“This is a freedom issue,” said Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher speaking about the social injustice of cannabis prohibition to a rousing crowd at the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in San Francisco February 13-14. One of many legitimate gatherings to be held in the rapidly maturing marijuana industry, the ICBC brought together the interdependent players of activism and business to discuss the pending future of cannabis legalization at home and abroad.
“We are so much out of sync with what our founding fathers intended,” said the libertarian-leaning Rep. Rohrabacher who served under Ronald Reagan’s administration. “They never wanted the federal government to be breaking into people’s homes for [marijuana] baggies.”
Impassioned speakers at the ICBC ranged from legislators and entrepreneurs to activists and drug policy experts – including the former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the first African American to hold the office. All presenters were candid about their pro-cannabis positions and the many advantages of a legalized cannabis market – driven by progressive concepts of national public health, social concerns and financial prosperity.
Dr. Elders remarked that our country required a kind of “transformative change” and said that the people gathered at the ICBC were the impetus for such long-awaited change in cannabis laws. “These conferences are designed to develop strategies to transform thinking, to educate people and to demystify” the marijuana debate, said Elders.
Echoing the backwards, federal-intrusion theme for the day was Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Oregon, speaking about economic freedoms.
“We are winning this challenge,” he said referring to legalization laws passed in 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as the mass of states voting on marijuana legalization in November. “This is the year the tide crashes,” he continued, noting that “the U.S. is on the cusp of a robust hemp industry” and hopefully the end of unnecessary hemp imports from overseas.
An important and under-appreciated piece of the marijuana legalization issue has for decades been the large amount of revenue our country has been prevented from reaping through industrial hemp production, items ranging from car parts to food products to clothing. A non-psychoactive sibling of marijuana, hemp is classified along with marijuana and considered a drug with no medical upside. The U.S. currently misses out on this billion-dollar industry while other industrialized countries, such as China, Uruguay and Canada, all sell popular hemp products to U.S. consumers at a premium rate.
The conference also featured appearances by bestselling author and renowned blogger Andrew Sullivan, Dale Sky Jones from Oaksterdam University, Amanda Reiman from the Drug Policy Alliance and celebrity stoner Tommy Chong, among others.
A presentation by Philippe Lucas, president of patent research and services at cannabis producer Tilray based in Vancouver B.C., presented a particularly illuminating look at Canada’s freshly minted industry and how quickly companies have come up to speed since national legalization passed there. The company, which offers a free $50 coupon for first-time users and projects a squeaky-clean branding image that could fit comfortably alongside the branding of Apple or Sony, has their sights set on new, rich, emerging markets.
“We’re interested in getting in front of Rotary Clubs,” says Lucas, remarking that seniors over 60 years old are a group that’s interested in sampling cannabis for aches and pains. “That shows how far we’ve come.”
ICBC has proven to be a popular conference for the marijuanarati and has already inked future dates set for Vancouver on October 13-14, 2016 and Berlin on April 11-12, 2017.
Do you have plans to visit a cannabis conference this year?