A short preview of the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco this weekend.
Leading cannabis industry professionals, politicians and cultural leaders are gathering February 13 and 14 at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco for the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC).
I thought I’d take a moment to congratulate our friends at the conference for putting together another industry-leading lineup of experts, business leaders and cultural icons, including Andrew Sullivan and Tommy Chong, and recognize some of the great things occurring at the event this weekend.
One of the more interesting panels this weekend features conservative California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and liberal Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. The two are coming together for a panel to discuss the bipartisan effort to end cannabis prohibition in America. The panel will be lead by Anthony Johnson, the Content Director of the conference and the Chief Petitioner of the successful Measure 91 in Oregon. While the panel is likely to discuss the complex decisions and considerations regarding California’s legalization movement, the recent raids on cannabis businesses in San Diego may spur additional conversation about compliance with current regulations and law.
Other political leaders at ICBC include former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and California Assembly Member Rob Bonta. For a full list of speakers, click here.
Just how big is the cannabis industry in California? A new report coming from the ARC View Group estimates that the current California marketplace is worth $1.5 billion. With San Francisco’s physical location to the state’s prime growing region, the ICBC’s well-managed networking component is ideal for cannapreneurs and small business owners.
A report produced last week estimates that Colorado’s marijuana industry is currently worth $1 billion. Combined with Oregon, Washington and Alaska it’s easy to recognize that now is the ideal time to get in on the ground floor of this industry.
For more numbers on the size of the cannabis industry, check out this piece from The Huffington Post.
International Cannabis Business.
Earlier this week, the ICBC announced that versus bringing leading international industry experts to their conferences in the United States, the ICBC will be expanding to international locales later this year including Vancouver, BC and Europe. Conference organizer Alex Rogers says he believes Berlin, and Germany specifically, are at a tipping point with regards to cannabis law reform.
For more on the International Cannabis Business Conference, visit their website at: internationalcbc.com
The High Road
(reposted from Oregon Business Magazine – November/December 2015)
As CEO and owner of five different cannabis-related businesses generating a total net revenue of $2 million, Alex Rogers could sit back and ride the lucrative wave of Oregon’s burgeoning pot industry. But more than a pot entrepreneur, Rogers, 44, is firstly a marijuana activist. Since his incarceration in Berlin in 2009 for possession of marijuana, Rogers has dedicated his life to tuning in, turning on and changing the system from within. He has created two clinics, Ashland Alternative Health in Ashland and Northwest Alternative Health in Eugene, which issue medical-marijuana cards to over 6,000 patients a year. He also started the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference, the International Cannabis Business Conference and the website MarijuanaPolitics.com with a goal toward education and decriminalization. Rogers discusses growth, trends and Southern Oregon’s ganja gangster reputation.
You keep a lean empire
I only have 10 employees and a handful of independent contractors for the whole business. Most of them have worked for me for years. I pay them really well because it’s quality, not quantity. I’d rather have one star and pay that person well, because it’s good for the business.
Your two clinics help people obtain medical-marijuana cards but don’t dispense.
I would love to be a purveyor of cannabis, but I’m threatened because it’s still illegal federally. I went to prison in Germany and know the horrors of what can happen if you fall on the wrong side of the war on drugs. So just like the Gold Rush in California, there were the people who mined for gold and the people who sold the picks and axes. I’m selling the picks and axes.
How will recreational sales affect your card-issuing business?
My card business is booming! There are so many restrictions on recreational marijuana that it is pushing more people to get their cards. Cards will still be attractive because cannabis will not be taxed for medical use, and a card holder is allowed to grow and possess a lot more.
You also put on marijuana events. Why did you get into that line?
I have been doing events for 20 years. After the medical dispensary laws passed a few years ago, I saw a need for the community to receive good, clear information about the changes in the law. Each event changes according to the new laws. They’re attended by growers, investors, processors, retail folks and folks who have not traditionally been in the cannabis space, who want to be part of a burgeoning industry. About half of my $2 million yearly revenue comes from these events.
