My first impression of the first Cannabis Business Summit in Denver was how mundane the attendees look. Most of the roughly 1,200 people at the conference are male, middle aged, and clothed in outfits ranging from suits to the default business casual uniform of khakis with a collared shirt.
You are far more likely to see gray, balding heads than long hair. The cliche-defying normalcy of the crowd actually prompted one event speaker, Roger Goodman, to remark, “You don’t see a lot of the tie dye or reggae types here.”
If you missed the signs, you would mistake it for a conference on the latest development in mold detection — which, at least partially, it technically is, since that is one of the many side businesses that the cannabis industry relies on. The attendees are basically indistinguishable from any other small business conference attendees in America.
There are some activists, but most of the people at the conference are entrepreneurs who work in the industry or are trying to get into it. They are networking, looking for investors, starting new businesses, and here to learn how to dutifully comply with complex new regulations. Some are involved because medical marijuana hugely improved their lives, while others have long enjoyed the plant and want to make it into a career. Many are simply here because it is a growth industry with new job opportunities.
This is what the face of a legal marijuana industry will probably look like — the face of basically every other legal industry in America.
When you move a product from the dangerous black market to a legal market, you make it safe, regulated, professional and boring.
There is a clear collective awareness among the conference attendees that their future depends on being conscientious businesspeople. A constant theme throughout many of the talks on the first day was how important it is to be productive stockholders in line with regulations and good neighbors to prevent possible blow back.
Sidenote: Just in case you got the impression it has already gotten too boring, the suggest entertainment for the night was amazing. A truly bizarre and incredible performance by a hardcore drum based marching band in black Lucha libre mask, who were orbited by other dancing members wearing large speakers and two Chinese dragon costumes.