The booming marijuana industry attracts enthusiasts and entrepreneurs
Working from a small booth on the fringes of a trade show packed with thousands of enthusiasts, Sean Donahoe says these are heady times to be in the marijuana business.
"In a gold rush, you sell picks and shovels,'' says Donahoe, deputy director of the California Cannabis Industry Association. The young organization is trying to become in effect the Chamber of Commerce of the marijuana business in the nation's largest state.
At the Los Angeles Cannabis Cup, a trade show, judging contest and festival of pot culture held here Saturday and Sunday, sharp marketers were following Donahoe's business plan. On display was an array of products from pipes and vaporizers used to consume pot to products that aid in growing plants, processing leaf into concentrates, packaging and handling pot, and business services such as legal advice, accounting and consulting.
Donahoe says the marijuana market is exploding with business potential as the weed's legality and acceptance grow.
"The industry is pretty robust all across the board,'' says Donahoe, of Oakland.
Just a few yards away, an Irvine company is selling complete plug-and-play growing cabinets for the home herbalist. Inside is everything you need to be a discreet farmer except the dirt and plants — lighting, water, air filtration and circulation systems. A closet-size model goes for $2,800.
Inside the designated "medication" area, available to anyone with a doctor's prescription recommending marijuana for medical use, the crowd was more consumption-focused. Hits off bongs and vaporizers were freely available, and people walked openly with marijuana cigarettes dangling from their lips.
"It's really crazy. We're just trying to keep up,'' says Phil Cancila of Philadelphia, who had a steady crowd at his booth sampling huge marijuana hits off his company VapeXhale's Cloud Evo vaporizer.
Seemingly even more popular than the regular pot are highly potent concentrates, extracted from marijuana through the use of solvents and with names such as wax, butter, oil, shatter and dabs. They are not recommended for beginners.
"Concentrates are what's up,'' says Kacey Bruce, who traveled from Northern California with business partners to sell plastic tools and products designed for home production of concentrates. "We've got it down to a science.''
Bobby Black, senior editor of High Times magazine, the event sponsor, says the marijuana community is divided over some of the concentrates. Some think the process looks to outsiders too much like hard drug use and contributes to a poor public image. Others see it as the future of marijuana.
"Weed is like classic rock and dabs is like heavy metal,'' says Black. "This generation is embracing dabs.''
High Times, chronicler of the pot scene for 40 years, has held similar events in Amsterdam, where pot was legal, for a quarter century. It began holding them in this country in 2010.
Colorado and Washington state have legalized recreational use, but California, where voters in 1996 made it the first state to legalize pot for medical use, remains the big marijuana market. Petitions are already circulating seeking a vote on full legalization.
For those lacking a legal prescription for pot, Medical Green Doctors Inc. of Venice Beach is issuing doctor's order on the spot. The note costs $40, and the line to get in is long. Staffers advise patients that a chronic disorder, lasting six months or longer, is needed.
Kristel Velez, 24, looks a picture of health as she works a vendor's booth in a skimpy nursing-inspired outfit and cap. What was her ailment that medical marijuana eased? She had broken her arm, though it was no longer in a cast. "Sometimes it really hurts,'' she says. Then, smiling, she adds: "Also, depression.''