Soil, Sustainability & Sun Illuminate Cannabis Business Summit


DENVER – The honeymoon phase for legal marijuana continues in Colorado. The National Cannabis Industry Association wrapped up its first-ever Cannabis Business Summit on June 25, 2014. The two-day convention, June 24-25, brought cannabis experts, inventors, consultants and investors together in the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver.

What type of people participated in a business summit for an industry that has just recently become legitimate? People like Louis Miller and Howard Sprouse; a couple of guys manning a booth to promote their Colorado-based company, Miller Soils. According to Miller, all but one member of their group was involved in some aspect of the cannabis industry from a young age. The group used their experience as cannabis cultivators to develop their special blend of soil specifically formulated and tested for marijuana.

The soil mixture includes a component called BioChar, which Miller said promotes “vigorous growth” in cannabis. By using Miller Soil containing BioChar, growers can lower their carbon footprint, Miller said, because the BioChar is trapped carbon being deposited back into the ground. Trapped carbon is essentially charcoal, but Miller admitted, “The word charcoal does makes us cringe.”

To describe what the BioChar does to help the indoor gardening and cannabis industry, Miller explained, “[BioChar is] a better water holding capacitor, reducing [cannabis grower] water needs by 40 percent, and nutrient needs by 60 percent. They’ve still got to manage with both, but they can reduce their needs, which is saving costs, which is saving the environment.”

Like many of the other participants at the summit, Miller Soil offered consulting as well, in the form of soil or plant analysis. Consulting firms, such as MedMen, offered business consulting. Some booths displayed high-tech cultivation and trimming machines. There were complex-looking machines such as oil extractors that were constructed with coiled metal tubes and pressure gauges. There were booths for software companies, hydroponic systems, and even booths for companies posing to solve the industry’s banking issue.

Themes of lowering waste and carbon footprints were seen everywhere in the summit, from booths promoting windmills for power generation, to a panel discussion suggesting the actual sun in the sky as the best source of light for grow operations. Cody Bass, owner of the Tahoe Wellness Cooperative, sat on the panel “Grow 101: Cultivation Facility Build-Out and Management Best Practices.” Bass said the best cannabis-related investment someone can make is real estate in an area that would allow outdoor growing under the sun.

Ed Rosenthal, former High Times contributor, author of the Marijuana Growers Handbook and master gardener at Quantum 9, Inc., also sat on the aforementioned panel. Rosenthal remarked that cannabis cultivation is one of the least eco-friendly industries there is due to its illegality, and to strict regulations in areas where it is legal. These circumstances are what keep cannabis-growing operations indoors, under high-powered artificial lights, Rosenthal added.

Another theme that seemed to recur among the experts was their shared experience of getting their start as outlaws in the industry, before the industry started making steps to legitimize itself, beginning in 1996 with medicinal marijuana becoming legal in California. Bass talked about the days in his past, before his current business near Lake Tahoe. As he got his start in Mendocino, CA, Bass said he wore camouflage and ran from helicopters while he tended to his plants in fields hidden beneath the bushes.

Perhaps the ultimate theme behind the summit was the love displayed by the people making contributions to the industry in the ways of knowledge and innovation. They embody how an investment in the industry can be the most fulfilling labor of love. Rosenthal said people who haven’t started growing cannabis shouldn’t start; marijuana isn’t addictive, but growing it is.

Matt Berg is a writer from Northwest Denver. Matt writes on a range of topics including science, music, motorcycles, politics, sports and more. He is always looking for adventure and his next story to tell. Connect with Matt on Twitter: @tomjoad187.

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