Southeast Cannabis Convention and Expo
Education, Advocacy, and Awareness
June 12, 2017
Given the current legislative outlook, one might wonder if Ft Lauderdale, FL. is an ideal destination for a cannabis conference. I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that the market is still a few years from being “lucrative” and that an event in South Florida might not be the best use of their resources. I wouldn’t be surprised if operators from established markets scoffed at the premise of the Florida convention. But I’m really happy that so many people said ‘to heck with it’ and decided to participate in the inaugural SECC event in Florida. The strength of the local market came out in full force for 2 days of incredible seminars, panels, and community building that will reverberate through the Florida cannabis industry for years. So, what was the purpose for the weekend if not cannabis business development? Education, advocacy, awareness, and some good old fashion networking.
The weekend kicked off Saturday morning when more than 100 people arrived to take part in the Veterans Rally. Retired Marine Kristoffer Lewandowski was the first speaker to address the audience, recounting his recent battle on home soil in which he faced life in prison for 6 plants he was cultivating to combat PTSD after completing three tours. Adding to the rally, Veteran representatives from Florida’s local Weed for Warriors Project chapter shared their personal stories with medical cannabis and how their organization is working to effect legislation on a national level. The last speaker for the rally was a very familiar face in the cannabis advocacy arena, Montel Williams. Anything said about how impactful Montel’s speech was would be an understatement; the man knows how to command a room and move an audience. Saturday morning he was incredibly humble, open, and honest about his personal journey with cannabis and why he fights so hard for it. It was an emotional morning that motivated the crowd and set the tone.
Saturday continued with educational programming, show floor demonstrations, and networking culminating with the “Pro Athletes Pro Cannabis” panel where attendees learned how medical cannabis positively effects traumatic impact and inflammation associated with physically demanding activities. Ricky Williams, Marvin Washington, and Boo Williams were among the panelists discussing their decision to publicly endorse medical cannabis, despite the stigma and career risk associated.
“It’s been interesting for me. Personally, as a football player, when I played, no one was having positive conversations about cannabis,” said Ricky Williams, “So before the public has really caught up, it’s been difficult dealing with the stigma and people stereotyping me and making assumptions about me because I use cannabis.”
Sunday’s sessions focused on the science of cannabis and how the body’s Endocannabinoid System reacts to different combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes. One session, led by Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, left attendees speechless as they heard about the elaborate roll our cannabinoid receptors play in our day to day lives and how many approaches used by “modern medicine” are actually counter intuitive to our natural states. One attendee was overheard saying, “I had no idea we had this in our body, why isn’t this more widely known?”
And that’s the answer to why the event was held- education, advocacy, and awareness. Florida will be a gigantic cannabis market. It’s no longer a question of if; it’s a question of when. Based on the energy we felt this weekend, I think it might be sooner than most think. Don’t be surprised if Florida makes a run at adult use cannabis in 2018, with a slew of educated advocates leaving the event armed with knowledge that they’ll help spread to friends, family and peers.
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