Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 | 10 p.m.
Legalized recreational marijuana in an increasing number of states will reduce unnecessary arrests of people in possession the plant, exhibitors and speakers at this week’s Marijuana Business Conference and Expo said.
“It’s time to roll back the war on marijuana and work toward fulfilling its potential,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said during a keynote panel in front of about 500 marijuana business owners from across the country.
Founded in 2012, the annual Marijuana Business Conference and Expo returned to Las Vegas for its fifth year with more than 300 exhibitors and 7,500 participants. The four-day, industry-only conference, which started Tuesday at the Rio, targets owners of marijuana dispensaries, cultivation facilities, production facilities and testing labs.
Industry professionals on the showroom floor were all smiles Wednesday, a week after Nevada, California, Massachusetts and Maine passed ballot measures allowing the recreational use of marijuana. Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota and Montana voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.
Eight states have now approved both recreational and medical marijuana, and 20 others have OK’d medical marijuana.
Fort Collins, Colo.-based Mammoth Microbes, which produces a soil-enhancing inoculant to enhance marijuana plant growth, expects this year’s ballot results to double its business by the time the new laws go into effect next year.
Already, the demand for Mammoth’s product has been on the rise to meet the demand of more marijuana cultivation facilities serving more legal dispensaries, said owner Colin Bell, who founded the company in 2015.
“There has been a very, very high interest,” Bell said. “There’s so much more to talk about, so much more potential. Everybody wins.”
Denver-based Juju Royal’s is also seeing a spike in sales of its THC vapor pens, tinctures and marijuana paraphernalia.
Company sales representative Kaipo Sabas estimated up to 75 percent of the company’s clients are recreational buyers, a number that continues to grow as the recreational program develops in Colorado and Oregon, the two states were Juju Royal is licensed.
“Recreational is huge, especially with all the tourists going into shops,” Sabas said. “It’s the focus because it’s the moneymaker.”
A bag of microwavable, THC-infused popcorn in hand, MariMed Advisors spokesman Tyler Burke said with four new states in the medical marijuana market and four new recreational marijuana states, his Rhode Island-based firm is looking to expand its selection of edibles — they include juices, honey sticks and chewable mints — into new territory.
The firm, which owns production facilities in six states, could be in six more states in a matter of a year, Burke said.
“It just makes the snowball bigger,” Burke said of last week’s ballot results. “It’s a train that’s not going to be stopped.”
While exhibitors today expressed their pleasure with the results of the 2016 elections, keynote panelists said the industry’s work is not done.
Nadelmann and Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, identified Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont and Michigan as states they’d like to see legalize some form of marijuana in the 2018 midterm elections.
The panel, which also included marijuana advocate and Nevada state Sen. Tick Segerblom, also warned marijuana business professionals to follow the rules, especially in states that have just legalized marijuana this election cycle.
“Enjoy it, but just realize you could be in jail tomorrow,” Segerblom said as the crowd laughed.