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Colorado Continues to Draw Out-of-Staters

Feb 07, 2017 03:34PM ● By Randy Robinson

NCIA Seed to Sale Show 2017 (Photo by Randy Robinson)

Last week, Denver hosted two major cannabis industry conferences: NCIA’s Seed-to-Sale Show and Women Grow’s Women Grow Summit.

Both of these events cater to marijuana professionals. Both featured vendors, presentations from industry insiders, and, of course, insanely delicious food. But something that stuck out to me at both conferences was the number of out-of-state attendees looking to make their big break in America’s fastest growing industry.

Even more surprising, many of these visitors are coming in from states without any legal marijuana laws on the books: the Dakotas, Kansas, Alabama, to name a few.

But there’s still plenty of folks flying in from states with some kind of legal pot. Maryland, Massachusetts, and now Florida send their residents our way. But even in these states, cannabis is still highly stigmatized. For this reason, no one’s real names will be mentioned here.

At NCIA's Seed-to-Sale Show, a conference catering to more established names in the cannabis industry, I met one guy I’ll call Mike. Mike runs a company that designs hinges for wineries. His hinges just-so-happen to work incredibly well for hanging lights in marijuana grows, so he saw an opportunity in Colorado’s marijuana market. Mike, however, is based in New Jersey, and the governor there hasn’t been terribly friendly to cannabis. So he kept a low profile at the NCIA event, even as he shook hands and closed deals.

NCIA Seed to Sale Show served up some good eats (Photo by Randy Robinson)

At the Women Grow Summit, a conference which empowers and networks women and minorities into an otherwise Caucasian-male-dominated industry, I met Sally. Sally is a cancer survivor who hosts a talk show online. She says cannabis oil caused her cancer to convert into a practically benign form. The surgery proved far less destructive on her body than it otherwise would have been. Five weeks after her surgery, she seemed bright as a rose, walking around and schmoozing with the rest of us. She wanted to connect with people in Colorado who could help raise awareness back in her home state of Maryland, even though Maryland has a medical marijuana program.

I met a husband and wife team of marketers based in Washington, D.C. They want to import Colorado’s classy approach to cannabis, something that’s not really being done in our nation’s capital.

I spoke to vaporizer, edibles, and collective reps from California. They’re excited that California is poised to become the country’s largest marijuana market, but they fear it's getting crowded there, too. They’re already seeking ways to expand their business far outside of the Golden State’s borders, and California hasn’t even finalized its recreational pot regulations yet.

Women Grow 2017 seminar (Photo by Christian Purdie)

I also bumped into farmers from a number of Midwest and Bread Bowl states. These farmers’ families have grown corn, wheat, and sunflowers for generations, but they’re done growing these staple crops. They see new and vibrant opportunities in hemp and marijuana. They want to grow pot, and they’re trying to learn as much as they possibly can–not only about how to grow cannabis–but how to get the laws changed in their states so this can all be legal. And they don’t want to make the same mistakes we have.

In Colorado, where our state can dish out practically unlimited licensing for marijuana companies, our market is saturated. Competition is beyond fierce. Our bubble is swelling to its critical point, and we’re already seeing new pot companies fizzle out almost as soon as they start. The greatest potential for growth now lies outside of our state’s borders – in nearly half the other states still fighting against a failed prohibition.

Women Grow CEO Leah Heise (second from R) poses for a selfie (Photo by Christian Purdie)

In President Trump’s America, the marijuana industry is wavering within limbo. There’s a lot of uncertainty as to what the new administration plans to do with state pot programs, but so far nothing seems to be slowing down. If the so-called Jobs President is as business savvy as he claims, he’d be crazy to shut this down. This is an industry that employs 150,000 Americans, and it's revitalizing satellite industries (think lighting, soil, and fertilizer) that were stagnant until just a few years ago.

Besides, well over half this country now supports full legalization. Nearly 90 percent of the country wants medical marijuana. Over 40 percent of Trump’s own Republican Party favors full legalization. This isn’t just about jobs or economies or profits anymore. This is about democracy, and the people have spoken.