HempCon, a major event for medical marijuana users, kicked off a tour of the Southwest in San Jose this month.
The festival, which ran from Jan. 17-19 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, will reappear in the same place April 19-20 after touring three other cities. HempCon is geared toward those in the MMJ community, but it celebrates all marijuana culture and encourages legalization.
Conventions like this are becoming more common, and drawing bigger crowds of stoners into the open, as public attitudes about cannabis change rapidly. A clear majority of Americans now wants to legalize weed, as does a clear majority of Californians.
The state is expected to do just that, either this year or in 2016, depending on the complicated politics of ballot referendums. The expectation of coming reform provides a new air of excitement to events like HempCon.
Freddy Sayegh, a criminal defense lawyer and marijuana activist, was the keynote speaker. Legal weed is inevitable, he said, and it’s time for the pot industry to get ready.
“That’s a future we should all prepare for,” Sayegh said before the event. “Things will change drastically. This will move from a non-profit to a for-profit market, a competitive market opened up to recreational uses. I believe 2014 is the year to talk about what future distribution models will look like and look back at what we can learn from other states that have legalized it already.”
HempCon, which was expected to draw about 10,000 people, was a combination of party and educational event. Doctors were on hand to write patient recommendations, and vendors explained the newest smoking accessories and hydroponic devices.
There were also workshops and lectures about everything from marijuana processing to delivery services. Speakers included Ralf Rainer, a consultant who spoke about dispensary management; Robert Calkin from the Cannabis Career Institute, who spoke on legal compliance in California; and Gary Maciel, a hemp historian who discussed pot’s peculiar past.
California is home to some of the largest marijuana expos in the world, from the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup in February to the Kush Expo in July. HempCon is one of the biggest.
It’s somewhat ironic the event would take place in San Jose, since the city is moving to ban dispensaries. A group of patient advocates filed a petition Jan. 13 seeking to stop city leaders from doing that. They have until May 16 to gather 20,372 voter signatures in order to put their counterproposal on the November ballot.