Southwest Cannabis Conference Brings "The World of Tomorrow" to the Phoenix Convention Center

A display of glass pipes at last year's inaugural Southwest Cannabis ConferenceEXPAND
A display of glass pipes at last year's inaugural Southwest Cannabis Conference
Janessa Hilliard

Doug Ducey received free tickets to the second annual Southwest Cannabis Conference, but event organizer Demitri Downing isn't holding his breath for the Arizona governor to attend. Downing says he also sent complimentary passes to Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Secretary of State Michele Reagan, but they wouldn't be shocking no-shows either. All three oppose Proposition 205, the initiative on November's general-election ballot that allows voters to decide to whether to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use in Arizona.

"This is a giant educational summit for Prop 205," Downing says of the conference. "There are so many aspects to the marijuana discussion. If people want an overview, that's what this is for."

The theme for this year's conference is "The World of Tomorrow." Speakers include doctors, lawyers, legislators, investors, consumers, and business owners who will focus on topics like job creation, economic development, the future of Arizona's medical-marijuana program, and different models for regulating personal use.

Says Downing: "We all see a giant shift in policy coming."

Sponsored by Vapen Clear, Weedmaps, and New Times, the conference kicks off Friday, October 14, at the Phoenix Convention Center with a Cannabis Boot Camp presented by Medicine Man Technologies that will teach attendees about cultivation, dispensary laws and licensing, marketing, making marijuana edibles, and more.

"It's like going to college," Downing says. "Like going to business school."

More than 300 exhibitors will fill the hall, and more than 60 guest speakers from the industry are slated to speak, including include former NFL defensive end Marvin Washington, pain-management specialist Dr. David Tonkin, AZ NORML director Mikel Weisser, and cannabis chef Payton Curry.

Washington will participate in a panel on cannabis-derived alternatives to prescription painkillers.

"A lot of athletes are using CBD [cannabidiol, one of the least psychoactive chemical compounds in cannabis] for pain management instead of Percocet and Vicodin," Washington explains. "I'm not saying [opioids] don't work — they do work — but the side effects are too numerous to name, and if you're on that opiate prescription routine for 10 to 12 years, once your NFL career is over it's kind of hard to stop."

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Tonkin, a Springfield, Missouri-based physician, will speak on the pain-management panel as well. "We've done studies in our clinics and given CBD to patients, and their opioid consumption has gone down by 30 to 60 percent," Tonkin says. "That's great for the patient, so you don't have to write [prescriptions] for so many narcotics. The risk of overdose or addiction goes down quite a bit."

Downing says last year's conference drew about 6,000 attendees; this year, he expects up to 8,000 visitors, perhaps including a smattering of state legislators, whom Downing says are all invited. "A number of Democratic legislators have expressed that they're attending," he says.

"Regardless of whether politicians agree or not, there is going to be access [to cannabis]," Downing adds. "Once it's transparent, accountable, taxed, and regulated, then people can begin to talk about it."

The Southwest Cannabis Conference & Exhibition takes place October 14-16 at the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 North Third Street. Tickets cost $99 per person for Friday's Cannabis Boot Camp; a one-day pass for Saturday or Sunday costs $50; two-day passes are $75. Visit for more information.

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