High on Business at the Cannabis Congress
BY: KYLE FITZPATRICK
Who makes the weed business work? Not dudes in rasta hats nor kids vaping elaborate clouds: it’s adults, people who attend conventions like the recent Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition. They’re thinking beyond how to get you high.
These people are introducing new, scientific means to grow marijuana. These people are figuring out how to get cannabidiol (CBD) recognized as a legitimate health supplement. These people are thinking about the marketing of marijuana, cannabis security systems, hemp based technology, and so much more. A buzz is only a small part of marijuana.
This meeting of the marijuana minds stretched across three days in a cozy sidebar of the Los Angeles Convention Center’s West Exhibit Hall. No one was barely clothed handing out swag nor were there booth bros trying to get you to dab an unknown substance. Instead, they were largely suited men and women who could easily be you or a friend’s parent. Their focus is on developing cannabis forward from head shops and dispensaries, forecasting what wider legalization and acceptance of weed will look like.
Chris Husong is proof of this. He’s the co-founder of ClubM, a luxury leaning monthly subscription box that delivers a handful of cannabis products to Californians. Boxes include edibles, buds, devices, topical substances, and other paraphernalia for you to try out–but nothing in the box is a sample: everything ClubM delivers is a “full-sized product.”
Chris created ClubM after encountering the world of weed via a friend producing a documentary on the subject. Now an innovative voice in the market, he believes his work will change the cultural perception of the substance. “We’re at the impetus,” Chris told us. “People’s minds are changing so fast. There’s a lot of political climate that gives us doubt around [legalization] right now but, overall the way, the gay community has been accepted so much faster, the way the military has been changing, the way women’s rights have been changing, diversity conversations: all of that goes right into the same conversation.”
Weed is intersectional, in Chris’ opinion, and he sees it as a creator of enabled empathy that can greatly benefit this country. “I believe cannabis is a key to unlock [empathy],” Chris says. “Because it opens other perceptions, it opens other ideas in your mind.”
Christy Thiel has a similar point of view. A nutritionist and personal trainer working with Elixinol, Christy shifted her practice toward CBD a year and a half ago and sees cannabis as a revolutionary means to solve the world’s problems. “Cannabis is a profound plant,” Christy told us. “It’s so much bigger than medicine. It’s environmental, it’s energy, medicine, paper, textiles…There’s no way hemp can’t be utilized in America.”
For Christy, cannabis culture is health culture: it’s a tool–not a drug. “This is an amazing industry to be in because it helps so many people,” Christy says. “People’s health isn’t going very well in America: our food is toxic, our water’s toxic, our stress levels are toxic. People are really seeking out people who can talk about cannabis on the level of health, not recreation.”
Christy likens cannabis to superfoods akin to goji berries and aloe vera. She hopes younger generations pick up on this and help push cannabis as an acceptable health alternative. “CBD makes people more human,” Christy says. “To have younger people educated about CBD and recreation is great…We need younger people talking about it, taking it, and using it as a preventative measure.”
Yet, while there was a lovely, carefree optimism held by those at the Congress, cannabis is like any other business: a lot of work, one that isn’t to be taken too lightly. Avis Bulbulyan is extremely familiar with this as the CEO of cannabis business development firm SIVA and President of the LA Cannabis Task Force. “The majority of the people looking at the industry think it’s a get rich quick opportunity and truly have no understanding of what it takes financially,” Avis tells us. “Most don’t understand the nuances and that new regulations and ordinances have a tendency to derail the company’s plan.”
“You need to be prepared and ready to change direction quickly,” Avis says. “Otherwise you will fail.”
Paired with licensing and legal stops and starts in an already saturated state like California, Avis stresses a basic business sense and versatility at the center of one’s marijuana venture. “Look at marketing in traditional industries and see how they market to the mainstream consumer,” Avis says. “People are savvy and don’t buy into marketing gimmicks, but they will buy into brand concepts and brand visions.”
Still, for such a business focused individual, Avis recognizes that cannabis has a magic that could potentially change our minds and bodies and means. “We have an opportunity to make a difference in the world and have an impact that’s a lot bigger than just being a cannabis business owner,” Avis says. “This industry has leveled the playing field where your average twenty-something year old is doing business with people they otherwise would not be in position to do, helping create policy at every level from local to state to federal.”
“The next cure for a disease is one deal away and one joint venture away,” he continues. “If we as an industry can appreciate the opportunity in front of us, we can impact this world in a tremendous way.”