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Legal #cannabis businesses are popping up everywhere and this week they’ll take over Boston. After New York and Los Angeles, the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo (#CWCBE) heads to Boston to host dozens of panel discussions and showcase pot-related businesses and innovative technologies. This is one of the largest cannabis conventions in the country, and I had the chance to catch up with show organizer Dan Humiston at the Los Angeles edition.

“The industry has been growing every year since we started in 2014,” says Humiston, who had to deal with a bit of a controversy this year over one of the keynote speakers. Political commentator and former advisor to Donald Trump, Roger Stone, was set to join Reverend Al Sharpton as a keynote speaker in Los Angeles and Boston.

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The organizers decided to cancel his appearance after cannabis associations and exhibitors threatened to boycott the event.

Recording-breaking edition in LA

The controversy ended up not impacting the cannabis convention in LA at all. In fact, the 4th annual conference grew tremendously in both attendance and exhibitors on the expo floor. “Last year we were over 4,000 people and we are well ahead of that. We have 250 exhibitors, which is one of our largest shows,” reveals Humiston.

The organizers expect next year’s edition to be even bigger after California officially legalizes the recreational consumption of cannabis and becomes the largest market in the country. The West Coast is where medical #Marijuana first reached legal status, in 1996, and where entrepreneurs are now finding lots of opportunities for new businesses.

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New Frontier Data, a consulting firm that focuses exclusively on the cannabis industry, predicts the legal market will generate $3.7 billion this year alone in California. The golden state accounts for roughly half of the total market value in the United States, which is on pace to reach $8 billion in 2017. This number includes all 29 states where medical marijuana is available; in addition, seven states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Opportunities for cannabis entrepreneurs

A lot of the people who attend CWCBE conventions are yet to enter the cannabis market. “Our shows seem to accommodate the non-industry person,” says Humiston. “If you’re kind of curious and want to get in but don’t know much about it, it’s a welcoming environment. You don’t feel like you’re in the wrong place.

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Our show is more welcoming for the non-cannabis person.”

The fact that cannabis is still illegal at the federal level creates a considerable amount of hurdles for wannabe "ganjapreneurs." At the same time, it explains why this a small-business industry. “It’s one time in history where so many businesses and so much money are on the sidelines waiting to get in and leaving it for the entrepreneur, on a pretty level playing field, to figure it out,” Dan Humiston explains. “As far as I can tell, it’s one of the most entrepreneurial periods of time. Everybody here is a fresh entrepreneur coming from another industry.” That’s one of the first things that almost all keynote speakers say: they have years of experience elsewhere and are now betting everything on cannabis.

“You don’t see a lot of existing corporations that are coming in and trying to dominate. It’s a lot of new entrepreneurs. I think it’s exciting.” Those big corporations are waiting for something to change at the federal level, which is unlikely in the foreseeable future, as the Trump administration is exploring ways to reverse the path of legalization.

What does this mean? It means that, at least for the next three years, the booming market of marijuana will most likely continue to be dominated by small businesses. And those are the targets of Humiston’s CWCBE, which storms Boston this week. The Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo will take place Oct. 4-6 at the John B. Hynes convention center.