Marijuana-growing expo in Reno attracts international audience |

Marijuana-growing expo in Reno attracts international audience

Marcus Villagan
Special to the Sun-Bonanza
A staff member at the Next G3n Greenhouse vendor booth talks to an attendee at the CannaGrow Expo, held March 25-26 at Grand Sierra Resort. The expos focused on the business and science of cannabis growing.
Marcus Villagran/NNBW |

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RENO, Nev. — Hundreds of people from across the country and the world came to the Grand Sierra Resort in March to learn about one of the country’s newest industries: cannabis.

Growers, business owners and enthusiasts all attended the fifth CannaGrow Expo in the nation organized by CannaConnections on March 25-26. The event, which focused on both the business and science of cannabis growing, held 25 educational sessions led by pioneers in the industry.

Among them, were a couple of our very own experts from northern Nevada. Pistil + Stigma’s Rebecca Gasca, who got her degree in international business and economics at the University of Nevada, Reno, talked about cultivating in compliance.

“… Compliance is important,” Gasca cautioned during her session. “It’s to keep yourself out of trouble, keep your investors out of trouble, keep your partners out of trouble, keep your colleagues out of trouble. Naturally, of course, keep you out of jail.”

Father and son duo Craig and Cody Witt of Full Circle Soils & Compost, based in Minden, began their session on maximizing soil fertility with what they called “compost yoga.” They instructed everyone in the conference hall to stand up, put their hands in the air and chant.

“Why did you just do the compost yoga?” Cody Witt, son of Craig, asked the audience. “Soil satisfaction is almost just like yoga. It’s all about the balance, harmony and satisfying all the cravings of your soil and the plants you’re growing in that soil.”

Other speakers included Jay Kitchen of UptownGrowLab on the fundamentals of cultivating cannabis.

“The plant always seems to come back, treat it with love and respect and you’re good,” Kitchen said during the Q&A portion of his session.

Travis Bliss of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney led a session on intellectual property, highlighting the complexities of starting a business and growing in the young industry.

“Unfortunately, as everyone in the cannabis industry is aware, everything is a little more complicated with this industry and the same holds true when it comes to intellectual property,” Bliss said during his session.

A Nevada vote last November legalized the recreational use of marijuana effective Jan. 1, 2017. This was the first ever CannaGrow expo held in Nevada. There were around 50 vendors at the event.

A wide variety of people attended the expo. Gasca was surprised to see that significant portion of the audience during her session was not from California or Nevada. When asked to shout out some names of places of where they came from, states like New York, Ohio, Maine, Arizona, Illinois and many more were called out.

“Wow! My job is even harder this morning because the issue of compliance is a complex one,” Gasca said. “Every single state is operating way differently than anyone else so probably the best kind of advice I can give is being proactive so that you can stay out of hot water. Things are changing around you and you don’t even know it.”

Master grower and horticulturist Joel Gunn of Hayes Park Hydroponic stressed the importance of the business and legal side of cannabis growing at his session.

“I was a grower first and foremost. If this is anything you’re struggling with it’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Gunn reassured. “I really cannot overstate this. I see people constantly. I ask them who their lawyer is and who they’ve been dealing with and they look at me with a blank stare — it’s really unacceptable — the risk you take. You’re handling a lot of cash. You need to make sure you have someone backing you up if you get raided.”

A consistent theme among many of the more business-oriented talks seemed to highlight the complexities and difficulties surrounding the industry. But all of the attendees interviewed at the event stayed firm that the risks were worth it.

Joe, a southern California resident originally from China and an attendee at the expo, said he’d invested $300,000 into his cannabis growing facility. He actually found the challenges in the industry to be a strong reason to pursue a business in cannabis.

“Due to the chaos, some hesitate to invest in this industry,” Joe said in an interview with NNBW. “But if you are brave enough to invest maybe it’s a good opportunity for you. It’s kind of a bet, you know? Maybe you win, maybe you lose? Right now, I’m a little bit confident with my investment.”

The next CannaGrow Expo will take place in Denver on Oct. 28-29, 2017.

Marcus Villagan is an intern with the Northern Nevada Business Weekly.

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