Tag: cannabis conferences

Hawaii Expects Adult Use Cannabis Legalization in Next 3 – 5 Years

This article originally appeared in Honolulu Civil Beat, and is reprinted with permission.

POIPU, Kauai — Alex Rogers vaulted onto the stage like the warm-up act at a rock concert. “Yo, make some noise!” he howled into the mic, riling cheers from a mid-morning audience of cannabis consumers, investors and farmers. “I love y’all!”

Medical cannabis is legal in Hawaii, but not adult use—yet. ‘Who are the voices quashing adult use?’ one conference attendee wanted to know.

Slender and silver-haired, Rogers is the founder and CEO of the International Cannabis Business Conference, which descended last weekend on Kauai’s Grand Hyatt resort.

The three-day affair featured a spree of presentations by lawyers, politicians and music producers, as well as a reggae concert, a golf tournament and giveaways of non-intoxicating cannabis products, such as bottled water laced with CBD oil. The destination event will next pay visits to San Francisco, Berlin and Vancouver.

The Kauai conference drew around 500 attendees, according to Rogers, and many of them had flown in from states and nations with progressive marijuana laws. Attendance at a midday panel on foreign cannabis law was notably sparse, a sign that the event was viewed by some marijuana entrepreneurs as an opportunity to justify a Hawaii vacation as a business expense writeoff.

Those who did make it to the first day of panels were welcomed Saturday by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who appeared in a pre-recorded video played on twin projectors.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Working on banking reform.

“Our outdated policies are having devastating effects on individuals and communities all across the country,” said Gabbard. “They’ve turned everyday Americans into criminals, torn apart families and wasted huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate people for nonviolent marijuana charges.”

A proponent of federal marijuana decriminalization, Gabbard said she wants to make it easier for cannabis companies to work within the banking system. She also voiced support for measures that could jumpstart the industrial hemp industry, such as erasing hemp’s controlled substance classification.

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Welcome, Pioneers!

In his keynote address, state Sen. Will Espero called conference-goers pioneers, evoking American greats like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison. Espero predicted that marijuana would be legal for adult recreational use in Hawaii within the next three to five years.

A Q&A session capped each forum, and Espero, who hosted a $250-per-head fundraiser in a hotel suite, was questioned by a New Yorker about Hawaii’s stance on the adult use of marijuana.

“I’m surprised that you guys are so conservative here,” the audience member said. “Who are the voices that are quashing adult use?”

The ubiquity of the illicity cannabis market has hampered progressive marijuana legislation in the islands, Espero said. But the state government’s need for revenue, he predicted, will eventually drive legalization. And when it does, Espero said he believes Hawaii is poised to become a highly valued, world-class cannabis producer due to its brand power.

“People have not been pounding the doors on legalization because it’s [essentially already] here,” said Espero, who is campaigning for lieutenant governor. “You can get it in any neighborhood. But now we are thinking about it from the aspect of commercialization, of health care, of tax revenues — and that’s why the bar has been raised on the issue of legalization.”

Kauai natives River Young and Sol Kahn of the Oregon-based cannabis sister businesses Hawaiian Seed Company and Nalu Botanicals. The business partners wanted to launch their cannabis companies in Hawaii, but chose to relocate to Oregon where the industry is more developed. They now grow marijuana in the gymnasium of a former elementary school building there. (Brittany Lyte/Honolulu Civil Beat)

Brand Building and Hemp Farming

Getting high was only a small part of the weekend conversation. Discussions ranged from best practices for lawsuit avoidance and cannabis brand-building (“There’s not a Coca-Cola of cannabis — yet,” said Bibiana Rojas, the co-founder of a marijuana company in Colombia) to the future of hemp agriculture in the Hawaiian islands.

Speakers and moderators on these subjects included Jamaican record producer Wayne “Native Wayne” Jobson, San Francisco Chronicle cannabis editor David Downs and Big Island vegetable and hemp farmer Greg Smith. Attendees were informed and attentive, pressing panelists about the threshold for permissible pesticide contamination in Hawaii’s medical cannabis and the legality of recent letters sent by the Honolulu Police Department ordering medical marijuana users to surrender their guns.

Outside the conference room, exhibitors modeled products ranging from glass pipes to fabric pots that promote soil aeration.

“It’s like how you take Vitamin C every day,” said an exhibitor promoting daily cannabinoid therapy via a pen roller that can be used to apply CBD oil to the wrists or temples.

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Looking for Investors

Christopher Takhvar, a 43-year-old tattoo artist from Maui, was scouting for an investor to help him develop a business utilizing his “Mauiwowie” federal trademark. By Saturday afternoon, he hadn’t had much luck.

