern medical research, combined with the fact that over half of the states in the U.S. have active medical marijuana laws in 2017, runs contrary to the federal government’s official, outdated position. It seems the notion that marijuana is a dangerous drug, only smoked by hooded basement-dwellers and other assorted neer-do-wells, doesn’t hold as much weight in the information age. In this new era of recreational and medical marijuana, the cliche image of the shaggy stoner guy has been updated and replaced with a man wearing a suit and a tie, and he’s serious about business.

The third annual California Cannabis Business Expo took place this week at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, and there was no shortage of suits and ties on-hand for the event. The vendor hall was filled with exhibitors from many aspects of the recreational, medical, and related cannabis industries. The rows were lined with booths from cannabis law firms, marijuana investment companies, seed and clone vendors, extractors, equipment manufacturers, dispensaries, and delivery services. Keeping in step with technology trends in the rest of the world, some of the vendors demonstrated that even the marijuana industry is taking advantage of modern robotics and automation. Automatic trimming machine manufacturer GreenBroz Inc had their latest hardware on display, and a business named Auto Cure was showcasing a large, black, multi-drawered box that they touted as the world’s first fully automatic drying and curing machine. Equipped with an array of sensors and a touch-screen interface, it even knows when to “burp” itself during the process. There were no booths with dab rigs set up as one might see at some of the other types of cannabis events that are held in California but among the serious business side there was still some fun mixed into the expo. At their booth near the entrance, cannabis delivery service Speed Weed offered attendees a chance to compete against an opponent for a free edible-filled VIP box in a game they called Cookie Face. Winning was achieved by being the first player to successfully navigate a sandwich cookie from your forehead to your mouth with no hands in less than a minute.

In the ballrooms across from the exhibit hall, speakers shared their knowledge on a broad range of topics about the cannabis industry. Seminars were available throughout the Expo on subjects including genomics, branding, cultivation, regulation, accounting, compliance, and licensing. During a Monday afternoon session, NORML founder Keith Stroup came onstage to introduce the keynote speaker, cannabis advocate Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Dana, along with Sam Farr, co-authored the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment which prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. During the session, the Congressman talked about asset forfeiture, his belief in a limited government, and expanded personal freedom. He spoke about how he sees a disservice being done to military veterans by not allowing them to treat their PTSD and other service-related injuries with medical cannabis, forcing them to turn to opioids instead. Dana also took some time to mention Assembly Bill 1578 which has been introduced into the state legislature for the 2017 season. If passed, the bill would prohibit state and local agencies from assisting federal agencies in the interference of recreational or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by California law.

As the wall of cannabis prohibition crumbles away at an ever-quickening pace, so does the perception of the plant itself. Misinformation from the past decades of propaganda is being replaced with facts. Deals made in the shadows of the black market are finally being able to return to the light of legitimacy. Much like they were before the criminalization of marijuana. Only now, there is the benefit of access to the advanced resources of modern science and technology. Due in part to these technologies, a plant that has been promoted for decades as something toxic is proving to be a literal life saver for some people. While there has been a lot of progress, there is much work to do on a state, federal, and a personal level. The government is where the laws of the land are made, but the minds of the people are where the real change happens. In a recent press conference, Sean Spicer related the opioid addiction crisis in America to the rise in recreational marijuana despite the fact that opioid overdoses have fallen in states with existing medical cannabis laws. Spicer’s statements illustrate a real need for proper cannabis education in the country. After decades of rampant misinformation, it is very encouraging that events like the California Cannabis Expo exist now to help keep people informed, involved, connected and motivated.