Edmontonians learn about boosting innovation, reducing stigma in pot industry at CannabisCon
'It’s not just about the plant ... it’s about how it’s affecting everyone,' industry professional says
It's not your grandparents' weed industry.
Times have changed since baby boomers rolled their first joints — and they'll continue to change when marijuana is legalized this year.
To learn more about the changing industry, thousands of people hit up the Shaw Conference Centre for CannabisCon, which made its way to Edmonton for the first time this weekend. The conference features speakers, seminars and exhibitors for businesses and consumers interested in the booming industry.
- Cannabis queries? Edmonton conference has answers
- Alberta expects to license 250 cannabis stores in first year
"We've got everybody from the people who can build your building to what goes inside it, [and] those that can give you advice on getting licensing," said show manager Lisa Marin.
The event is also known as Canada Cannabis Forums — a place to get answers for burning questions, like what it takes to break into the industry and "to find out what's coming down the pipe," Marin said.
She said consumers are curious about the weed business, which is different from what older demographics used to know.
"They're relating to cannabis they knew back in the day," Marin said. "And now they're at the age where they've heard so many things about cannabis and they're still relating to what they were exposed to at a younger age. And now they're finding out how different it is and the positives of using medicinal cannabis."
Sustainability in the industry
George Robinson is the Chief Executive Officer of RavenQuest BioMed Inc., a national company headquartered in Vancouver that produces marijuana and offers management services. As the company prepares to set up shop in Edmonton, Robinson said he wants to educate people on production, processing, packaging and awareness.
He said all of that comes down to innovation — like new ways to grow cannabis with sustainable technologies.
"The industry's moving more away from just worrying about massive square footage, but 'How are you environmentally friendly and how are you caretakers of the land?' " Robinson said.
RavenQuest grows cannabis in rotational gardens and recycles its water.
"We use about 70 per cent less power to grow the similar amount of cannabis that they do on a flat table," Robinson said. "We use a smaller footprint, a lot less inputs, so we're actually more environmentally friendly and sustainable."
It's not just about the plant. Essentially, it's about how it's affecting everyone from an economic, social impact area.- George Robinson, RavenQuest BioMed Inc
It's time to start thinking ahead to factor in how legalization will impact everything from the environment to people's professional lives, he added.
"We think of just the producers as the people who represent the industry, but as you look around this show, you have services people, people who are recruiting, packaging people," he said.
"So this is touching many people's lives: architects, engineers. So I think that's what people need to know. It's not just about the plant. Essentially, it's about how it's affecting everyone from an economic, social impact area."
'A wide variety of jobs out there'
Paul Dhillon, founder of Cultivated Solutions, said he wants to use his Calgary-based education company to end the stigma associated with marijuana use.
The company's online course covers the history, biology and consumption of cannabis.
"We teach people responsible use so that they can be better examples for the community as a whole," he said.
"People who are used to inhaling cannabis may not be used to eating cannabis. We give them the tools to have fun safely, so they don't end up in a hospital."
As the stigma changes, the industry will continue to grow. Dhillon said it's an industry ripe with opportunity for job seekers.
"There's a wide variety of jobs out there — not everybody is growing cannabis. There's going to be cannabis travel, there's going to be cannabis retail stores, there's cannabis consultants."
It's a unique product to work with, he added.
"Cannabis can be a lot of fun," he said. "It can also be dangerous from time to time, but it's important you understand when and where and how."