As cannabis becomes more socially accepted, conferences and expos have been popping up all around the world. But the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) sets itself apart with its global focus and high-end, cosmopolitan feel.
The conference has been running since 2014, and now takes place in cities in the United States, Canada and Germany. The next one is being held in San Francisco on February 1 and 2, And with all-inclusive tickets priced at $499, it’s not marketed towards the stereotypical stoner.
“It’s a high-end conference,” Alex Rogers — producer and founder of the ICBC — told Civilized. “You see a lot of people with suits, the production is high value, we run on time, it’s not a shitshow.”
Alex Rogers (middle) with Congressman Earl Blumenauer (left) and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (right).
The ICBC is also part of a transformation in the way the cannabis industry both views itself and is viewed by others: more sophisticated, intelligent, and profitable.
The transformation reflects Rogers’ own development.
Rogers got his start in the cannabis industry in San Francisco, holding a sign on Haight-Ashbury that said “legalize weed” and working with the legendary activist Jack Herer to collect signatures for petitions.
“I was an aimless young man, and I liked smoking weed,” Rogers told Civilized. “I didn’t really want to do anything else because it just seemed like a fun, righteous thing to do.”
From there, he moved to Europe for eight years, helping with the High Times Cannabis Cup and working on a cannabis farm in Switzerland. Then, he was arrested for dealing cannabis, and spent six months in a Berlin prison.
“That was kind of my wake-up call, to go back to being an active, proactive, productive member of the cannabis community,” he explained.
The cannabis community gathers at an ICBC in Berlin
“People need the information”
He came up with the idea for the ICBC because his patients kept asking him questions about the product and the industry as medical marijuana laws changed in the state.
“When I started it, there weren’t that many conferences, so it was just filling an informational need," he said. "People need the information.”
But now, as cannabis becomes more and more prevalent in society, ICBC distinguishes itself by being small, professional, and high-end.The conference itself is a one day and one track with small boutique expo. This environment creates packed speaker sessions all day long.
But the people that are there are important players in the industry. At the upcoming event in February, attendees and speakers include Lori Ajax, chief of the bureau of cannabis control, and Debby Goldsberry, a 25-year veteran of the industry.
Rogers says that one of the biggest draws for attendees is the VIP reception the night before the conference.
“It’s the most teeming, fierce, globular ball of cannabis networking that I’ve ever seen,” he said. "And I would consider it one of the top networking parties in the world for cannabis....It’s just a whole heck of a lot of fun, and I would hasten to say that tens of millions of dollars have been directly or indirectly generated from the VIP reception.”
Tommy Chong at the ICBC
“A better world”
As the legalization movement makes gains across North America, longstanding cannabis stigmas are being dispelled. The tie-dyed, dreadlocked image of cannabis is evolving, and with it public perception of both the benefits and risks of the plant. Rogers hopes that his conference will help push that message forward while showing people that marijuana can be taken seriously.
“That change is not just to legalize cannabis,” Rogers said, “but, you know, a better world, a world where there’s more freedom and liberty, a healthier, happier, more holistic world.”
Civilized readers can get a special discount for the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco by using the code VipCiv and buying tickets here.