It’s hard to overstate the importance of conferences to the cannabis community. Getting together, if even for a few days, provides us with amazing opportunities to learn, network, and share – and it’s no surprise why some travel thousands of miles to attend cannabis conferences across the country. As a drug policy reform activist for the past seven years, I have been to my fair share of marijuana conferences, and still to this day, I’m blown away by the exceptional work of marijuana reformers and the progress we’ve accomplished as a movement.
This year’s Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference (OMMBC) stands out as one of the most inspiring conferences I’ve had the chance to attend. This weekend, over 600 members of the cannabis community are gathered in downtown Portland for one of the most impressive events the movement has to offer. Featuring speeches by accomplished reform advocates, including Judge Jim Gray and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the OMMBC is without a doubt a critical component of the marijuana business curriculum.
The conference kicked off on Saturday with a keynote speech by Judge Jim Gray, an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs who served as the running mate for Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential election. He is also the author of a fascinating book on the drug war, aptly titled Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed: A Judicial Indictment Of War On Drugs.
Judge Gray spoke boldly about his support for drug policy reform, touching on his personal experience as a father and a law enforcement official. He was eager to talk about marijuana’s medicinal value – something that many politicians have yet to acknowledge – and took part in an engaging Q&A where he encouraged the audience to ask hard-hitting questions.
The first day of the conference also featured a powerful panel on women in the marijuana movement. Moderated by veteran activist Debbie Goldsberry, the panel included the compelling stories of Ashley Preece-Sackett (WomenGrow, Cascadia Labs), Chelsea Hopkins (The Greener Side), and Dale Sky Jones (Oaksterdam University). More than just a celebration of their role in the movement, the panelists highlighted the work that remains to be done to make the industry more inclusive to women, such as countering the stigmatization of women in the marijuana movement, fighting against sexual harassment in the workplace, and addressing the gender pay gap.
The OMMBC is an essential opportunity for the cannabis community to stay up to date with the rules and regulations that shape the industry. The conference included a comprehensive overview of Oregon marijuana laws presented by Anthony Johnson, the director of New Approach Oregon, the political action committee responsible for the success of Measure 91. As the world of marijuana policy is changing increasingly fast, the wealth of information provided by the conference is more vital than ever to fostering a healthy and successful marijuana industry.
While this applies to community members from all across the United States, this is particularly true for those doing business in Oregon, as the state will be moving forward with implementing legalization in the next few weeks. On October 1st, medical dispensaries in Oregon will begin adult-use marijuana sales, and it’s crucial for industry members to be well-informed on the specifics of this newly legal market.
But these rules are merely temporary, as state authorities plan on releasing permanent regulations later this year, so it’s imperative that the community stays proactive in staying up to date with changing marijuana policies. Thankfully, there are more conferences coming up: the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference will be in Ashland, Oregon on November 21st, and the 2016 International Cannabis Business Conference will be happening on February 13th and 14th in San Francisco.