Pubdate: Mon, 02 Mar 2015
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Andrea Noble


Marijuana Convention in D.C. Helps Put Growers in Business Legally

Part patchouli, part power suit, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts 
gathered over the weekend for the District's first cannabis 
convention since the city legalized recreational marijuana - offering 
a glimpse of the emerging markets that could take hold in the nation's capital.

Although the faint smell of marijuana hung over the Southwest D.C. 
hotel's exhibition hall - where attendees could get tips on how to 
grow it, buy products to smoke it and speak with consultants on how 
to market it - nowhere could it be found.

A pot convention without any pot - out in the open anyhow.

The District's legalization laws, which took effect Thursday, were 
partly to blame for that. The laws allow for the possession of up to 
2 ounces of marijuana but no sales or smoking in public.

Organizers of the District's first Cannabis Academy also wanted to 
keep a safe distance from the stereotypical stoner image and hoped to 
stress that "cannabusiness" is a legitimate and respectable enterprise.

"It's important that everyone understand that the industry is a 
professional and regulated and controlled industry," said organizer 
George, who co-founded the cannabis industry education company 
ComfyTree but didn't want to use his real name.

"Legitimate" doesn't translate to "legal," at least in the eye of the 
federal government, said the entrepreneur, who organizes education 
summits across the country where marijuana is not legal.

Exhibitors were instructed not to bring any THC products onto the 
premises of the Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol Hotel, located a block 
south of the Mall, where federal drug laws still apply and marijuana 
is an offense that could lead to arrest.

"The exhibit is more designed to bring in the experts from California 
and Colorado, the 'mature markets,' to allow the public in D.C. to 
start to brainstorm and understand how they can get into the industry 
and the type of things they can do," George said.

So keeping with the letter of D.C. law, attendees shared their 
business savvy but not their green. Instead, speakers such as former 
investment banker Scott Grepier offered tips on how entrepreneurs 
could attract financial backers for their ventures.

Exhibitor Eric DeFeo showed off the prototype for his countertop 
planter, called Root, which comes equipped with automated LED lights 
and a watering system.

About the closest one could come to finding weed out in the open at 
the event were swag bags - containing a lighter, a breath mint, a 
business card and a small package of oregano - that Mr. DeFeo passed 
out with a wink and a nod in between pitches for his $299 hydroponic planter.

Industry estimates project that the combined sales of recreational 
and medical marijuana in states where programs are legal could top $8 
billion by 2018. In the District, officials have estimated that the 
local marijuana economy could be valued annually at $130 million.

The potential to cash in on the blooming "green rush" economy was not 
lost on the convention's attendees, some of whom paid up to $299 each 
to attend a two-day slew of panel discussions and education seminars.

The showroom Saturday alone had a crowd of about 2,000 people - baggy 
pants and pot leaf-emblazoned T-shirts pressed shoulder to shoulder 
with crisp business suits.

In a separate conference room, oddly within eyesight of the entrance 
to the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, about 
200 paying attendees brushed up on the intricacies of the District's 
pot laws and asked questions of industry professionals from across the country.

Because the District's legalization laws allow home growth of 
marijuana plants but not the sale of the drug, many at the city's 
cannabis expo were focused on obtaining supplies or networking to put 
their growing experience to work.

Trent Johnson, 26, said he is considering a move to the District when 
the lease is up on his Arlington apartment in order to take advantage 
of the legalization to grow up to six marijuana plants. "It would cut 
an expense," he said with a laugh. Mr. Johnson said he hoped 
experience cultivating the drug could serve him in the future if the 
local market eventually allows for legal sales, which Congress thus 
far has blocked.

Daniel Sims, owner of the Silver Spring indoor gardening store 
Montgomery Hydroponics, stood behind a rack of LED lights he had on 
display in the exhibition room.

"We'd be foolish not to take advantage of the D.C. laws," said Mr. 
Sims, whose light racks were labeled $200 and up. "We want to start 
installing grow rooms for people."

David Paine, a 45-year-old D.C. resident who has worked in the 
medical marijuana industry in California, said he is thinking about 
getting back into the business now that legalization is official. He 
said he would like to use his skills to help others run or fine-tune 
their cultivation centers.

Looking around the bustling showroom filled with cannabis-infused 
energy drinks, glass bongs and other items for sale, Mr. Paine joked 
that it seemed too good to be true.

"My fear is it is a trap," he said, laughing at his own paranoia. 
"Like they are going to chain the doors and fingerprint everyone for later.

But after years of operating in the shadows, the sight of the 
marijuana industry out and thriving in the open felt "like a godsend," he said.
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