The legal marijuana industry came out to peddle the latest in weed business ideas, wonder drugs, and cannabis tech, and everyone was in on the joke.
Walking into a cannabis show in New York City is a perfect metaphor for how mainstream America approaches weed culture right now. The Cannabis World Congress expo floor at the Javits Center was overloaded with booths sporting flea market-style displays of edibles, extracts, and oils, plenty of shiny new tech, and piles of giveaway swag in different shades of green. There were also businesses hocking every kind of service imaginable, trying to capitalize on our buzziest new billion dollar industry. Cannabis consultants, lawyers, security companies, weed universities — pick a profession and tint it leaf-green.
What you didn’t see is any actual weed. Not out in the open, anyway. Not in New York, where the newly enacted medical marijuana laws are among the strictest of the 25 legal states. Cannabis packaging startups showed off vacuum-sealed bags of spinach leaves. Decorative shrubs sat under cutting-edge grow lamps. Edibles companies arranged shiny displays of empty wrappers. But all you had to do is ask around, and there was plenty of bud to be found.
We watched a straight-laced guy in a suit hand over a wad of cash for some legit edibles pulled out of a backpack in the corner of a booth. He glanced over at our camera (it wasn’t rolling), gave us a priceless eyes-wide deer-in-the-headlights look, and quickly fled the scene.
Stoner culture today is as mainstream as it’s been since the ‘70s, but in strict medical states and the half of the country that hasn’t legalized any form of cannabis yet, people talk loud and proud about the business of weed while the nugs themselves stay under the table, unspoken, and out of sight. It makes for a hilarious contrast when a you hear a guy likeHigh NY MVP Todd Hinden (pictured above) — a stoner from another age — waxing poetic about the nuances between indica and sativa, the virtues of new hybrid strains like Sour Diesel, and why he thinks we should get rid of the term “strains” altogether and call them weed “flavors.”
Events like CWC bring that era of stoners out of the woodwork and put them in the same room with twenty-something cannabis startup entrepreneurs and new-age hipstoners who vape their weed and then throw on some vaporwave.
Nothing beats the unbridled stoner joy of a real dispensary, but throwing this many cannabis companies in a room is the business conference equivalent of hitting the big red “420 Blaze It” button. Cannabis World Congress mixed startup tech culture and some seriously impressive cannabis mad science with a consumerist cornucopia of brands and paraphernalia, and half a century’s worth of smokers, jokers, and midnight tokers. The result was, frankly, a lot of weird and wacky shit. Check it out below.