Thousands of weed enthusiasts, business people, non-profits and growers will descend on downtown Phoenix this weekend to learn more about the marijuana market and its potential for growth.
The conference arrives as early voting on Proposition 205, the state’s recreational-marijuana ballot initiative, has begun.
The Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo kicked off Friday with a boot camp for people interested in getting into the market. The workshop, attended by physicians, farmers and entrepreneurs, showcased niches within the marijuana market that people can tap into – from edibles to cultivation and real estate to testing.
About 300 exhibitors will showcase their products and services. Speakers will discuss, among other things, the potential transition to recreational marijuana if Prop. 205 passes. Voters in 2010 approved a medical-marijuana program, in which about 100,000 people take part.
Marc Goodman, of Prescott Valley, said Friday he hopes to one day "be like any other farm" and grow legal marijuana and provide it to retail stores.
"I’m a farmer and a lot of times, people are great at the business aspect of it … but they don’t know about the growing," said Goodman, who said he used to work as a grower in the medical-marijuana industry. "I think that’s a huge detriment to the industry as a whole."
Goodman said he was making connections with others interested in the recreational industry and learning more about the regulatory system that would be put in place if Prop. 205 passes.
Prop. 205 asks Arizona voters to decide whether marijuana should be legal for adults to use in private, transport and grow in their homes. The measure creates a new state department to regulate the program. That department would be responsible for licensing and regulating retail stores and entities involved in growing, manufacturing, distributing and testing marijuana products. Retail sales would be taxed at 15 percent, with tax revenues funding the new department, education and other programs.
Demitri Downing, who organized the event, said tickets were sent to the offices of government officials, including Republican and Democratic lawmakers, Gov. Doug Ducey and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Ducey and Montgomery are both ardent opponents of Prop. 205 and are campaigning against it. Montgomery said he won’t attend.
Downing said "several Republicans" were sending staff members to the expo, and several Democratic officials would be attending as well.
Downing said cannabis products would not be sold at the expo, just featured.
On Friday, a local edible company and former NFL player Marvin Washington were showcasing cannabis-based products to alleviate pain and other ailments.