There sure are a lot of cannabis events these days.
From the Cannabis Creative Conference to Weed the People, Oregon has hosted a huge number of cannabis-related gatherings. Portland alone hosted more than five business conferences in 2015, most with tickets over $250. Meanwhile, events like the Budtender's Ball and WW's own Best of Potland popped up around town.
Those events, coming after adult use of pot became legal, ranged from sweaty fun to heat-stricken misery. Meanwhile, most of the "business" conferences scheduled too many vape breaks to be taken seriously.
Before you pay for another cannabis event, you need to ask yourself three questions.
Who's putting the event together?
Cheech & Chong are powerful advocates for the plant, but they are by no means experts at growing it. But that dorm-room, Rasta version of stoners is the easiest route to take when assembling a soiree. If you want a deeper understanding of cannabis after the show, not every event is for you. Jeremy Plumb, master grower behind Newcleus Nurseries and Farma dispensary—he is partnering with WW on April 30 to present the world's first weed event dedicated to natural cannabis, grown in soil and without mineral salt fertilizers or synthetic pesticides—is done partying and wants to head to the lab.
"We have to pay less attention to old-school pot culture and look at the botany," he says. "Pot conferences have the potential to be grad school for marijuana cultivation, but that requires us to focus on the science."
Check out social media to see who's talking about a specific event. If Snoop is tweeting about it daily, that means it will be more of a commercialized party. On the other hand, a microbiologist stirring up buzz about a particular conference hints at a real opportunity to learn.
What's its mission?
Many conferences blend into one long advertisement. All events need support, but you need to know which companies to trust before bringing together legitimate speakers, vendors and entertainment. Make sure the people behind the show care about the integrity of the marijuana industry more than getting a few more clients.
"There tends to be a suspicious connection between sponsors and winners," says a master grower at Resin Ranchers, a top Portland farm that has sworn off competitions. "Cannabis cups seem more and more like signing up for Little League and everyone gets a trophy."
The grower pointed out that the original cannabis competition, the High Times Cannabis Cup, has a reputation for making as much money as possible from vendors and attendees.
"My colleagues were quoted $15,000 to $40,000 to have a booth at the last High Times Cup in California," he says. "I no longer have any desire to participate in marijuana events. It's all about quick money."
Resin Ranchers isn't the only company that feels this way. For the sake of consumers and the cannabis community, ask yourself whether an event is about profit or people before you buy a ticket.
What do I want to get out of this?
In the months since legalization, three event categories have emerged in Portland.
First, there are the fun pot parties, where you can go into music-festival mode, put on face paint and give a few post-legalization high-fives between dabs. However, if you're trying to recruit investors or get to the bottom of a cultivation question, you'll need to be more selective.
Second, there are competitions. Here, you'll see some of the faces from the cannabis business community. And if the competition is well-run, you can learn from the buds of the best growers and their cultivation methods.
Third, there are business conferences. Before you drop the money to go to one of these, crosscheck the speakers and sponsors. If there's not a total overlap between them—that is, if there are speakers who are not sponsors and sponsors who are not speakers—you may actually learn something new and make connections with people who are as passionate about this plant's potential as you.
GO: The Cultivation Classic is Saturday, April 30, at the North Warehouse, 723 N Tillamook St. Noon-6 pm. Tickets go on sale March 30 at wweek.com. 21+.