Portland to Host International Cannabis Business Conference

An international conference on best cannabis business practices will come just in time for entrepreneurs who expect Oregon to follow Washington and Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana use this November.

The International Cannabis Business Conference will be held September 13-14 at the Oregon Convention Center. U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) will talk about how the federal tax system will impact the industry. State Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) and Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) will talk about how the state legislature is preparing for legalization.

"We're positioned to be a leader in the industry," Prozanski tells WW. "It's pretty straightforward. The Cascadia region from north California to British Columbia is pretty renowned for the product."

Industry leaders from Washington and Colorado will speak about how expanding from strictly medical to recreational use has impacted their businesses, and what Oregon entrepreneurs should expect if voters legalize recreational use this November.

"Attendees will learn about details and changes in the new Oregon dispensary laws and explore business opportunities in the ancillary fields surrounding the global cannabis industry," Alex Rogers, CEO of Ashland Alternative Health and Northwest Alternative Health, said in a press release.

Rogers will host the event alongside Anthony Johnson, Executive Director of the Oregon Cannabis Industry Association, and Debby Goldsberry, co-founder of the Berkeley Patients Group.     

“Bringing the cannabis industry mainstream will not only create jobs and generate revenue," Anthony Johnson said is a press release. "But it will eventually ensure that all patients have safe access to medical cannabis and end the barbaric practice of imprisoning non-violent citizens who utilize cannabis.” 

Local businesses are already preparing for the change.

Matt Walstatter and his wife Megan opened their Northeast Portland medical dispensary Pure Green in January, showcasing marijuana they have grown themselves. The meet-the-farmer model works for them, and they're talking about how to market that to the general public if recreational use become legal in the next couple years.

"As you scale up production, quality will inevitably suffer," Walstatter says. "Portland's market is small batch, hand crafted fill-in-the-blank. Cheese. Wine. Dog food. You name it.” 

Walstatter says he likes his shop's current model: come in, learn about the product, purchase and consume it somewhere else. Although he would like customers to have the option to sample in the store—something that is currently illegal. Business models will be as flexible the Oregon legislature allows once it sets ground rules for sale and consumption.

Tyson Haworth, co-owner of Oregon's Finest dispensary in the Pearl District, anticipates their low-lit upscale dispensary will morph into more of a boutique winery model if legalization takes effect.

"The idea is to produce a local craft," Hayworth says.

Three thick bare-wood shelves line each side of the bar. Squat glass jars with carved wood tops showcase buds from six area "farmers." Growers from SoFresh Farm near Aurora come every Sunday afternoon to talk to customers about growing techniques and processing. On the last Thursday of every month they open their doors to the public. And buyers can flip through a binder of detailed chemical analysis and growing history for each variety on the shelf.

 "We're marketing ourselves to bridge the gap between farmers and patients – farm to flame," Haworth says. "True to Portlandia, we want to know the name of our chicken."


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