The steady growth of Arizona's medical marijuana market has attracted another major cannabis-themed convention to the state: the HempCon Cannabis Business Expo.
The California-based expo will run for three days at the Phoenix Convention Center, June 15 through June 17, hoping to school participants on all things new in the Arizona cannabis market, and turn acquisitive eyes to the potentially lucrative industry.
For starters, the convention will have seminars on everything from cultivation to cooking. But those curious about the emergence of the state’s hemp industry won’t want to miss the speakers talking about the new industrial hemp bill Governor Doug Ducey signed last month.
“Education is foremost as far as our goals with our shows,” said Dave Loots, a vendor-relations manager for HempCon.
Don't be fooled by the "hemp" in the name. The expo is about cannabis in general, not just the variety commonly known as hemp that has no psychoactive properties.
HempCon has been organizing cannabis culture events since 2010 — as Loots put it, “back when it was illegal to have any billboards up that indicated cannabis or anything like that.” Hence, the hemp name.
The convention will have exhibits in hydroponics, legal services, and evaluations, making for a potentially robust networking opportunity. Loots expects somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 attendees at the event over three days.
Speakers include Ian Pedersen, founder of Arizona’s Source CBD, who will talk about all the ways to get the most out of hemp, and William “Jaime J” Jamieson, a cannabist consultant with Bright Orchard Development in Ontario, Canada, will go over the changes surrounding hemp laws in Arizona.
The convention will also have vendors of various hemp products and even live CBD extraction demonstrations to see the process in action.
What sets HempCon apart from other cannabis expos, Loots said, is that it doesn’t just cater to those already in the industry.
Loots said he hopes the expo helps “open people’s eyes to this industry,” exposing as much of the public as possible to cannabis culture and business.
“There could be a 70-year-old man looking at our billboard on the freeway, wondering what that is,” Loots said. “As far as generating an interest and getting more people to look into this industry, that’s what makes us different.”
The event follows the locally produced Southwest Cannabis Convention and Expo, whose organizers are planning its fourth annual convention in Phoenix this October. Demetri Downing, the co-founder and adviser of the SWCC Expo, said there's room for more cannabis conventions in Arizona.
"This is obviously a good thing," Downing said of HempCon's arrival, adding that it's another example of how the city, local contractors, restaurants, and other "ancillary" businesses make extra money because of the cannabis industry. "This is a good indication why prohibition was a model that just didn't work compared to legalization."
Last year, the Phoenix Convention Center hosted the Imperious Phoenix Cannabis Business Expo. The U.S. Cannabis Conference and Expo, formerly the SWCC Expo, is scheduled to run at the center October 4-6.
HempCon has been putting on events in California for years, such as “Halloweed” and the “Cannagames,” but this is their first convention in Phoenix.
The company already has some roots in Phoenix from putting on the Phoenix Tattoo Expo, Loots said.
Now they’re bringing HempCon to Arizona so that, once state law changes to allow cannabis vending at conventions, they’ll already have a rodeo or two under their belt. Loots said their California expos didn’t really blow up until the state allowed for the sale of cannabis at conventions like theirs.
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“I want people to walk away with a smile on their face because they had a great time as far as learning, making connections and influence other people to affect the industry in Arizona,” Loots said.
Other home-state speakers include Tucson’s Aari Ruben, owner of Desert Bloom Re-Leaf Center, and Robert Klein, CEO of CBD company Isocryst in Phoenix.
The event runs 4 to 9 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 North Third Street.
Tickets are available are $20 per day. More information can be found on the convention's website.