Hundreds of people packed the Big Four Building at Stampede Park for the Cannabis and Hemp Expo Saturday.
Over 100 exhibitors and keynote speakers were at the event, along with a wide range of people from cancer patients, veteran pot smokers and curious investors anxious to make a profit with the upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana.
“It’s a lot more professional. The stigma behind cannabis is slowly going away and people are finding what a legitimate, professional business the cannabis industry has become,” event organizer Kevin Blackburn, with CanWest Productions, said.
Brennen Pell, an Okotoks landscaper came to sit in on some of a seminars. Pell and his business partner are keen to jump into the recreational cannabis industry.
“I think it will be a great opportunity,” Pell said. “I’m kind of happy that there is a stigma around marijuana because it’s kind of keeping people away from it right now.”
Speakers from Washington state, where recreational pot has been legal for five years, gave their advice on getting into the retail end of the cannabis business.
“When legalization comes, the influx of capital into the industry comes in like a tidal wave and literally changes all the dynamics and that’s where people really get hurt,” Random Vaughn, who runs Dank’s Wonder Emporium in Olympia, Wash., said.
Vaughn warned people about the price of pot going down and he stressed the importance of getting in early, as well as marketing and branding as the competition ramps up.
“If you are very smart and you do long-term thinking and you do small growth over time, you might be able to compete. The problem is the price per gram goes down so quickly when legalization comes in,” Vaughn said. “The big thing for any retailer or grower is – how are you going to make people choose you not just once, because they’re taking a risk. They’ll try you…[but] how are you going to get them to come back?”
Aurora Cannabis, which has a large greenhouse north of Calgary near Cremona and is now building an 800,000 square foot facility near Leduc, had a booth at the expo. The medical marijuana grower hopes new legislation means more capital coming in and new products.
“Legalization means to us that there’s more access to the product so there can be more products available to address more illnesses,” David Frampton, Aurora Cannabis client care director, said.
“It’s unfortunately a waiting game and everybody needs to be patient. But when we get through it, there’s a large potential for everybody having more options and everybody getting more out of the industry,” Frampton said. “If anything, recreational legalization means more public acceptance and more access for the person who needs it for their medical needs.”
While there is plenty of excitement surrounding the new pot possibilities, there is an equal dose of uncertainty about the details of legalization which is expected by summer of 2018.
“I think you will find a lot of companies down here are doing what they can to adapt to what they think the future is going to be. But if you talk to a few people here, a lot of people have different thoughts on which direction it’s going,” Blackburn said.
The trade show runs May 6 and Sunday May 7 at Stampede Park.
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