In the midst of Navy Pier’s seasonal tourist traffic, the Chicago Cannabis Conference brought together local, regional and out-of-state minds on a mission to join in a pivotal event for the state of Illinois. The state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program was one of the conference’s hot topics on June 7 and 8, 2014. Hosted by My Compassion, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit medical cannabis organization, the conference focused on medical marijuana education and information. HempMeds was the event’s platinum sponsor.
“[The conference] was a success. The people here took away something that is very valuable, and it helped them to learn and understand what’s coming up here in Illinois,” said Heidi Parikh, My Compassion’s Founder and President.
Medical marijuana may have been the event’s impetus, but an array of panels, vendors and sponsors provided attendees with an opportunity to pursue additional interests including politics, regulation, free enterprise, investment, law, extraction and activism.
The vendor application on My Compassion’s site indicates that there were more than 200 vendor spaces available, but the organization had a final count of 52 participating vendors by the end of the event on Sunday. The cost of a vendor space ranged from $1,000-$2,000. While it is unfortunate that the CCC did not sell out in regards to vendors, it did make navigating the booths much more manageable. If there is a future CCC and more vendors participate, then it will likely require that the official program include a map identifying each vendor’s location.
According to Andrew Hard, Director of Public Relations for HempMeds, an estimated 1,200 people attended CCC on Saturday. It is quite possible that Sunday had a similar number of attendees. Single-day passes cost $15, but were $10 for Seniors. The two-day pass cost $25. Considering the vital work My Compassion does for medical marijuana education, it would be great to hear that the organization was able to generate a surplus from hosting this conference to put towards its advocacy efforts.
The CCC promoted authentic dialogue between speakers, vendors, sponsors and attendees. The ArcView Group’s investment presentation truly exemplified this atmosphere on June 7. While waiting for the presentation’s official start time, Troy Dayton, CEO of ArcView, invited willing individuals in the audience to introduce themselves and their reasons for attending. It may seem minor, but that small act may have eased the tension of anxious entrepreneurs and investors.
In addition to approachable panelists, earnest patrons further enhanced the atmosphere. Andy Joseph, Founder and President of Apeks Supercritical, a manufacturer of CO2 hash oil extraction systems, was pleasantly surprised that his highlight for the conference was “the quality of the people.”
Joseph explained how he usually has to spend time educating in a new state before he can develop any prospects or leads, but this was not the case with patrons of CCC. “They are knowledgeable about the product. They’ve been on the website, know what’s going on and are asking intelligent questions.”
Joseph was not alone in his observation regarding the crowd. Patrick Vo, Chief Operating Officer for BioTrackTHC, a seed-to-sale medical marijuana software company, echoed sentiments similar to Joseph. “There was a great turn out. We’ve had a lot of people come up to our booth and ask us some really good questions,” Vo said.
Kevin Gregory and Chris Galgoczy, representatives with Bhang Medicinal Chocolate, appreciated CCC’s medical focus as an “opportunity to connect with patients.” A volunteer with Illinois Medical Marijuana Advocates also noted the good feeling he got from “helping people sign up.”
Phillip Petersen, Chief Operating Officer for the Illinois chapter of NORML, pointed out, “It’s a very strange world we live in. I’m hoping to make a little more sense of it through our efforts here.” Petersen’s efforts were worth it because he later noted, “We’ve signed up more memberships this weekend than I think I’ve ever signed up in any one place.”
My Compassion’s conference acted as a crash course in medical marijuana education. For the attentive, the conference offered an opportunity to build alliances and partnerships in an industry that is ready to assert its legitimacy in Illinois. This was $25 well invested.