I didn’t get much time to think during the New England Cannabis Convention in Boston this past weekend. Between the vaporizers being passed around out on the street to the literally thousands of people who I interacted with during panels and at our booth for DigBoston and Talking Joints Memo, there wasn’t exactly an opportunity to sit back and ponder all the work and struggle that led up to this point.
But if I had been able to kick back with some thoughts, the prevailing sentiment would have been that we have come a long way, and that being in the company of such a range of knowledgeable pot people and curious rookies alike was a great change from the enduring war against anti-marijuana officials who continue peddling falsehoods statewide. I’ll get to the haters later; for now, here is a digestible recap of a meaty summit that attendees will not soon forget despite the aforementioned proliferation of oil and wax pens.
While I can’t predict the future of cannabis in Mass entirely, I do suspect that, just like with any other industry (and certainly the marijuana world if you look out west), the market will expand and then inevitably break down into niches, so that there will probably be whole entire conferences for things like packaging, high-tech security, large-scale commercial growing, extracts, edibles, and hopefully old-fashioned stoner culture, from head shops to emerging canna-gadgets. For now though, I will say that it’s pretty sweet to have them all under the same tent. I may not be in the market for a greenhouse air disinfection machine or a dehumidification system for indoor climate control, but it’s cool to see how those things work while still getting to select wraps from an amazing smorgasbord of blunts at the next table.
In listening to people both inside and outside of the Hynes Convention Center for two days, I picked up some tips, ideas, and trends that I thought could be of some use to readers. Whether you were there at NECANN and had trouble seeing every panel talk and demonstration that you wanted to catch, or if you missed the show entirely, hopefully this streamlines some of what transpired …
- You should really read the actual law. I know, it’s our job as reporters to communicate such details to the general public, and I promise that we’re trying our hardest to do that. Nevertheless, especially if you are somebody who plans on growing and/or working in the industry or owning some kind of cannabis-related business, you’ll want to trudge through all the details.
- Let’s not forget that state lawmakers are actively considering a number of bills that could amend the law passed by voters last year—bills that attempt to redesign everything from the tax structure around weed to the amount that you can grow at home. If you don’t know what is in the current law, it will be harder to defend your rights when you call your state lawmakers to demand that they keep it in place. (For a Cliff’s Notes of sorts, I highly recommend longtime marijuana activist Dick Evans’s Citizen’s Guide to Marijuana Legalization in Mass, available at evanscutler.com.)
- One major note that came up on almost every panel chat I saw that was related to the cannabis industry in Mass specifically touched on the way that licenses are supposed to be structured. Again, read the law, but in short there will be four designations, for: testing facilities, cultivators, product manufacturers, and retailers. For people who are generally interested in a career change or just simply want to know how they might fit into the industry, that seems like a helpful starting place.
- As Will Luzier of the Yes on 4 Coalition reminded people during one discussion, the current law as passed by voters has some significant features that don’t often get enough credit. For example, authorities can’t remove children from their home because their parents smoke weed. Also: “the use of marijuana shall not disqualify a person from any needed medical procedure or treatment, including organ and tissue transplants.” These are all important aspects of the law—if not for you, then for someone else—and NECANN speakers did their part to remind voters that many of these pieces remain in jeopardy along with those regarding larger issues such as taxes.
- From the trade show floor to the question-and-answer sessions, people were extremely interested in knowing more about “local control.” As in whether municipalities will be opting out of having cannabis operations, as some in the Bay State are already in the process of doing. This is a dicey and important subject that we have covered extensively, and it’s one that anyone who plans on being involved with marijuana in Mass should pay close attention to. And remember: when Mass politicians say “local control,” they really mean “prohibition.”
Overall, it’s clear that while there are still many hurdles ahead, there is a qualified and passionate cannabis army out to defend the cause. We are patients, activists, entrepreneurs, and yes, journalists, but most importantly we are pretty much on the same page regarding the freedoms we are demanding, and that we already pulled for in the booth last November. At the very least, last weekend we proved that we can get together in the same building. Perhaps the next mass congregation should take place on Beacon Hill.
Ed. note: NECANN is partially owned by former owners and employees of DigBoston.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.