What differentiates your pot conferences and expos from all the others?
People are jumping on the bandwagon, but there’s no conference like mine. If I’m going to make people sit at the edge of their seat for two days, I have to be great at keeping their attention. I get fun, dynamic, engaging speakers like Andrew Sullivan; Dr. Carl Hart, known for his research in drug addiction and abuse; and Rick Steves. I’ll also throw in a free event like a concert.
Where are the growth sectors in this industry?
Value-added products are trending so fast, it’s insane. A strain is a strain is a strain, and it will be as good as the grower, but when you take that marijuana and turn it into something — a tincture, a pizza sauce, a lotion, syrup or pill — then you can brand that product and build loyalty. The challenge is everything has to be vertically integrated. So if you create a successful brand in Oregon and you want to bring it to another state, you have to vertically integrate in the state. You can’t make the product in Oregon, warehouse it in Colorado and sell it in Washington. That’s prohibited. I’m not boohoo-ing here; I don’t see these things as barriers. I see them as bumps. Still, I think the rules should change because that would be good and safe for society.
Are any other industries benefiting?
Sure. The people who make the glass cases for dispensaries are busy. And the CO2 machines that extract cannabis oil are impossible to buy right now. Even my website, MarijuanaPolitics.com, sees 250,000 people a month, so I’m trying to come up with different ways to monetize it. I’m selling ad space, but I’m also doing other nontraditional things that I don’t want to talk about yet.
President Obama made it clear that the government wouldn’t interfere with state-sanctioned marijuana. But what about the next president?
Regime change is always going to be a factor. But look at all of the money that’s being generated. Even if there’s a change at the top and the new person in charge is against the cannabis business, it would be hard to deny Colorado or Washington all of that new tax money. If you tried to take away $100 million in tax revenue, you would be looking at a civil uprising.
You feel strongly about decriminalizing marijuana.
I think we should decriminalize all drugs. The philosophy of prohibition just doesn’t work. Criminalizing just adds to its allure and creates more crime. I’m an activist at heart. I wouldn’t push a policy that doesn’t benefit the whole community. That’s what separates our business from others in the industry. We’re astute business folks for sure, but we’re also freedom fighters, fighting for liberty and the American Dream. We see legal cannabis as fueling a new age.
That’s a big goal…
I’ve been an activist for 20 years. We thought the whole world was going to be different, like Star Trek. But it’s been usurped by the “American business model,” and you’re a [wimp] if you think about treating people in an egalitarian way. Unfortunately, that’s the American business narrative. For the piece we control, we’re into human rights and respect, and the money is secondary.
What part does Southern Oregon play in this narrative?
Everyone thinks that Southern Oregon is filled with ganja gangsters. That’s the rap we get, whether it’s true or not. But when medical marijuana was legalized, I saw “outlaw” growers come out of the closet. The minute they had the chance, hardworking family farmers became part of the legal system. They’re paying taxes and it’s heartening to see.
This is about empowering the small family farmer; it’s about liberty. There are lobbying forces from Portland and beyond that want to take the small business owner out, and monopolize everything. When Measure 91 came out, it was $1,000 for a license; now they want it to be more than $10,000. That’s too much for a small farmer. That’s evil greed.
Some Oregon cities and counties are opting out of recreational marijuana. What does that mean for them?
Places that opt out are missing the chance to create public policy in their community that’s congruent with what’s going on in their community. People use pot. Medical marijuana is thriving. They are missing the chance for a safer, more productive community. And they will miss the tax revenue for sure.
Where do you see the marijuana business in Oregon’s economy?
We have a great opportunity in Oregon to capitalize on this new legal industry before other states follow (which they will). We can capitalize on tourism and out-of-state folks coming here to indulge in something they could only dream about being legal in their respective states.
Eli Hastings didn’t write ‘Clearly Now, The Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips’ to be published. After the death of his best friend and lover Serala, he followed through on his promise: “If you die, I’m going to write a book about you.”
