By Michael Hill
At Ballys Atlantic City– it’s the kind of gathering where the organizers ask the media not to show the faces of the folks who’ve paid $1,000 for this four day seminar on “How to grow marijuana” and other cannabis concerns and where a leading advocate for legalization asks all law enforcement officers to raise their hands – but not one hand goes up.
“It was a big discussion nearly a hundred years ago when we were debating alcohol prohibition, people were worried about this turning in to a nation of spies. That’s exactly what happened. That’s where we are today with our cannabis laws. People ratting each other out for various advantages in life,” said NY Cannabis Alliance Director Adam Scavone.
So in this ‘haze’ of suspicion – this cannabis convention takes place – looking like any other trade show – with its gift shop of tee shirts and trinkets, posters and pens, books and bumper stickers for sale.
But for any live demonstration here, basil and rosemary substitute for marijuana because New Jersey only allows medical marijuana by prescription.
For the record, this is a “horticulture” seminar that’s what Oaksterdam University calls it. That’s “Oak” as in Oakland, California, the university’s home, and “Sterdam” as in Amsterdam – the dutch city known for its liberal stance on marijuana.
We’re excited that they’re here to train our industry players. We really couldn’t be more happy,” said NJ Norml Executive Director Evan Nison
This seminar teaches how to avoid getting busted and knowing your rights under the law-– from the lawyer who led New York’s charge for its compassionate care act.
“It never hurts to invoke your right to an attorney,” said Adam Scavone.
This seminar promotes legalization in every state as more, younger Americans become eligible to vote.
“Part of what we teach is not just civil disobedience and how to be safe and responsible in the process, we also teach you how to change the law in your neck of the woods and give you those tips and tools of not only how to convince your friends and families but the regulators that it’s time to happen,” said Oaksterdam University Chancellor Dale Sky Jones
Oaksterdam’s anticipating and preparing its students for a budding-to-ballooning marijuana market.
Its first east coast seminar offers a lot of “how to’s” from seed to harvest, not just how to grow marijuana in a grow lab tent but hot to grow it indoors safely.
“We need to make sure the electrical system is set up very safely with dedicated circuits by professionals,” said Oaksterdam University instructor Joey Ereneta.
“We need to keep the knowledge of our grow on a need-to-know basis,” said Ereneta.
The trainees – from as far away as Missouri – took pages and pages of notes – to prepare for a series of tests to earn a certification that could lead to a job, a career or perhaps even owning a cannabis business or dispensary.
Some of the people here come to capitalize on the growing cannabis industry.
The owner of this headshop – Hollywood Smokin’ near Atlantic City – came to grow her business, learn and educate.
“There’s so much ignorance around the cannabis industry and there are so many people desperate for some sort of relief,” said Kim Betesh.
Oaksterdam estimates medical marijuana is a $2 billion industry with potential to quadruple in the next five years.
But, Oaksterdam and many of these trainees say they’re counting on an end to marijuana prohibition. Then perhaps, all this is an educated gamble in this gaming mecca.