Cannabis association holds expo and summit

Published: 6/19/2017 10:00 AM
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This past week I had the pleasure of traveling across the country to what most natives refer to as “Oaksterdam.” For us on the East Coast, we know it as a little place called Oakland, California — the place that started it all, and of course, the home of the Golden State Warriors NBA Champions. Winning the championship turned Oakland into a fan-crazed frenzy, as if hosting a cannabis conference with 5,000 attendees wasn’t enough excitement. But that’s a story for another day.

This past week the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), held its fourth annual expo and summit. As one of the leading industry associations, the NCIA works diligently every day for cannabis reform throughout the country and is committed to lobbying for those who matter most, the patients. This by far was one of the most professional, educational and interesting conferences that I have attended, where I had the chance to speak and learn from my peers on an array of topics among cultivation, regulation and industry trends, just to mention a few.

My first day was intense. I registered for a day-long “boot camp” that focused on how best to run a cannabis business, whether that be a dispensary, lab, cultivation site or another ancillary business. I learned about packaging, labeling, transportation, security and compliance. One of the most valuable takeaways was that we must acknowledge that we are not in the cannabis business, but the compliance business. Meaning, obtaining respect, trust and, ultimately, success, comes from being transparent and compliant. It’s a privilege to be in the cannabis industry, not a right.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to take a tour at Berkeley Patients Group, the nation’s oldest dispensary, first opening its doors in 1999. BPG is strictly medical and sees roughly 700 patients per day. They pride themselves on patient care, advocacy and “good neighbor” policies.

Although secure beyond state standards, the building itself and exterior was rather warm and inviting. Most dispensaries that I have previously visited seemed scary because they were fitted with metal bars, barbed wire and armed guards. None of that was present at BPG.

There was indeed a fence and two levels of security before entry, yet the outside was peaceful and serene. Succulents, trees and flowers were strategically placed outside, creating a friendly green space. Inside I found smiles, information and support. It reminded me of the kind of dispensary that I could be proud of, and one that I would want to shop at. Honestly, it was more inviting than most physician offices these days. Overall, it’s great to experience how different states and patient groups perceive what a cannabis dispensary should accomplish and be able to incorporate some of their strengths to new dispensaries back home.

After a few more talks on tax reform, electrical efficiency, odor control, compliance and cultivation safety, I flew home with an arsenal of knowledge from industry experts from all over the country.

The cannabis industry is a melting pot and that’s what makes all of this so exciting. We are a part of something larger than life, and no matter which side of the cannabis plant you’re on, everyday we’re making history.

(“Medical Marijuana: An Industry Blooms” is a weekly feature. Megan Millo is vice president of develop- ment for Power Plant Me- dicinal, Pittston, which has applied for a permit to build a marijuana growing facility in Marion Heights.)

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