Once he was ready to share his story and publish his book, he found reaching readers was more difficult than he expected. We asked him to share his story and what he learned through the process.
On the woman who inspired the book:
In 1996, I had the great fortune of finding a best friend and lover that would transform the way I lived, loved, and looked at life. We had a wild ride, literally and figuratively, over nearly a decade and through many storied cities and many traumas and adventures. I had always told her that if she died (which was always likely) I would write a book about her.
I didn’t know that I really would until she died quite traumatically and inconsiderately on my watch between Christmas and New Years of 2004. Then I knew that I had to write the book to heal myself from the grief, despair and trauma of her passing.
On the publishing experience:
At first I didn’t think I wanted to publish the book, once I decided to it took me no less than eight years, two and a half agents (long story), some fifty rejections and seventeen revisions I think most of the healing happened in the writing, but I have found that a considerable amount has also come from sharing the story of my friend, sharing the lessons she taught me about how to live and love (and how not to.)
On getting attention and promoting the book:
I was surprised at how little my publisher did to promote the book. It seemed like all they did was send the book out to all the national reviewers. I didn’t know I needed to think about my own marketing and I didn’t even know how to do it. I had to seek outside help.
What I’ve seen really work is writing short pieces for national publications that draw attention back to the book and platform. I’ve also enjoyed that process.
On the challenges he faced:
The biggest challenge has been the emotional toll of working so hard to attract readers and how easily you can get dissed. For example, I had so many challenges scheduling readings in bookstores that we started trying bars. In some ways, we found those even work better! You’ve got to get out and stay outside the box.
I also needed help with organization, prioritization, connections, diplomacy, and new ideas. But most of all, I needed empathy for how frustrating the process can be. Self-publishing has changed the entire playing field. People who can barely craft a sentence might be kick-ass at self-promotion online and make lots of money. In short, the market is flooded with both crap and gold with both self-published and professionally published e-books that don’t cost publishers anything.
On what’s important:
The most meaningful experience for me has been reading messages from people who were moved by my book and needed to tell me so. There is nothing more important to me than knowing that the book has reached people in the way I hoped it would.
Consistent engagement online and in person with your readers is incredibly important. Finding ways to engage people that aren’t always focused on you and your work is indispensable too.
Knowing what I know now, I would have started marketing as soon as my contract was signed for publication and had a plan ready in advance. I would have been clear about what I was good at and capable of and what I really needed to let others handle. I would have planned a very strategic book tour even if it cost me a good bit of money to breathe life into the book from different places.
It’s important to understand what to expect from the beginning or make a plan so you feel like you know what to expect. I’ve learned a lot through this process thanks to those who have helped me, my readers, and of course — Serala.
Note from AM:PM PR’s Mike Phillips:
Networking and education event helps budding entrepreneurs prepare to sustain successful businesses
The first-ever International Cannabis Business Conference rolled into the Oregon Convention Center for a networking and business event featuring leaders in the industry, including acclaimed blogger Andrew Sullivan and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, among many others. Review the full list here.
The educational conference offers a series of panels featuring lawyers, investors, activists, politicians and successful business people offering expert advice for those looking to enter this blossoming industry. With Oregon legalizing marijuana this fall, the Pacific Northwest will become by default the center of a new industry that has the potential to make many budding entrepreneurs into glorified business folk. In the first two months of legal sales, Washington has reported sales exceeding $12 million (Colorado by comparison had $10 million in its first 4 months).
Whether you’re for legalization or against, it’s hard to dispute that the new industry would create more economic opportunity for those working up and down the supply chain – from hardware stores, to bakers, to artisans to urban farmers – to marketing and public relations firms too.
For information on the next conference check out: International Cannabis Conference.
Late Lights, a novella in stories that explores the intensely difficult and complicated realities of adolescent experience, has won two Indie Book Awards. Even with awards, authors face increasing challenges getting their books in front of audiences. We asked Kara Weiss, author of ‘Late Lights’, to share insights she gained through the process.
