Pot conference in T.O. this weekend all business


A stark contrast to the weed-leaf hoodies, mega-joints and resistance songs of 420 celebrations at Dundas Square this past Thursday, the O’Cannabiz Conference and Expo at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel this weekend is all business suits, notebooks and elevator music.

Tanya, a volunteer (who, like many at the conference wouldn’t give a last name) described the crowd as business professional: “It has been like any conference selling any product, with people in suits and high heels.”

The three-day cannabis conference kicked off with a “pre-con work shop” on Friday – a kind of teaser into entrepreneurship, (or more accurately, “potrepreneurship”) which featured short lectures from those at the forefront of cannabis industries – all of them.

Topics included managing chronic pain, security procedures, branding products, payment systems, standardized testing methods, inventory management practices, and almost everything in between. These people take pot seriously.

Saturday began with a networking breakfast and delved more into specific information on the Canadian legal landscape, public health approaches, and the investment world. The majority of people were most excited to watch Melissa Etheridge be interviewed by Andrea Crawford and Alan Cross, but the buzz did not stop there.

Sunday, the conference continues with medical and scientific researchers exploring research methods, the importance of collaboration and cannabis genetics, among other things.

Attendees came from all over the country and all over the business map – employees of Health Canada licensed producers, people looking to start their own cannabusiness and people who are always looking for the next big thing. Calgary lawyer Daryl Fridhandler was “driven to attend by client demand and an interest in a developing business sector in Canada.”

He told the Toronto Sun “90% of the sessions have been quite informative and while they have been an inch deep and a mile wide they are a good introductory.”

Heather, an employee at one of Vancouver’s regulated dispensaries shelled out the $399 to gain a better perspective and do some research on the industry she works in. To Heather, the most helpful part of the conference has been the branding and marketing advice from Cannabis branding expert and founder of Online Marijuana Design Agency, Jared Mirsky.

Mirsky is confident in this new industry. His talk melded old-school Mad Men marketing fundamentals with specific advice concerning cannabis consumers. He is even more confident in his expertise “over 90% of clients that do take our full advice and let us navigate the entire process generally see about 100% return on their investments in less than six months from the day they are operational.”

Tanya the volunteer was right – the O’Cannabiz conference is really just like any other conference, more about business than anything else, and that’s what makes it so important. When weed is legal it will be just like any other product. Whenever the government finally finishes with legalization (2018 is wishful thinking) the business world will be prepared – conferences like O’Cannabiz are making sure of it.

Torontonians do not have to wait long for their next canna-conference. The Cannabis Life Conference will be held at the Evergreen Brick Works May 13 and 14.