“They might be fans, but I don’t think 95 percent of these people here are proponents of developing this industry in Hawaii,” he said. “There’s a lot of fluff.”

But there was also substance. Hawaii’s new medical cannabis program and its inefficiencies took center stage in one panel discussion.

Helen Cho, who is Aloha Green’s director of integrated strategy, lamented anti-smoking regulations administered by the state Department of Health that forbid dispensaries from selling rolling papers or any other paraphernalia that enable the inhalation of cannabis.

“Right now at the dispensary there are a lot of cannabis newbies and we have lots of paraphernalia for them to look at, and we show them and say, ‘OK, when you go to the head shop this is what you want,’” Cho said.

Christopher Takhvar, who has a federal trademark for the Mauiwowie brand name, shows off his branded rolling papers. The 43-years-old Maui resident attended the conference with hopes of finding an investor. (Brittany Lyte/Honolulu Civil Beat)

Pesticide Questions

Panelist Caleb King of Steep Hill Hawaii, a cannabis testing laboratory, noted this problem with the state’s 1 part per million action limit set for pesticides: Some pesticides are toxic below the 1 ppm threshold for patients with compromised immune systems. As the medical cannabis program grows out of its infancy, King said the state has indicated that it will consider lowering the limit to curtail any potential health risks to patients.

At least as important as the conversations stimulated by panelists were opportunities for attendees to exchange business cards. Away from the exhibitor halls, after-hours networking happened over cocktails and in hot tubs.

“I think the people are almost more interesting than the conference itself,” said Kauai resident Jay Ensworth.

Trump Comments Spark Boycott of LA Cannabis Expo

A boycott of the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo, slated for Los Angeles in mid-Sept., started with a Facebook post on Thursday morning. By Friday afternoon it had spread to a number of prominent members of the cannabis industry.

The boycott is the latest fallout from President Trump’s comments defending white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

On Thursday, the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) put up a Facebook post announcing its withdrawal from the expo due to the presence of Roger Stone, who is booked as a keynote speaker. Stone, a self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, is a longtime mentor and advisor to President Trump, and has a long history of ugly racial incidents in his past. He’s also a vocal advocate of cannabis legalization.

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The MCBA posted this on Thursday: “As a result of CWC choosing this guy as their keynote speaker, MCBA has decided to withdraw from attendance and speaking roles at this conference. CWC, you know better so there’s no excuse not to do better.”

Later that day, the Cannabis Industry Journal announced that it would “no longer be a media partner of any CWCBExpo events, unless they remove Roger Stone from the keynote slot.”

The Journal editors added:

“In choosing Roger Stone to keynote, the CWCBExpo is making a Faustian bargain and we don’t believe this is right. We need to stand by our morals; the ends don’t justify the means. The cannabis industry is no place for racism and we would like to see Roger Stone removed from the keynote position at CWCBExpo.”

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Scott Giannotti, a managing partner of the CWCBExpo, replied in a post addressed to Minority Cannabis Business Association leader Jesce Horton: “How convenient MCBA is promoting CWCBExpo’s biggest competitor NCIA, who hosts ALL WHITE CONFERENCES. Meanwhile CWCBExpo works hard at producing the most politically and culturally diverse conference program in the cannabis industry. But we’re racists ok lol I’ll put our show guide up against NCIA’s any day you want and show you how dumb you people are.”

That did not go over well. Wanda James, one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, responded: “this is going big.”

Other leaders voicing their support for the MCBA’s position and withdrawing from the conference included Aunt Zelda’s co-founder Mara Gordon, as well as former Drug Policy Alliance California policy manager Amanda Reiman, who’s now vice president for community relations at Flow Kana.

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Stone’s presence has long made many cannabis activists uneasy. But he’s also been seen by some as a symbol of the common ground that conservatives and liberals can find on the issue of legalization. That uneasy alliance was shaken by Trump’s words and actions in the past week. For many, inviting a close Trump advisor like Stone to a cannabis event jumped a lane over the past seven days. What was once seen as a good-faith instance of reaching across the political aisle became a show of tacit support for Trump’s toxic views on race and violence.

Kaliko Castille summed up the feeling of many in the MCBA camp in Weed News earlier today:

“Maybe Roger Stone isn’t a racist, but you know what’s just as bad as being a racist? Using other people’s racism as a means to achieve your own political ends. There are plenty of well-intentioned conservatives that are coming around on our issue who don’t flirt with racism to make their point. If you want a principled conservative with political connections to speak at your events, invite Grover Norquist.

I don’t care how connected Stone is to Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump, if our industry decides to buddy up to people who have blood on their hands, there is no way for us to come out clean.”