On the inspiration behind Late Lights:
There is so little realistic literature about adolescents for adults, and I think this is a huge problem. The rift between adolescents and adults (which often results in screaming matches) stems from a lack of understanding. Adolescents are commonly cast off as melodramatic. Not being taken seriously can be torturous for youths rushing with hormones. Their brains are changing and they’re trying to figure out their identity. Many teens are dealing with very adult problems, yet lack the resources to address them. I had my own challenges as an adolescent. When I was little my mom used to tell me: If you don’t like someone, just get to know them. Parents need to work harder to understand their children at this time.
On winning an award for her first book:
Winning the Indie for Late Lights has been one of the single most important events in my professional life. Writing is such an isolating experience, and it’s so easy to doubt yourself. Winning was validation that professionals in the industry valued my work. For a writer, that’s huge.
On promoting the book:
My publisher promised to help create a book I was proud of in content, layout, and cover art. Once the book was launched, however, most of the promotion was in my hands. They sent Late Lights out for reviews, but it was up to me to create buzz, and get the word out. Sales stalled after my book tour ended and the initial buzz died down. Everyone seemed ready to move on, except me. I knew enough about marketing to know I hadn’t done much of it.
I did know that I needed to get people talking about my book again and that reviews were important. I also knew that social media was an important tool, but I wasn’t sure how to do it all and knew I needed help.
On the challenges she faced:
Late Lights is a collection of linked short stories. That format puts off a lot of people. It’s also a book about adolescents, but for adults. It takes extra convincing to get adult readers interested in adolescents (a problem which was part of the inspiration behind Late Lights).
Also, marketing a book is challenging because a reader is never totally sure what they are going to get. They are taking a chance when they buy a book. So many other books are being marketed and you have to, somehow, get noticed.
On what Weiss learned writing and promoting her first book:
I knew my book would be characterized as literary and that it was challenging content, so I assumed my readers would be literary types. I was so wrong. As it turns out, Late Lights has much broader audience – especially among those who feel called out by the book. I’ve heard from parents who’ve read the book that they could have been much more empathetic to some of the kids their kids went to school with.
I’ve also learned that marketing your book can’t be entirely outsourced. Authors need to work with their PR reps as a team to authentically engage fans and potential readers. I was surprised to learn how much money publishing houses put behind their books and that they rent the display tables at the entrance Barnes & Noble.
Knowing what I know now and how hard it is to compete for attention I would have started much earlier.
You can follow Kara Weiss on Twitter @troubler
Note from AM:PM PR’s Mike Phillips:
Marketing a book is not easy. Authors tasked with self-promotion must solicit reviews from an ever-changing media landscape with fewer opportunities. New publishing platforms, editing technologies, and distribution from services like Amazon, Indiebound, Apple, and Barnes & Noble make it simple for anyone to self-publish a book and distribute it worldwide. The flood of new authors means more competition. A reviewer at a major daily newspaper once confided in me that he receives hundreds of books per week for potential review. How can anyone succeed in this environment?
Fortunately, where new challenges emerge there’s always new opportunities. Search engines are valuable tools to research and discover new avenues for authors to reach their target audiences. Talented authors like Weiss find that if they roll up their sleeves and get involved as content creators and thought leaders they can engage audiences more effectively . A dynamic website and and active social media presence will amplify all other efforts. The same foresight and planning applies to authors as to businesses. Kudos to Kara Weiss for her media savvy, creativity and dedication to sticking with it.
You can follow Kara Weiss on Twitter @troubler
By Erik Wecks, GEEKDAD
At his day job, Gary Hirsch is a business consultant running a company called On Your Feet which uses improvisational theater to help businesses communicate and collaborate. When not working with managers from Nike and other large corporations, you might find Hirsch busy painting robots on the backs of dominoes or out and about Portland, Oregon, leaving his creations all over town for people to find.
