This article is sponsored by Next Exhibitions Canada Inc.

A few years ago, Dianne Smirl was suffering from depression and going through menopause, and she had tried various pharmaceutical remedies. She decided to explore whether or not marijuana could help too.

But she didn’t know where to find the right experts to advise her on its proper medical uses, and she didn’t know how to find a doctor who would make a recommendation for her.

“My personal doctor said, ‘Absolutely not, I’m not prescribing that,’ ” said Smirl.

She pressed on, however, and eventually got the information she needed and a recommendation from a doctor.

“[Using cannabis] was life-changing,” said Smirl. “And when I tell people about my experience, they say, ‘I want to try that, how do I start?’ ”

Smirl has the answer to that question. An event and trade-show organizer, and owner of Next Exhibitions Canada Inc., she is launching a Canada-wide series of educational events for people who want to learn more about marijuana and its medical applications. The first “Connect with Cannabis Show” will be held May 12-14 in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Smirl wants to provide the forum for people to learn more about the medical uses of cannabis and whether it’s right for them. She wants to connect patients with the people who can help them navigate this new avenue of treatment options.

From her own experience, she knows it’s hard to know where to start looking for doctors and experts who can help. She wants to facilitate those connections through these kinds of public events.

“Who am I going to go ask? How do I learn to cook with it? What are my options? I don’t want to smoke it. It was a lot of trial and error for me,” she says. “Every patient goes through that. But if we can help make you comfortable asking those questions in a public setting, that’s my overall goal.”

To that end, Smirl is looking for exhibitors and presenters, from across North America, looking for direct connections with clients – health and wellness centers, licensed producers of cannabis, product manufacturers and retailers.

“It’s a chance to meet people face-to-face, have that discussion, and really kick-start that relationship with them,” she says.

The event will begin on Friday afternoon and continue through the weekend. It’ll be a traditional trade show set-up with exhibitor booths in a large hall. There will also be a main stage on Saturday and Sunday, where people will make presentations and interact with attendees.

“[The main-stage event] will be really educational in nature,” says Smirl. “I’m looking for engaging speakers on a range of topics - how to cook with it, what are the different strains, even things as basic as, ‘What is cannabis and what is it used for.’ ”

The three-day event is targeting the new or relatively new medical consumers, particularly the large numbers of baby-boomers reaching an age where their medical needs are increasing, and who are open to trying alternatives to pharmaceuticals.

“They’re the kind of people who say, ‘I want to try it but I don’t know how it’s going to affect me. I’m not sure.’ This event is geared toward that first-timer or beginner-intermediate user,” says Smirl.

She expects 3,000 – 5,000 people to attend the inaugural event in Moncton. She has others in the works for cities across Canada, including Halifax, Toronto, Quebec City and Winnipeg.

Smirl also says those new consumers are looking for face-to-face contact. She says trade shows like this are still popular with people looking for information, even in the age of the Internet.

“There are so many people open to this and open to learning about it,” she says. “But they just don’t know where to start and they want to talk to somebody about it.”

Dianne Smirl is the owner of Next Exhibitions Canada Inc. For more information about becoming an exhibitor or presenter, visit her web site: http://nextexhibitions.com/