By Mark Brodie
Oct. 27, 2015
Phoenix is hosting the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo this week. It’s a gathering for those in the medical marijuana industry and those looking to become a part of it.
Event organizer Demitri Downing has high hopes for the industry:
“The Arizona Medical Marijuana market is flourishing. It will continue to flourish; we are highly accountable; we’re taxed and regulated; we’re demonstrating to the world, to the state of Arizona and to the country how it works to have this kind of model. It one day will go adult use, and we’ll be doing that as well," Downing said.
The goal of the expo is to be transparent and educate those interested in joining the industry as well as those seeking to regulate it. Many attendees are at the expo looking for job opportunities. Jill Wallitscheck studies environmental science at the University of Arizona. She’s graduating soon and sees a lot of potential in the industry that she isn’t finding elsewhere:
“Coming into college, everyone always told you to be worried about the economy and how to find a job when you get out of school and it’s cool to come to something like this where people say the industry is actually booming, and there’s a lot of job opportunities just for people like us who are going to be needing jobs real soon,” she said.
Eric Carlson with the National Cannabis Chamber of Commerce said it takes a staggering amount of money and effort to get a license and set up a dispensary. For the average entrepreneur looking to get into the industry a more attainable path is through the ancillary jobs that come along with it.
“70 percent of this industry is focused around HR consulting, SEO web development - you know its no longer the build it and they will come model. It’s if you have a dispensary how do you get your customers to always go there and not your competitor down the street? So you’re talking about sales staffs, you’re talking about brand management. You know, you bring every sector of life into this," Carlson said.
Jerry Chesler is a cannabis industry attorney focused on finance and business development. He had some sobering advice for those looking to make a quick buck.
“This is the toughest business ever. You face problems and pitfalls that no other business faces. We’re overcoming 80 years of prohibition, and it makes it a tough business you got to be able to stick it out. There’s a lot of scams; everybody’s got the next greatest thing. Every grower is the greatest master grower ever, and you know it really helps to understand the industry,” Chesler said.
Attendees have the chance to learn more about the industry Tuesday and Wednesday as the expo continues at the convention center in Phoenix.