Monday, June 19, 2017

The 'Green Rush' Went Next Level at Last Week's Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in Oakland

by Nate Sheidlower
Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 6:18 PM

Hydroponics tables with marigolds belonging to Aessence Grows. - NATE SHEIDLOWER
  • Nate Sheidlower
  • Hydroponics tables with marigolds belonging to Aessence Grows.

The cannabis industry most people know consists of two people: the buyer and the seller. To a certain extent, that hasn’t changed. But, as the industry becomes legitimate through regulation and legalization, there is a lot more than just marijuana being bought and sold.

Last week, Oakland was host to the fourth annual National Cannabis Industry Association Cannabis Business Summit and Expo, and it’s 4,500 attendees. The grand ballroom at downtown’s Marriot City Center brimmed with almost 250 businesses, each posted up for two days to convince business owners and consumers that they can contribute to the rapidly expanding industry.

Child-proof packaging producers set up booths next to potency-testing lab companies, light manufactures, insurance agents, real-estate brokers, law firms, soil salesmen, and even point-of-sale and business-management software engineers. And there was very little actual cannabis on display or available.

In fact, all the samples that edibles companies gave out were non-infused, meaning they included zero THC or CBD. A demo of a hydroponic-growing tank sprayed water on the suspended roots of Marigolds, not pot plants. And even the industrial vacuum sealer demonstration included a bag of moss instead of bud.

“I’m from Humboldt, and we used to be a small group of businesses catering to the growers, everyone knew everyone,” explained Kelly Nicholson, the North America sales director of Autogrow, a company that’s been selling nutrient-dosing machines for agriculture for more than twenty years. “Now, there’s tons of new people — and I know maybe six booths.”

This is one of the many side effects of taking the cannabis industry out of the shadows and putting it in the hands of the government. Cova, for example, is a company that launched last week. They sell software to dispensaries so that they can ring up customers with a point-of-sale program on touch-screen tablets. Its parent company, iQmetrix, has its software powering 19,000 wireless retail locations.

Brendan Carroll explaining how the Yofumo curing box removes the mold, yeast, and bacteria from flowers. - NATE SHEIDLOWER
  • Nate Sheidlower
  • Brendan Carroll explaining how the Yofumo curing box removes the mold, yeast, and bacteria from flowers.

“Legalization and regulation are really legitimizing the industry, and that is attracting talent from other industries,” said Brandon Carroll, co-founder of Yofumo, a company that sells curing boxes for already-harvested cannabis.

Carroll’s product is an example of how Prop. 64 is expanding the scope of the cannabis industry. He and his business partner, Yofumo CEO Alfonso Campalans, both came from a background in financial-management software. The chief engineering officer, Alex Grey, built satellites before joining the company.

His actual product is a gun safe-sized box, which starts at $5,000 and can hold up to six pounds of cannabis for curing, or drying. The boxes remove all of the yeast, mold, and bacteria, leaving only the plant matter, cannabinoids, and terpenes. But he says it also creates a more aromatic marijuana flower: he opened a Harborside bag which he called “the control” and it smelled like good pot, but it was nothing too special. Then, he opened a jar of nugs that had been cured in the Yofumo box — they smelled like a fresh cherry blossom.

“Crazy, right?” he asked. “That’s cherry kush.”

Campalans first had the idea for the box some four years ago, when he saw a need in the industry: Everyone focused on the growing process, and no one was looking at how the cannabis is treated before it reaches the consumer. Work to design the boxes began two years later, and the company launched nationally this week, selling every machine they brought to the summit.

Evan Andrea stands next to the model of Bella Toka Grow Box he used to demo at the summit. - NATE SHEIDLOWER
  • Nate Sheidlower
  • Evan Andrea stands next to the model of Bella Toka Grow Box he used to demo at the summit.
Recognizing a void and working to fill it seemed to be a common theme for businesses at the conference. Mike Newton used to grow his own cannabis, to help with his back pain, until he realized six months of work only yielded him one month’s supply. He became determined to maximize yield, while at the same time making the growing process fluid and easy. Newton founded Bella Toka and began manufacturing the Grow Box last week, a tool that can hold up to seven plants and is designed for that very purpose.

Simply put, the grow box is two pots of soil stacked on top of each other with a screen in between, and a rack on top of the pots similar to a cage used with tomato plants. The screen removes the hassle that normally comes with growing marijuana of transferring the plant to a bigger pot for the flowering process.

“When it’s time to begin flowering, you just pull this out,” Newton’s business partner Evan Andrea explained as he removed the screen, allowing for the roots to extend down into more soil.

But even though many of the exhibits featured products that would interact with cannabis in some way, there was one company that had nothing to do with tangible pot.

Mentor Capital is a group that invests in cannabis businesses and works to help take them public. CEO Chet Billingsley founded the company in 1985. Before entering the cannabis world in mid-2013, he invested in cancer research and treatment companies.

“In the world of cancer, cannabis is a godsend,” Billingsley told the Express. He said by bringing his Wall Street background to the cannabis industry he feels he can do more good than previously.

But investing in cannabis businesses is a little bit different than other types of companies. Mentor Capital acquires an interest in larger, private cannabis companies, provides them with funding, and helps them prepare their accounting and board structure so that they can eventually be spun off as a stand-alone public company.

Cannabis companies could also remain with Mentor Capital, who asks for 5 percent of the company’s equity, which Billingsley said is about half what it costs to go public through other methods, such as a reverse merger.

