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September 1, 2016– By Amanda Reiman

California has become the epicenter of cannabis reform as the state moves to legalize marijuana for adults via Prop. 64 on the November 8 ballot. Legalization in California would mean that an additional 39 million people in the US would be living under legalization, more than the number of those in the current four legal states and DC combined. With this new policy will come a tidal wave of industry with tax revenues estimated at $1 billion dollars per year.

With this boom on the horizon, what better time and place for the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo (CWCBE), held at the Los Angeles Convention Center September 8-9 with a day of cannabis business workshops on Sept. 7.  Although California is sure to be a hot topic of conversation, the CWCBE is for everyone, whether from a state with a robust adult use and medical program like Colorado, to newer medical marijuana states like Pennsylvania. The conference has five tracks covering the topics of: starting and running a canna-business; banking and finance; science and information; legislation and advocacy, and industry trends and innovations.

The agenda is reflective of the many stages states and businesses are in with their cannabis programs. Those from more evolved markets will benefit from discussion such as e-commerce, while those still trying to establish policies in their states can learn about reducing the stigma around cannabis use. Of course, policy and the impending initiatives will be given plenty of stage time, with panel titles such as, “Failure is not an option” featuring DPA’s Lynne Lyman.

An exciting new trend in cannabis conferences, the CWCBE has several presentations and panels addressing the issue of diversity and equity in the industry. Previously, one was hard pressed to find even one panel focusing on how to ensure that those more impacted by marijuana prohibition are not frozen out of the new industry. CWCBE has five presentations on the topic, covering community engagement, women of color in the industry, Native Americans and cannabis and the need to address the lack of diversity in the burgeoning industry.

In California, the cannabis industry isn’t new. It is two decades old, led by many courageous people. While some who paved the way are still at the top of the cannabis game, many more are behind bars, or in some cases dead, at the hands of marijuana prohibition. Today’s cannabis leadership has an obligation to work with communities and recognize the legacy of racial oppression tied to the war on drugs.

Another area of cannabis policy garnering attention is the use of cannabis as a substitute for opiates. This issue will be addressed by a panel including former NFL star Marvin Washington, who has become an avid advocate for use of cannabis in lieu of opiates. Washington is also an outspoken advocate for using cannabis as a treatment for concussion-related brain injuries. He will not be the only NFL player to speak at the CWCBE. The use of cannabis as a treatment for concussion-related brain injuries will be discussed on a panel entitled: CTE, Concussion and CBD, featuring Jake Plummer, Lorenzo Neal, Nate Jackson, and Riley Cote.

Of course, what cannabis conference would be complete without a stellar line up of key note speakers? The CWCBE offers up Montel Williams discussing medical cannabis, and Ted Chung, entrepreneur, manager of Snoop Dogg and founder and CEO of MERRY JANE, a cannabis media platform.

There will be a lot packed into the two days at the LA Convention Center, but with legalization on the horizon in 5 states and counting, there is no time like the present to dip your toe in the cannabis industry pool. You can register here.

Amanda Reiman is the manager of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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