Driven by the expanding legal marijuana market and a thirst for new products and services, more and more cannabis-centric conferences have begun appearing with greater frequency across the U.S. One of the latest, New West Summit – the cannabis sector’s answer to Silicon Valley’s TechCrunch Disrupt – came on strong this year with their inaugural event held in San Francisco.
The New West Summit brought together representatives from technology, media and finance united with cannabis cultivators, entrepreneurs and political wonks, gathering to discuss the prospects and pitfalls of the skyrocketing legal cannabis industry in the U.S.
Sessions featured a variety of topics, including conversations regarding the growing number of states looking to legalize cannabis in 2016, ideas on branding cannabis specifically to women (a highly under-represented group) and evolving cultivation techniques, among other pertinent subjects.
It was certainly no coincidence that the event was held in the tech mecca of San Francisco, California – also known nationally (if not globally) as a region that provides high-quality cannabis well beyond its state’s borders.
“The summit really surpassed our expectations,” said New West co-founder Dean Arbit, who worked alongside co-founder Jim McAlpine to produce the event. “The vision we had was definitely brought to fruition – a combination of tried-and-true, rooted marijuana community [members] together with new minds bringing tech-driven solutions to the space.”
Vendors ranged from edible manufacturers like Sensi Chews, makers of discrete medicating chocolates, to Surna, manufacturers of climate controlled systems, which has recently unveiled a water-chilled light reflector with an eye toward disrupting the current cannabis grow-room space.
A host of other companies were also present displaying their products, including Tommy Chong’s brand Chong’s Choice, which announced the launch of a cannabis brand that will be available at select dispensaries in Los Angeles, Oakland, Berkeley and Sacramento by January 2016.
Also in attendance was private equity firm ArcView Group, led by CEO Troy Dayton, who gave a live sneak-peek of their process for vetting cannabis-centric startups. To date, the group has assembled a collective of over 500 accredited investors who have invested in over 85 cannabis-related companies to the tune of $55 million.
Throughout the summit a clear line could be sensed between companies that touch the plant (like cultivators and edible makers) from those who do not touch the plant (such as ancillary gardening supplies like grow lights and HVAC systems). This is a key distinction in the still federally illegal sector where newcomers abound looking for opportunities in the developing marketplace, but are still quite wary of breaking federal prohibition laws.
As apparent was a line between summit attendees – with old-hand cannabis growers and concentrate extractors exchanging business cards with investment analysts, lawyers and political policy specialists who were present testing out the new waters. Still, within hours of its opening, all attendees seemed to circulate and blend freely – a credit to producers Arbit and McAlpine, who succeeded in creating a space of shared ideas around the nascent industry.
While the New West Summit has yet to ink any future dates, they say plans are in the works for multiple events in 2016 to again bring together “technologists, venture capitalists, media publishers, entertainment brands and leaders in the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry.”
What cannabis-centric events do you attend? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.