He said now is the perfect time for smaller companies like his to get in to the industry, because it is not yet clear exactly how the federal government, under President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will act with regards to cannabis businesses.

“The big guys and the medium guys have got too much to lose,” he said.

Throughout the two-day summit, discussion of Trump was sporadic. Kayla Bertsch, a horticultural engineer for Solexx, a company that’s sold plastic greenhouse coverings for over two decades, said she feels “scared about the sustainability and the future of the industry” because of the current administration.

Indeed, a lot is unknown when it comes cannabis and Trump. But another president came to the NCIA summit last week, and he was not silent about his view of the future of the industry.

Former president of Mexico Vicente Fox delivering the keynote address at the NCIA summit. - COURTESY OF NCIA
  • Courtesy of NCIA
  • Former president of Mexico Vicente Fox delivering the keynote address at the NCIA summit.
Former president of Mexico Vicente Fox was the keynote speaker, introduced by NCIA executive director Aaron Smith as “the first world leader to address the cannabis industry.”

Throughout Fox’s 45-minute speech, he spoke about how much pain people in Mexico have experienced because of the war on drugs, and how legalization is the road to ending crime that causes this pain. He acknowledged the work it took to get the cannabis industry to where it is today, and the industry’s potential.

“You’ve been striving, you’ve been struggling to open things, to change laws, to change behavior, to change image and perception. You’re doing that every day, and you will keep on doing it.” Fox told the audience. “Each of you can start with a small business in California or Oregon or Colorado, but you’re dreaming to become global and you are going to.”

And a moment before Fox’s speech, during a press conference, indicated how far marijuana truly has come: A man stood up and questioned the president’s choice of language. “Why do you call cannabis a drug?” he asked. “It’s an herb, it has flowers, and there are many herbs that have been used in naturopathic healing for millennia that are not called drugs.”

“I’m also ignorant sometimes, as Trump,” Fox responded. “I’m going to call it a flower now, a plant, no problem.”

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Colorado Legalization 90 Days In: Crime Down; $33 Million in Taxes Earmarked For Public Health

by David Downs
Mon, May 12, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Colorado state tax reports issued on May 8 showed that $19 million worth of cannabis was sold legally in the state in March, up almost a third from February. The state also reported $7.3 million in retail weed tax revenues, plus another $12.6 million from taxes on medical cannabis. Last week, state lawmakers moved to spend some proceeds — about $33 million — on school nurses and public education touting responsible use.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Marijuana Legalization Scrambles Political Compasses of Republicans, Democrats

by David Downs
Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Republicans and Democrats don't stand for anything other than keeping their jobs — and if you're looking for the clearest example of that, look toward cannabis legalization where you'll find Democrats supporting the prison-industrial complex and modern Jim Crow; and you'll also find "small government" Republicans ready to analyze your urine for marijuana metabolites. (That's small!)

The Wall Street Journal today takes a national look at how cannabis law reform has scrambled the political compasses of Republicans and Democrats alike.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Colorado Weed Poll Confirms that Illegal Pot Dealers Are Doomed

by David Downs
Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 10:15 AM

A new poll released by Medical Marijuana Business Daily confirms the impression we got from interviewing legal weed customers in Colorado: black market dealers are doomed.

In an online poll of 304 pot buyers, just 5 percent of respondents said they would “stay loyal to my black-market source” of pot in the face of legalization.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Game Over: DPA Punts Cali Legalization to 2016

by David Downs
Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Game over, man.

The frontrunners for California legalization in 2014 will not fund the effort this year, and have punted it to 2016.

The Drug Policy Alliance told the Los Angeles Times in a story published today that there’s not enough time, or voter support to run a legalization initiative in California this year. The deadline to file an estimated 800,000 raw signatures is April 18th.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Compare California’s Competing Legal Weed Measures

by David Downs
Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Today, we reported that all signs point to failure for the California weed legalization efforts of 2014. It’s just too late in the game, the money hasn’t shown up, and the odds just don’t look favorable.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Obama in New Yorker: Pot Less Dangerous Than Alcohol

by David Downs
Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 10:31 AM

President Obama sat down with The New Yorker’s David Remnick in a long, revealing interview on many topics, including the president’s evolving views on gay marriage and … wait for it, weed:

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

‘Is it less dangerous?’ Remnick asked.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Worth Repeating: Poverty, Not Pot Will Kill Your IQ

by David Downs
Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 10:23 AM

Sorry, blowhards at Fox News — newly legal weed in Colorado doesn’t make you dumb. But living in crushing poverty with shitty schools and awful, boring jobs definitely does.

Scientific American reported on a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that debunked a previous PNAS report saying that teenage potheads saw their IQ drop by middle age.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Weed Stocks Rally 21 to 1,700 Percent

by David Downs
Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Yesterday I was interviewed by on marijuana investment opportunities and I urged caution and detailed the notoriously low reporting requirements for unlisted marijuana-related stocks. Turns out, people do not care.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

'This Will Not Be Like ObamaCare!' - Colorado's Legal Weed Sales Rollout Went VERY Smooth

by David Downs
Thu, Jan 2, 2014 at 10:15 AM

The apocalypse did not happen folks. Colorado launched the first taxed and regulated retail sales of recreational pot Wednesday, and while demand was high, the vibe was mellow.

By 11:40 a.m. Wednesday, Denver city officials in charge of the rollout were crowing. In stark contrast to the average Black Friday sale, the thousands of people who lined up to buy sacks were orderly, peaceful, and respectful of the law.

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