By John Schroyer
The Spring Marijuana Business Conference and Expo kicked off Tuesday at the Chicago Hilton, with more than 160 cannabusiness exhibitors and over 1,800 registered attendees looking to learn and network.
John Young, an entrepreneur from Ohio who’s counting on his state legalizing medical and recreational cannabis this November, said he came to Illinois for a combination of information and business contacts.
“Where do I find such people? In Ohio, it’s not like there are people with experience (in marijuana). At least, not legally,” Young said.
He’s just one of roughly 40% of attendees who are startups versus already-established businesses. The cannabis industry is expanding at such a rapid pace that hundreds of startups are emerging nationwide. If a ballot measure is approved this fall in Ohio, Young plans to open a cannabis shop of his own, possibly in his hometown of Cincinnati.
Another conference-goer, Emily Clement of North Carolina, said she and her two business partners are looking for more insight into the industry that will help them launch an infused products company, possibly in either Oregon or California. Their next big decision, she said, is deciding which market to try to break into. They even already have a name for their company: Hydrops.
“What are the challenges and risks of the market? We’re hoping to get some tips and advice,” Clement said. “Cost is a huge factor for us.”
Lisa McCullough, a cannabusiness hopeful from Colorado, is interested in possibly starting a wholesale cannabis growing concern of her own in Loveland. “Education. From the ground up,” McCullough said, when asked what she was hoping to get from the three-day event.
“I like it all, the legal part, the real estate part; banking was real interesting,” McCullough said after sitting through the first half of the pre-show Crash Course, a seminar designed for marijuana industry startups. “I’m very new to this.”
Perhaps one of the most ambitious attendees, however, was Joshua Laterman, a Milwaukee-based attorney with a background in financial law.
“My mission is to pioneer a federal banking solution,” Laterman said, flat-out. “I’m here to learn how to build a franchise. I want to see the people who are the industry.”
The conference began on Tuesday with a Crash Course designed for industry newcomers and networking cocktails on the 19,000 square foot Expo hall floor. It continues Wednesday and Thursday with a keynote address by economist Steven Levitt, the co-author of the book Freakonomics. Stay tuned to Marijuana Business Daily for updates from the conference.
John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]