I went to a weed conference in midtown Manhattan on Monday afternoon, and I left with …weed. This really happened.

Even though I’ve had success getting people to trust and open up to me in the past, I thought it would be kind of obvious if, at a weed conference, people would be comping me free samples to take back to the office. I wasn’t looking for it or asking for it but, they did. One was gifted from a legit company and another from a self-described underground edibles maker and dealer.

I had told them that ANIMAL is a big fan of weed and that our founder and editor, Bucky Turco, dreams of opening his own dispensary one day. Apparently, that was enough.

“You told me your boss was a fan,” one vendor said as he placed a sample of dabs, a concentrated form of weed, into my hand. “Bring this back to him.” (Later, the ANIMAL team confirmed that it was indeed the dabs. Really, really good dabs)

Welcome to the emerging world of weed entrepreneurship, where networking and learning the trade of this emerging business are now relevant in New York, whose limited medical weed law goes into effect in 2016. The 2014 East Coast Cannabis Business Expo, Educational Conference & Regulatory Summit was hosted by the International Cannabis Association and held for two days at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square. In spite of the limited business opportunities New York’s law will allow, there was no shortage of enthusiasm and hope that it could one day be more like Colorado and Washington, two states that have legalized weed for recreational use.

One of the final panels of the day.
People traveled from all over the country for all different kinds of reasons. People like Terris, who WAS walking inside the ballroom with a bag full of packets and information, asking different vendors all sorts of questions as if he were a reporter. He’s a small business owner from New Jersey, but goes to California a lot where his friends hang out at dispensaries. That gave him the idea to start to look into the business.

“I think it’s like prohibition in the ’20s,” he said. “I see what kind of money you can make whether you’re a grower, a dispensary, whether you extract oil. I want to be on the ground floor when this thing takes off because eventually I think it’s going to be legal everywhere.”

Terris hopes to open a dispensary one day.

Inside the vendor area, booths ranged from marijuana insurance and weed tracking web sites to equipment and gear, including co2 extraction devices and growing lamps. And then I saw Joanne Slawitsky, who is president of Kassoy, a jewelry supply company, who a few months ago developed the idea to market her products to the weed industry, a natural fit especially when it comes to the precision of jewelry scales and other items.

“It’s not like we’re selling coke on the street or anything,” she said. “It’s medicinal.”

Slawitsky’s daughter lives in Colorado and a few months while on a visit out there she realized how much of an untapped market there was to cultivate. She is sensitive to the fact that some of her clients may lean more conservative.

“We look at other markets and see where we can bring our products where it isn’t saturated with other compeititors,” she said.

Joanne Slawitsky decided to open her jewelry company to the weed market.

At the end of the day two men were asking questions at one of the co2 booths when we began talking. I asked why they were there, and that’s when they told me, quite naturally and openly, that they’re in the underground edible business. They’d like to find a way to legally make non-THC edibles for kids who have epilepsy, while also hoping that New York eventually legalizes weed altogether.

After a long discussion I said goodbye and then suddenly one of the men walked back up to me and asked if I’d like a sample of his product. Sure. He passed me a brownie-looking ball of mush.

“Just don’t eat the whole thing,” he said. “I did and it knocked me on my ass for a good 24 hours. It’s strong.”

(Photos: Amy K. Nelson/ANIMAL NewYork)