Does CannaCon Prove Legal Marijuana Has Gone Mainstream?

"For the times they are a-changin' ..."

I don't suppose Bob Dylan was thinking about a business-to-business marijuana trade show when he popularized those lyrics back in 1964. Still, when I read about the upcoming CannaCon, that line kept playing in my head. Once the province of rock festivals, tie dye, and the omnipresent fear of "narcs," a great gathering about pot has moved to a convention hall, complete with booths, sponsors, seminars, and guest speakers.

The event will kick off this August in Tacoma, Wash., one of the two states (the other is Colorado) that has completely legalized marijuana. Another 15 states have decriminalized possession up to a certain amount, and a total of 40 states have, at a minimum, reduced penalties for possession. Cannabis-centered businesses that have previously had to fly under the radar finally seem poised to – well – legitimize.

With an anticipated 50,000 visitors, CannaCon promises to teach entrepreneurs "everything you need to know to succeed in the Green Rush." True to the conventions of other industries, topics will include marketing, PR, security, and strategy.

A peek at the sponsors

CannaCon sponsor GreenHouse Payment Solutions epitomizes the type of balance that businesses that support this kinda-but-not-quite-legal product encounter. Largely targeted toward suppliers of medical marijuana, GreenHouse provides a way for providers to accept something other than cash.

Even though medical marijuana is legal in nearly half the states, the federal government considers it illegal. This has made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for sellers to use banks and credit card companies. In fact, according to GreenHouse, none of the major credit companies will allow transactions of this type. They call their solution a "Cashless ATM," an electronic system to deposit funds directly into a bank account.

Cutting Edge Solutions, another CannaCon sponsor, supplies growers with various types of nutrients and growing systems to enhance hydroponic farming. The company features a full range of products for the entire plant life cycle, backed by some serious-sounding science. E-commerce is notably absent from their website.

Seattle-based Magical Butter also gets top billing at the event. The company sells a device that looks a lot like a percolator crossed with a La Machine. It promises consistently good results on everything from lotions to butters and oils. Unlike Cutting Edge, Magical Butter does offer its products via the web; it also does not position its machine as made for pot. Nevertheless, given the marketing images and the company's marijuana policy activism, if we found a Magical Butter machine in Grandma's pantry, we'd have to be suspicious.

Marijuana and the economy at large

Of course, a fair amount of the debate about legalizing pot has centered around the economic implications. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron recently published a report claiming that the federal government would save $13.7 billion in enforcement costs by legalizing marijuana, a document that has now been endorsed by over 300 of his colleagues.

Job creation around medical marijuana dispensaries is already under way, and has varied and widespread support. "Legalizing the production, regulation, transportation, and distribution of medical marijuana will create thousands of good, long-term jobs and generate much needed revenue for [New York] state," according to Mario Cilento, president of New York State's A.F.L.-C.I.O. labor union, speaking in support of the state's Compassionate Care Act.

Nevertheless, President Obama has been careful to assert that pot isn't the answer to the country's economic woes, and the FBI is still very much interested in enforcement around marijuana.

Back to CannaCon

Big business is notably absent from the list of CannaCon sponsors. No doubt the product is still too controversial for major brands, and federal enforcement is a serious consideration. Nevertheless, the ability of smaller businesses to step up and share their wares is a landmark and a trend to watch. Public sentiment has reached a tipping point, with more people now supporting the legalization of marijuana than not, according to research by the Pew Center.

The future of pot businesses very much hang in the political balance, but if the viability of an event like CannaCon is any indication, the times may very well be changing.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2014, at 12:01 PM, pksloope wrote:

    "President Obama has been careful to assert that pot isn't the answer to the country's economic woes,"

    Obama is part of the problem and not part of the solution. He has done nothing to create jobs, and this is an opportunity to not only create jobs, but also to help improve the budget deficit with the law enforcement savings. He isn't alone in his inability to move forward on legalization as that is shared with many in congress. And like many in congress the reason he does not move on legalization is because he does not want to go down in history as the man who freed pot. He is more concerned with his image than in helping the American people.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2014, at 10:50 PM, kennyhobo wrote:

    The good news is that marijuana users will follow the law of Darwin and die. The bad news is that the Democrat Druggies will probably kill innocent people as they march to their own death. In any event, fewer Liberals will exist in a few short years.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2014, at 8:46 PM, MekiCox wrote:

    My name is Meki Cox and I work for Cannabis Career Institute. We have a very LARGE EXPO coming up in Las Vegas on June 22 and 23rd - International Cannabis Association Vegas EXPO for Marijuana Business and Education ---- which will feature NY Senator Diane Savino, Dan Riffle - Director of Federal Policy, Sabrina Fendrick of and the instructors of Cannabis Career Institute.

    We're very aware of the public perception of the Cannabis Industry. We understand why people have continued to have misconceptions of Cannabis, Hemp and Medical Marijuana. We also understand the government's reasons for keeping it a schedule one, because simply why would pharmaceutical companies want Americans to be able to have a medicine they could grow in their own homes, or why would alcohol companies want people to be able to recreate off of something that didn't come from them? Why would the Government want the people to enjoy something that they couldn't control or tax? With those things in mind, please feel free to continue to do research and think for yourself.

    We suggest you come out to the event - and learn about the Cannabis Industry. New York may very well be the 23rd state to accept Medical Marijuana - and their Bill covers the Medical Marijuana issues in a way that is designed to create business structure.

    Consider that Marijuana is coming - whether for medical or recreational use in the very near future, unless the population is not heard. Over 58% (which is a majority of the USA) in polls have said they WANT Medical Marijuana. It's time US woke up and realized it is a new industry - get involved... Stop believing the government who tells you there is no medical use - yet has patents for medical use of cannabis (Please.. feel free to search USPTO) - Stop listening and research yourself that human beings have an endocannabinoid system and Hemp/Cannabis are a necessary part of our diet, or we would not have CB1 and CB2 receptors.

    Doctors, lawyers, politicians, businessmen, entrepreneurs and more are coming to the ICA convention in Vegas - You should too! Learn.... Educate.... Stop being dictated to by a system that has a different interest at heart than yours - or those who have medical issues that can be helped by medical marijuana and no other prescription medication (WITH NO MAJOR SIDE EFFECTS) -- please... do your research.. and come out to the EXPO in Vegas... Go to all of them... Learn.

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Beth Nichols

Beth began investing mid-life, and soon found the perfect community to learn and idea-bounce at The Fool. She is proud to have won the Fool's "Ultimate Rule Breaker" contest, and most enjoys investments that blend rule breaking with a good night's sleep.

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