Washington State Cannabis Summit: Legitimacy Through Education


Some Trade Groups Are More Than Support Groups In The Cannabis Industry

Cannabis industry events are no longer just attended by farmers and stoners; there are now ITs, biologist, chemist, and other professionals. Marijuana-themed events range from educational to just for fun, but when you can combine the two that’s when you knock it out of the park and one such event for professionals in the industry is The Washington State Summit hosted by The Cannabis Alliance. I recently had the privilege to attend the third annual on January 6th; it was an eventful day.

The Washington State Summit has set the bar high as a trade industry event. I was asked before entering the summit to tell them if it was worth it, tickets for this event were 100 dollars, for someone who makes a living or cares about the direction of the cannabis industry, I say “Yes.” It’s a day of education and social networking.

Social Networking, It’s What You Put Into It

Originally, I wasn’t planning on attending the summit because I have a daytime job. It wasn’t until the night before that I felt I could go, it was then when I reached out via social media to cover the event for WeedNews, but the thing with social media is real people have real lives. Nothing panned out that night or the morning of, but it was with determination, hope, dumb luck, and hard work that I decided I would social network my way in.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by friendly and familiar faces of fellow activists and volunteers who were manning the registration station, even then access was denied, but together we were going to try. After socializing with people coming in (Facebook is an excellent tool for name recognition), I went to the designated safety meeting area where I ran into more familiar and new faces.

While in the middle of smoking a joint a friend Farmer Tom (Washington State Icon) entered the tent and while he was rolling from his amazing personal collection, more people trickled in. I met an associate of Dope Magazine here and the amazing canna consultant who got me access, Wendy Maguire.

The Summit

The summit consisted of 4 educational panels throughout the day, each panel as informative as the next. What I appreciated about each panel was not only were there industry players giving their insight about practices and the direction of the industry, but there were also regulatory players on the panel, people part of the Washington State organic certification process to members of the governing Washington State Cannabis board there to take questions.

After receiving my guest pass, I was able to enter a packed room with the first panel already discussing agronomy. It was intriguing to hear from Brenda Book of the WSDA Organic Food program talk about the efforts being made to give cannabis the organic label. On the same panel was Emily Febles, Industrial Hemp program coordinator of the Washington State Department of Agriculture and her efforts in creating Washington State’s Hemp program. Besides the methodology of growing and testing, Eric Brandstad, the leading greenhouse, and growing efficiency expert was there also to talk about best practices for your facility and the needs for it. The next panelist that was there to discuss growing practices was Maxwell Salinger, director of the production for Solstice Grown Cannabis located in Seattle, Washington. Maxwell proved to be informative and passionate about cannabis and the requirements in the industry. Lastly, on this panel was Steve Warner, Executive Director of The Washington Wine Commission. He discussed the success of the Washington Wine industry and how the Commission helped with such success which I believe this what organizations like The Cannabis Alliance and The NCIA (National Cannabis Industry Association) are doing for marijuana.

After a bit of intermission and with lunch, began the next panel and the topic was Cannabis Therapy and Use. This panel consisted of Dr. Michele Bedard-Gilligan, who talked about how many of her Veteran patients used cannabis to treat their PTSD and that more studies are needed to support the veterans properly. Dr. Michelle Sexton talked about ways she advises her client’s treatments and her studies of the endocannabinoid system. Jessica Tonani, CEO of Verdabio discussed on the panel how there were no treatments out there for her condition to be treated by cannabis and that’s what started her in the industry. I saved the best for last of this panel (no offense to the other panelist but this last gentlemen’s resume is quite impressive), the last panelist was Nephi Stella, Ph.D. This man has been on the forefront of the endocannabinoid research for years, in fact, he was on the team that discovered the second cannabinoid receptor in our body. He founded Stella Therapeutics, Inc; a University of Washington start-up and holds one of the only schedule 1 drug testing licenses to test marijuana. Nephi Stella’s insight into cannabinoid testing and the restrictions placed upon him and testing was quite illuminating.

The topic and next round of panelist were there to discuss The Economic Impacts of The Cannabis Industry. To be honest, a lot of this was beyond me, not because I didn’t understand what was going on but because I’m a technician, a writer, and father, not a businessman. A primary portion of the conversation was devoted to tax codes and business regulations, things that if I had a store, grow, or any other business would be valuable. The panel included Dani L Espinda, CPA, CGMA, a tax manager and business consultant; Pat Oglesby, founder of the Center for New Revenue, a tax policy nonprofit; Mitzi Vaughn, Esq.Managing Attorney for Greenbridge Corporate Counsel; Dr. Dominic Corva, Executive Director for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy; and finally my favorite Don Stevens, Mayor of North Bonneville, Washington. As you can tell by the alphabet soup that followed most of this panel that the conversation was very business heavy and if I were doing tax returns this would be the conversation, I would want to be in.

