Cannabis industry holds expo, anticipating legalization in NY, NJ

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

As New Jersey moves toward a vote on legalizing cannabis – which could come as early as next year – the industry continues to grow across the country, creating opportunities and challenges, for civic and political leaders, for sure, but also for entrepreneurs, which is what the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition was all about.

The first thing you notice about this cannabis expo is that the people who are here are not necessarily the people you’d expect to see here. While you might expect college students and people in tie dye T-shirts, the reality is that that the people who are here are business people, looking to get into the cannabis business.

“The hippie smoking the cannabis joint has a certain stigma in our society and all the rest; it’s just something that’s been developed over time, unfortunately. But certainly even the hippie smoking the joint, there’s some interesting medicinal aspects to it,” said Stuart Titus, an MD who took his cannabis business public in 2009. Since then over 200 companies have followed suit.

And that good feeling is translating into booming business. Despite still being illegal, nationally, 29 states have medical cannabis programs and eight of those have legalized cannabis for recreational use. New Jersey could jump on the bandwagon as early as 2018. At the expo vendors covered everything from growing and consumption technology to accounting and legal services.

“Being federally illegal, there still isn’t access to banking, which has massive federal regulation,” noted Phil Silvestri, an attorney with the cannabis practice at the Nevada-based law firm of Greenspoon Marder Law Group. “Most of it has to do with the reporting requirements related to cannabis industry. It’s just a very big challenge for any type of bank to provide any access to the industry.”

So, it’s a cash business, which could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars that have to physically move around, which creates other opportunities, like security, which is what Hamilton-based Integrated Security & Communications provides. The company is poised to get into the market in New Jersey.

“It’s going to be a driving force that brings more industry to New Jersey. More security requirements are needed, not only for design and engineering, but also installation and emergency services to secure their assets and protect their staff,” said Account Executive Kevin Comerford.

Seeing as how it’s still illegal in New York and New Jersey, samples, if you were so inclined were hard to come by. But vendors were still hawking their wares, preparing for a day when the laws in these states change.

When our report continues on Monday, we’ll be in Trenton, where lawmakers and others who are working to get a recreational cannabis bill passed will discuss where the effort is now, and what it’s going to take to get it from proposal to law.