In early 2012, his “What Brings Portland Joy?” project asked finders of his bots to post pictures of their bot with things which brought them joy. In true Portland style, he soon had pictures of kale, roller derby, and beer. Recently, Hirsch was asked to have his bots included in the swag bags for both the Emmys and the Golden Globes. Joy Bots and other Bot creations by Gary Hirsch have now been showing up with the likes of Downton Abbey‘s Elizabeth McGovern; cast members from Glee, True Blood and Breaking Bad; and Survivor host Jeff Probst, who recently ordered 100 of them to give to the guests on his talk show.
Not only are Hirsch’s bots hobnobbing with the rich and famous, but they are also becoming well traveled. Hirsch says that he has received pictures of his bots from all over the world. “There is a part of the website ‘Where in the world is your Bot?,’ and folks love sending in photos of their Bot in exotic places: Bali, Egypt, Nairobi, and the Arctic Circle to name a few.
After meeting the art therapist at Randal Children’s hospital in Portland, Hirsch asked if he could make a special “Brave Bot” for kids being admitted to the hospital. Now each child admitted to the day surgery unit gets a special Brave Bot with instructions that read:
- Allow your robot to get to know you by letting him hang out with you in your room, on your windowsill, in your pocket, or wherever you like to spend time.
- Listen carefully, when needed, your Brave Bot will use his robot powers to give you a little bit of courage to face the things that feel uncertain and scary.
- Keep your Brave Bot with you anywhere you go for a little bit of courage where ever you are.
“I hear some amazing stories of how the Bots are helping,” says Hirsch, “For instance: Ava, a wonderful 8 year with type 1 diabetes holds on to her Brave Bot every time she gets an injection. Her Mom just told me that now Ava is able to give herself insulin injections with the Brave Bot watching.”
When asked why he thinks these bots seem to have helped, Hirsch answered, “The Bots are small, feel great in your hand, the kids are always bigger then the Bot, they can talk to it, they feel in control. Somehow the Bots help you have conversations with yourself that you might not have otherwise. I have really no idea how they work. I just make them and let the people that have them do the rest.”
I asked Hirsch how he came up with the idea for the bots.
“I had this idea about 5 years ago: What if you had an imaginary robot that followed you around all day and gave you outrageous compliments? It was a fun idea to imagine, so I included it in an illustrated journal that we made for our On Your Feet clients and gave them out when we were running innovation and creativity sessions. The image of a robot following you around giving you compliments kept haunting me… I mean seriously, how cool would that be? It would be invisible, and only you would know it was there, and it would say things to you like “Nice pants” or “That was a smart thing to do” or “You made the right choice.” So two years ago, I thought, “Let’s make the robot real” and after playing with several surfaces, I stumbled onto the domino. Now instead of an invisible robot, you have a small one that you can take anywhere.”
One of the things I love about each bot is that it is a numbered piece of art. I have bots which Hirsch gave me in the 15,000 range. He told me that recently he passed number 17,000 and has left hundreds of them around cities like Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas. Hirsch is incredibly generous with his bots, giving away thousands of his creations. The rainy night I met him, Hirsch stuffed the pockets of my jacket with several bots for me, and some for my kids as well. He also produces large scale installations of his bots which used hundreds of individually crafted pieces. Hirsch says that he can lose himself for hours while painting bots and is nowhere near bored with the project.
Hirsch has branched out from the original joy bots. There are now 26 different Bots. “You can see them all on my Etsy site with new ones sprouting up all the time. My favorites are:
- Joy Bots (make you feel instantly better)
- Love Bots (tell you how much they love you)
- Decision Bots (Make your decision so you don’t have to)
- Get Started Bots (kicks you in the butt and stops you procrastinating)
- Luck Bots (instant good luck)
- Brave Bots (courage to face anything)
- Caffeine Bots (Wakes you up)”
The Launch of the Unplugged Bot:
Recently, Hirsch’s brother came up with an idea for a new bot, the Unplugged Bot. The Unplugged Bot assists its owners to unplug once in a while and re-connect with the real world. Like all his bots, they are hand-painted and one-of-a-kind.
“Do you know someone who needs to unplug? Who has to check their electronic devices every 20 seconds?”
Follow @erikwecks on Twitter.