Montreal ‘weed conference’ explores opportunities in cannabis industry

Approximately 70 students and other curious types filed into an auditorium in Concordia’s John Molson School of Business on Saturday evening for something called The Weed Conference.

Giggle all you want, but with its upcoming legalization, marijuana and the industry surrounding it are about to become serious business, and these people – on this night, mostly, but not all, young men – wanted to get in on the ground floor.

“It’s always been… not a passion of mine, but something I’m interested in,” said Karl (not his real name), a John Molson School of Business student who previously co-owned a marijuana dispensary in San Francisco.

“This event seemed interesting and there’s some opportunities for internships, so I decided to come.”

Five paid summer internships were to be awarded to the group that submitted the best marijuana-derived business proposal. The contest was one of several components of an action-packed six hours, including panels of industry professionals, question periods, workshops and a pair of $100 cash prizes (one of them given to the winner of a marijuana trivia game).

“I just want to know more about the sector and the laws and regulations surrounding it, to see how it’s developing,” said Mark (not his real name), who works in investor relations.

The fact that attendees were so media shy points to the legal and cultural limbo in which marijuana remains. It was a running theme of the event, co-hosted by CJAD’s Dave Kaufman, who started things off by telling the crowd that “It’s the wild west, and we’ve got the best cowboys and cowgirls here to explain the ins and outs of this burgeoning industry.

“They’re going to need so many people to fill this industry and make it everything it can be. People say they want to get in on the ground floor, and this is a great place for it.”

The first guest speaker was Jenn Larry, president of CBD Strategy Group, described on its website as a marketing and communications firm serving the Canadian Cannabis industry. She immediately asked everyone to stand up.

“Just for one second,” she said. “Get uncomfortable. We really need this to be engaging, because this is the beginning of something huge. Oftentimes you hear people saying, in this industry, that you’re riding the bike and building it at the same time.”

She voiced her dislike of the evening’s title, explaining that it could just as easily have been called the Cannabis Conference, which would have been more appropriate given all opportunities around marijuana derivatives.

“What I would welcome you all to do as your minds are thinking about building business plans is to remember that we’re not building a weed business,” she said. “We’re building a marijuana industry, where the purpose, the intention and the ability is far more interesting than just getting high with a bunch of your friends smoking a doob.”

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