Your school guidance counselor probably never thought marijuana would lead to an Ivy league school, but at the College Cannabis Exhibition, that was certainly not the case. The Exhibition hosted by the Student Marijuana Alliance for Research & Transparency (SMART) and High Times brought experts from every aspect of the industry to share their knowledge with an audience of Brown University students. Students came equipped with questions you couldn’t find answers to in any ordinary college course setting.
The exhibition, organized by SMART founder Nadir Pearson, consisted of two panels on supporting the cannabis industry whether you’re touching the plant or not. Here is what we took away from the Exhibition about the advantages and problems that come with each side of the industry.
The experts that deal directly with cannabis products included a dispensary owner, cultivator, researchers and more. Eve Santana, the CEO of a wellness group based in Rhode Island called High Beautiful, moderated the panel discussion. She started by asking everyone their inspiration for entering the cannabis industry and any advice they had for students.
Hope Wiseman, the youngest African-American woman to be awarded a dispensing license claimed her desire to “pave the way for other minorities” was the main drive behind starting the Mary & Main dispensary. She advised students to seek mentors and consider partnerships to overcome the obstacles of starting a dispensary.
Spencer Blier, founder of the Mammoth cultivation facility in Rhode Island said his inspiration was his love for the wonders of the plant specifically citing the fact that cannabis terpenes can be found in other parts of nature. He recommended students find out exactly what part of the industry such as cultivation or extraction they are interested. Then, put their focus in that direction.
Dr. Marion McNabb, CEO of the C3Research Network, a startup research company based out of Massachusetts has always been “cannabis-friendly.” She was motivated to enter the cannabis research business after being shocked by the opioid epidemic and looking into the science on cannabis as an alternative.
Ryan Lewis, CEO of Global Cannabinoids and Brown University Alumni, previously stayed away from working in cannabis because his mother is a judge. After discovering hemp, which came with fewer complications, he set out to become the “largest provider of hemp-derived phyocannabinoids.”
He advised students to pay attention and make the best of classes like organic chemistry or biology because knowledge is power in the ever-evolving cannabis industry.
The panelists, other than Lewis, had many difficulities that a typical business wouldn’t due to the legal issues surrounding cannabis.
Santana asked the panel of cannabis experts who support the industry without touching the plant how they got started and if they had any experiences from the war on drugs.
Kristin Jordan, an attorney at Newman Ferrara LLP, sparked her interest in cannabis law after finding out more men of color in one area of New York were being arrested for cannabis-related crimes than white men in all five boroughs combined. She entered the industry after finding out there was an opportunity to handle applications and licenses for medical marijuana businesses.
Next to speak was High Times Vice President of Strategy, David Peck who started by sharing a story on why he prefers the ancillary side of the industry. After trying cannabis for the first time in high school, he immediately understood what the buzz was about. That’s when he started picking up High Times magazines and learned how to grow from his own closet.
“There’s no better feeling than having your friends get high off of something you grew,” says Peck.
After getting robbed while trying to buy weed he thought to himself “there has to be a better way to do this.” That is when he realized the immediate advantages to the ancillary side of the business. He always knew he wanted to be involved in the cannabis industry because it’s a business without rules that attracts “gutsy people that want to pave their own path.” His position as Vice President of Strategy has allowed him to come out of the grey area and work on the ancillary side of the industry with fewer risks.
Chris Jeffery, the CEO at Leafly spoke on his early struggles, spiritual journey and how meeting a conservative southern man who was buying medical cannabis blew his mind and drew him to the cannabis space. He advised students to work on their stories because he believed in this industry as well as others, “everything is about storytelling.”
Shaleen Title, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control commissioner, was a part of the campaign that legalized cannabis for the first time in Colorado. She started a group that is still pushing for diversity and inclusion in the cannabis space and now she has her role as commissioner. She advised anyone looking to enter the cannabis space to have a positive attitude because laws force the industry to change constantly. You’ll need a the right attitude to adapt.
Peck ended the exhibition with a keynote speech: “Thank you all for coming. What we’re looking to do is support more events like this across the country because it starts with these grassroots movements. This is how legalization started, this is how the stigma is going to get erased and this is what High Times believes in. Not just in America but all across the world.”
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