Thousands of stoners in suits, activists, cannapreneurs and industry executives gathered Sept. 7-10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition. The event brought people from all over the world who are interested in finding success in the cannabis industry, and learning about all aspects of the new frontier. What an event to this scale proves is that we are heading into a new era, one that respects the fact that the cannabis industry can yield some of the worlds most successful business women and men.
The expo took up the entire west wing of the Convention Center. Five conference halls hosted speakers who spoke for 40 minutes about specific aspects of the industry. To put it in perspective, 30 speakers lectured every day about topics ranging from growing, to Native American laws and cannabis, to policy reform and banking. One of the major topics was the relationship between prescription meds and cannabis. T.V. and radio personality Montel Williams spoke to room of nearly 70 people on Thursday afternoon about his addiction to opioids and how cannabis saved every aspect of his life.
David Drake, the founder and CEO of Cannabis Reports (one of the largest cannabis databases on the planet for researching 420 products and cannabis studies), gave a lecture titled "Cannabis for this generation and next," in which he discussed how cannabis is going to impact our children and generations to come. Drake's workshop ultimately placed emphasis on why it's crucial for us to build the cannabis industry properly because we only get one shot. "I became interested in cannabis after being the president of my 6th grade D.A.R.E chapter," he said. "It was the misinformation they gave me that made me most interested in the plant in the first place. The fact that everyone was lied to throughout our education about what cannabis is made me want to seek out the truth and that's why I'm here today."
Drake's presentation covered many aspects of the industry, including privacy and web security. Leafly, Weedmaps and other major websites, he claimed, aren't careful in protecting the information you share on your profile. "A lot of the information stored on these websites is completely open to the public and they are extremely irresponsible with the way they handle your data and personal information," he said. "Talking about this isn't going to make me any friends, but I don't care anymore. This is about making sure you and future generations are safe."
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Drake showed the audience how to look at a site's directory index— not to show us how to do it, but rather to show us how easy it is for anyone to locate this information. "This isn't hacking even in the slightest," he said. "This is all information you can get through your web browser. It's literally visiting a URL in your web browser."
Information about pictures uploaded to these sites, including when the photo was taken, what device it was taken with and where the photo was taken are available pretty much to anyone, Drake says, meaning that people (or strangers, rather) definitely have that information. Even the information marked as private is easily available to people who are a little bit computer savvy. The problem with this, as Drake passionately points out, is the fact that a lot of people share information about their health and other intimate things that could potentially be sensitive. According to Drake, this info is generally eaten up by advertising and marketing companies who, then, target specific products and material to sell to you. "This isn't right," he argued. "In fact, it's intrusive and wrong. Irresponsibly sharing your information with companies who don't care about anything other than making money off of you isn't what cannabis is. There's nothing compassionate about that."
Listening to lectures wasn't the only thing to do, however. Hundreds of vendors set up shop in a big auditorium offering people an opportunity to walk around, network and check out products and new technology. NORML had an information booth that allowed people to ask questions about policy, law and other cannabis related issues. Cannabis Talk 101 had microphones set up ready to host a show live from the convention, while new cannabis magazines handed out issues to passersby.
What stood out the most at this event was how professional everyone looked. There was maybe a handful of people who emanated the stereotypical stoner vibe. Aside from them, there was not a single person who looked sloppy, unprofessional or medicated. In fact, I don't know if I've every been to a place where so many people look like they have their shit together. On top of that, there were a ton of women participating in the event. Whether hosting a workshop or running a booth and selling a product, the presence of women at the World Cannabis Congress and Business Expo wasn't only encouraging, but inspiring. For a group of people who've always been second best, the cannabis industry seems like an avenue of redemption for women. And that's awesome.