The San Jose McEnery Convention Center usually hosts business summits by the tech industry. But this week, it was the scene of a national cannabis business summit that attracted more than 7,500 people over its two-day run. That event, the Cannabis Business Summit and Expo, is an influential, trendsetting conference that shapes the cannabis industry landscape across the country. The event is put on by the National Cannabis Industry Association, the industry’s only national trade organization. Here’s what happened.
James Cole, Author of “Cole Memo” Delivers Keynote at Cannabis Summit
The headline act of the Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in San Jose, California was former Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
Cole worked in the Department of Justice under the Obama administration. And in 2013, he authored one of the most important documents in the history of the US cannabis industry.
As Washington and Colorado were grappling with the implementation of their adult-use cannabis programs, they had to face the fact that their states’ laws would directly contradict the federal Controlled Substances Act, which strictly prohibits marijuana as a Schedule I drug.
So both states looked to the federal government for guidance. And what they got was the 2013 Cole Memorandum. People generally think about the Cole Memo as a “hands-off” policy, directing federal prosecutors and law enforcement to leave states that had legalized cannabis alone.
More accurately, however, the memo indicates what federal agents should prioritize when it came to dealing with legal-marijuana states. But the list didn’t include cracking down on lawful, legal sales and private cannabis consumption.
So the Cole Memo effectively gave states a way to “comply” with federal law enforcement while remaining in violation of federal law.
No wonder, then, that James Cole delivered a keynote address in front of a packed crowd. During his address, Cole reiterated his common sense approach to cannabis: study it. And if it has medical uses, treat it like a pharmaceutical substance, Cole said.
Cannabis Expos Help Businesses and Consumers Stay Informed
The Cole Memo gave the US cannabis industry enough confidence to push ahead. It also gave states enough leeway to establish effective regulations. But the regulatory and legal landscape is always changing. And cannabis businesses need to stay informed and adaptive to keep up with the breakneck pace.
And ultimately, that’s what the Cannabis Business Summit and Expo was all about. Bringing the industry, from cultivators to dispensary operators, together.
According to industry analyst and Grasslands Agency CEO Ricardo Baca, the summit gives businesses the opportunity to share knowledge, best practices and methods for success. And in that sense, it represents how serious the industry has become.