Out of the prestigious Economic panel the one that held my attention was Don Stevens, the Mayor of North Bonneville in Washington State. The reason why he appeals to me is, believe it or not, there’s a recreational store that is owned by the city, think of it as sort of a utility and after a two years has provided 15 families family living wages jobs, along with the taxes it generated for services like the police.

The next and final panel was on Policy and Politics; on the panel was Ollie Garrett, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board member; Sam Mendez’, Executive Director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project at the University of Washington School of Law; Christine Masse, P.C, Partner, Tribal and Government & Regulatory Team Leader at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP; and finally Michael Correia, Director of Government Relations with the NCIA. This esteemed panel had a lot to offer.

Ollie Garrett talked about how the LCB is trying to have a more open door policy with members in the industry since everyone can’t make it to Olympia, she spoke of the ability soon to come to tape and upload your testimony to the LCB webpage. Christine Masse talked about how she negotiated the pact between the tribes and Washington State which is monumental on many levels, but locally in Washington State, it ensures fair competition. The last major and most impressive thing I got from the panel was that there is a marijuana lobbyist and his name is Michael Correia.

The final Keynote speech was given by Betty Aldworth, Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. She gave an inspirational and moving speech about our recent election could only happen now and not ten years from now. Hope because of the kids she works with in SSDP. She pointed out how a Trump Presidency can only happen now, while some of the older generation with old views are still alive. Her optimism lies with our multiracial, and informed children and as they grow, it will be unacceptable for a future president to want to segregate based on religion, it will be unacceptable to tell people how to love, and in the future, it will be unacceptable to grab a woman by the pussy.

Knowledge and Networking

In the end, I walked away feeling like a more informed cannabis advocate and gained some social contacts that Facebook can’t provide. This event is truly worth attending, in between panels I would take a safety break, during these moments I met many other professionals like the local representative for General Hydroponics, Nick Hays. I happened to notice his sweatshirt with some pretty nice graffiti artwork on the back and said “I like your sweatshirt.”, It’s from there he gave me an extra one he had in his car, and we talked momentarily about perhaps blogging or advertising for his local territory. I’ll more than likely never hit him up because I have enough on my plate, but I did make an industry friend, you don’t have to sell cannabis to be in the cannabis industry.

I met some familiar faces, and now they know mine like Shango Los of the Shaping Fire podcast and Dr. Dominic Corva, people I follow because I like to stay vigil on all things cannabis. During the open bar, I met the co-owner of Jet City Gardens. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch her name in the noisy room, but I did hear about her unusual curing process that involves nitrogen and her couture packaging, it’s the craft growers that spark my interest. Even though I wasn’t able to catch her name, I know she’ll recognize my face, so when I go back later and ask if I can do a review of her garden I know the door will be opened. Events like these are important if you are looking for resources of knowledge and skills.

The great thing about the Washington State Summit hosted by The Cannabis Alliance is the inclusion of other groups at the event, members of the NCIA were there, along with Twenty22Many, there was no feeling of segregation. The Cannabis Alliance is the type of organization cannabis needs to help bring progress towards a common interstate good, along with The Cannabis Alliance I have to give praises to The NCIA for being there in Washington D.C and fighting fire with fire via lobbyist. When it comes to politics I’m not a fan, but as an American, we all have a right and say in our nation’s policy, and for that to come to fruition we need to band together in one direction, the future of cannabis.

Something To Smoke On

An educated grower is a good grower; an educated smoker is a good smoker. Many good questions were brought up during the summit like, If Organic pesticides are used is the plant still organic? Or how do we achieve interstate commerce? All good questions and all business related, but one thing occurred to me, will workers rights being addressed? As people in the industry try to figure out how to operate under the letter of the law and the best practices to increase their output, I would like to point out one thing; if a person can treat themselves holistically with marijuana and not be fired I believe growers won’t be able to grow fast enough. More lobbying needs to be done in this aspect, but I understand that the industry is just trying to get it’s feet firmly on the ground first.

The Washington State Summit has proven to be an industry staple, and I highly recommend if you get a chance to go to one or become a part of one of the amazing organizations that partook. The summit was a successful education and networking event, my only recommendation to you is to arrive early and dress nice, two things that evaded me that morning.

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