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This is a Movement Growing Up

Feb 06, 2017 02:24PM ● By Leland Rucker

I spent most of last week at two large cannabis events in downtown Denver, two days at the NCIA Seed to Sale show and two more at the Women Grow Leadership Summit. 

Talk about the new normal. It’s been most fascinating to witness the birth and subsequent growth of the state’s cannabis industry and hard to remember that it’s only been a little more than three years since recreational marijuana for adults became a reality. What I found last week were a lot of people that, at least right now, are looking for more than just a big payoff. They’re more in search of friends, compatriots, supporters and others who find themselves in their same situation. 

The Seed to Sale event, which is run by the National Cannabis Industry Association, based in Denver, included a trade show aimed at commerce and speakers and panels centered around education, advocacy and community building. On the trade-show floor, you could talk with a dizzying array of service companies and manufacturers trying to find a foothold somewhere in the cannabis business. Salespeople eagerly promoted their wares to anyone who would listen. 

The largest majority were aimed at the agricultural market. There were plenty of companies promoting indoor lighting systems, and I heard pitches for air sanitation equipment, hydroponic growing systems,  humidity and pesticide management and security, video surveillance cameras and recorders. 

There were companies offering specialized smoking devices, employee training classes and B2B trade magazines (MG, Terpenes & Testing, Cannabis Business Times). I listened to panels on best practices in micro-dosing infused topical products, new farming systems that increase yields and the latest in cultivation equipment. There were insurance companies, cleaning and packaging firms, specialized software and infused coffee makers. There’s clearly money to be made, and perhaps even more to be lost, in the next couple of years. 

There were a few booths at the Women Grow event, but the emphasis was on information, education and connections. On Thursday I sat in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House with hundreds of women (and men) interested in the industry or already there looking for allies, confirmation or inspiration from a wide variety of speakers and panels, especially aimed at women, who constitute a major presence in cannabis, due in no small part to Women Grow, which now has dozens of branches across the country. 

Even this old cynic was impressed by the energy and camaraderie amongst the participants, speakers and panelists. Especially during Friday’s panels, participants couldn’t wait to ask questions or offer suggestions, and a few ran far beyond their allotted time and could have gone on even longer. 

Being there reminded me of attending the post-inauguration women’s march along 15th Street last month. There’s a lot of unease in the country, and people are looking for allies. I think anti-Trumpers could look to Women Grow as an example of how to build community among disparate groups with similar goals and promote ideas more coherently. 

The new normal is real, and cannabis is growing up, and as the business gets bigger and the competition for dollars more fierce, it will be harder to maintain the community aspect. Hopefully, the fellowship I saw this week won’t get lost as the maturation process continues. _ Leland Rucker