Inside one of America’s biggest marijuana business conventions

Entrepreneurs looking to cash in on California’s new marijuana gold rush flocked to Los Angeles this week for the city’s Fourth Annual Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition, taking in advice and pitches from venture capitalists to a marijuana “sommelier”.

Workshops were conducted, business cards were swapped with more than 200 bustling booths – exhibiting everything from pot paper, to shampoo and even suppositories – at the LA Convention Centre. It was a spirited free-for-all that anticipated one thing: 1 January 2018 – a date that puts dollar signs in many a Californian’s eyes.

For it is then that the state will fully legalise recreational marijuana use, thanks to Proposition 64 – the adult use of marijuana act – which was passed last year. Explosive growth is then projected for the industry and the state; growth which may represent a boon to the tune of $7bn (£5bn), as well as the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“This is truly an exciting time,” gushed a speaker at one of the workshops, which covered the gamut of helpful weed topics, down to the burgeoning Canadian market and marijuana food pairings. “We hope you’ll enjoy the ride!”

Oils-free, biodegradeable plastics from hemp were touted as a potential “$400bn global market” in the “Hemp MBA In A Day” seminar – a number which would seem pie-in-the-sky for now at least.

Though the sky seemed the limit, the Expo’s takeaway messages were sometimes contradictory. Caution hung just under the surface of many of the big sells, with California’s marijuana business still very much in flux while it prepares for the big day and a future that is difficult to predict.

At the “How To Buy Equity In A Cannabis Business: What To Look For, What To Avoid” workshop, a how-to for both pot newbies and more experienced investors, another speaker warned “The industry has a lot of smoke and mirrors,” but only after suggesting that certain investment returns could go as high as 150 per cent.

Workshop leaders also gingerly tip-toed around the “Sessions Depression,” an industry term affectionately coined for the Trump Administration’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is said to be considering a crackdown on America’s supply of cannabis. But many remained confident that California, the largest of the weed states, would lead a development juggernaut that would eventually be too hard for Congressional leaders to ignore, let alone put down (notably, a…

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