The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2015

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july 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  1 17 I took it as a sign that I was heading in the right direction when I passed a café along the hotel lobby corridor called Herb N' Kitchen. My destination was the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo, a thousands-strong gathering of cannabis capitalists held at the Hilton Chicago in May. Far from a blissed-out bunch, most of the exhibitors and attendees demonstrated the clear- eyed sense of purpose that you'd expect to find at a convention for a fledgling industry poised to experience explosive growth. Among the attendees I met at the conference's networking meals were the founder and CEO of an Iowa-based pharmacy chain exploring options for getting in on the ground floor of the cannabis industry; an Arizona grower and retailer whose father-in-law, a former pastor, now helps out at the dispensary; and a retired nurse practitioner from Washington state who has invested in a sizeable growing facility (and, it so happens, is the son of a legendary investment guru). Among the exhibitors at the Expo was Medicine Man Technologies, the consulting division of Colorado's largest single cultivation/dispensary operation. Marc Harvill, the company's Licensing Services Coordinator, brings Medicine Man's on-the-ground experience to bear in helping entrepreneurs get off the ground in states that have recently approved medical marijuana. "A lot of the time these guys have zero experience," Harvill said. "They're good businessmen, they may have good capital backing and partners, and they may even have good political pull. But when you fill out a state application, the state wants to find out who the best players are that they can select from and what that person or that organization is going to bring to the state." Like Medicine Man, many of the exhibitors represent the business-to-business side of the cannabis industry—makers of grow lights and climate-control systems, providers of security and laboratory services, even cannabis-oriented venture capitalists. But several also touted high-end consumer products. Some— like Kiva Confections, a San Francisco Bay Area–based purveyor of premium cannabis-infused chocolate bars and bites founded in 2010—are relatively well-established veterans (Kiva has recently added chocolate-covered blueber- ries sold in tastefully designed tins to their lineup). Others, such as True Leaf, a Canadian producer of hemp-based pet treats and supplements, have yet to bring their products to market. A literally sobering surprise at the Expo was the number of cannabis-derived products on display that had no psychoactive properties—in other words, they can't get you high. Infused with cannabidiol, or CBD, these products contained little or no mind- or mood-altering THC. One of the exhibitors promoting CBD oil extracted from industrial hemp grown in Europe was CannaVest, headquartered in San Diego. "We believe that the market for this product is infinitely greater than the market for medical cannabis today," said Stuart Tomc, CannaVest's Vice President of Human Nutrition. Tomc suggests that regular use of CBD oil may restore balance in the body's endocannabinoid systems, which influence physiological processes such as appetite, pain, metabolism and memory. At the booth of Lexaria, a Vancouver-based company that claims to have developed a novel method of infusing cannabis-derived compounds into lipid molecules to increase their "bioavailablity," I had a cup of CBD-infused tea with CEO Chris Bunka. "I drink a pot of this tea at my office every day for the last three months, and I have not felt this good in years," said Bunka, who said that the company also has plans to produce CBD-infused cocoa, coffee and bars. For cannabis connoisseurs who are just interested in good old-fashioned bud, the folks at Leafly are ready to help. Kayla Cook, who handles events and sponsorships for the cannabis-focused digital media company in Seattle, walked me through their website, which offers detailed information and reviews for hundreds of marijuana strains. I'll admit that I found it oddly comforting to dis- cover, amid all the newcomers like Sweet Pebbles and Blue Wreck and Birthday Cake Kush, that a blast from the past like Acapulco Gold still had a place in the brave new world of marijuana. PHOTO: KASTO80/THINKSTOCK THERE WAS AN UNDENIABLE PROFESSIONAL TONE FOR THE WORLD OF WEED AT THE MARIJUANA BUSINESS CONFERENCE & EXPO IN CHICAGO by David Mahoney

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