At Vancouver’s next big weed get-together, you can expect less tie-dye and more suit-and-tie. Organizers of the International Cannabis Business Conference this week at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Vancouver expect a crowd of 650 or more to attend over Thursday and Friday.
And with tickets to attend the conference running upwards of $600 each, the event might have more of a corporate feel than the average 4/20 rally.
There has been no shortage of cannabis business conferences passing through Vancouver in recent months: the Cannabis Hemp Conference came to the Westin Bayshore in July, and last month brought both Canadian Cannabis Business Week and the Lift Cannabis Expo to downtown Vancouver.
But the International Cannabis Business Conference seeks to differentiate itself from other events with its global scope and ambitions, said conference organizer and founder Alex Rogers this week. The first editions of the conference were held in San Francisco and Portland, and next April, organizers will take it to Berlin. Plans are in motion, Rogers said, for 2018 events in Australia and Croatia.
Rogers has lived and worked in five different countries, including a six-month jail sentence in Germany after a conviction for cannabis trafficking, an experience he said prompted him to “make the decision to get my life together.”
“I am international citizen,” he said. “I’m a global soul. So my goal was always to take this international.”
Rogers said it is no coincidence that Vancouver will be the first city outside the U.S. to host his event, adding: “Historically speaking, Vancouver is one of the cannabis capitals of the world.”
“I think it’s up to Canada and Vancouver to stay the leaders in this game,” he said. “They need smart, progressive policy that keeps Vancouver and Canada a leader in the cannabis world for another 100 years.”
Speakers at this week’s event include Dr. Gabor Mate, a Vancouver-based physician renowned for his writing about the science of addiction, and Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer and cannabis reform advocate. Tommy Chong, another cannabis legend with ties to Vancouver, will also appear.
Friday’s keynote speaker will be Brendan Kennedy, CEO of Privateer Holdings, a private company based in Seattle with employees in five countries (including about 130 Canada), and ambitions to be a leader in both the medicinal and recreational cannabis markets.
Privateer subsidiary Tilray, a federally licensed cannabis production facility on Vancouver Island, made history this year by becoming the first Canadian company to legally export medical marijuana overseas, said Kennedy, adding: “We’ve always viewed this industry as a global industry.”