Global Cannabis Industry Leaders Converge at ICBC

Lori Ajax Cannabis Now

On Feb. 1 and 2, the International Cannabis Business Conference came to San Francisco for its fourth year.


In a world of pop-up cannabis business conferences, where it’s not always clear if the organizers have smoked the plant they are promoting, ICBC has stood out over the past few years because of the quality of its programming and attendees. This year’s ICBC in San Francisco was no different, as experts and entrepreneurs from faraway places such as Spain and Israel sold and shared the ideas for products like the next big vaporizer, or — even more lucrative if you’re a Canadian eyeing federal legalization — a European import deal.

David Downs, former Cannabis Now senior editor and current San Francisco Chronicle cannabis editor, kicked the conference off with a sit-down interview of California’s cannabis czar Lori Ajax, who runs the state’s Bureau Of Cannabis Control. Downs said it was especially fascinating to interview Ajax a month after legal sales kicked off in the nation’s newest and largest recreational cannabis market. “They’ve issued 2,400 permits in five weeks,” he noted.

Downs focused the talk on how Ajax has implemented the law as it was written, while trying to pull any tidbits from her about upcoming deadlines and milestones ahead. Ajax noted that a common mistake that applicants were making when applying for a state license was failing to make sure that their landlord’s paperwork was up to date.

Downs also applauded Ajax for standing strong after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, and told Cannabis Now after the interview that he was trying to focus on who Ajax is “behind the scenes.”

“She’s got a job title, but she’s a human being,” said Downs. “She’s not sleeping a lot. She’s down to a fighting weight from the stress. That actually resonates more with people than you think.”

“Everyone wants news they can use, but we’re all human beings and we like to hear how other human beings are making their way through this challenging world and that includes Lori,” said Downs.

Those in the track-and-trace side of the cannabis industry were hanging on Ajax’s words while she spoke, because one of the biggest milestones left for California as it implements its adult-use market is launching the state’s tracking protocol. (Other milestones include creating a banking system for cannabis companies, figuring out how to make room for small farmers in the industry and determining out how much tax money California has earned from legal cannabis.)

“We just heard Chief Ajax say they’re working to get this ready as soon as possible,” said Max Esdale of San Francisco cannabis tech company Meadow.

The conference also included an exhibition hall for companies displaying many of the newest ideas and products that the cannabis industry has to offer. Hundreds of attendees crowded into the exhibition hall, checking out the various companies before them.

Among the new faces was the founder of Bud.com, Justin Hall, who bought the domain name over a decade ago and began to build out a virtual dispensary on the website only this past November. The mutual benefit corporation aims to not only join America’s fastest growing industry, but also do its part in alleviating the opioid epidemic striking across America.

ICBC Co-Producer Dean Arbit was pleased with the event’s 2018 incarnation.

“I think the programming and the experience that guides this show illicit a really dynamic mix of participants,”  said Arbit. “That is something we’re really proud of.” Arbit was also pleased with ICBC’s efforts to push for a more diverse cannabis industry.

TELL US, would you attend a cannabis conference?

Jimi Devine has been involved in cannabis reform since 2005 and has worked in the Berkeley cannabis industry since 2009 when he moved to California from Lynn, Massachusetts. Currently serving as Staff Writer here at Cannabis Now, you can also find his writings on cannabis products and policy in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Hill, The Chronicle of High Education, GreenState.com, Marijuana.com, 7x7 Magazine, and in Ed Rosenthal's most recent book This Bud's for You. Jimi has a BA in Journalism and Media Studies from Franklin Pierce University.

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