Emerald Exchange puts spotlight on a budding cannabis sector

Dubbed as an event featuring vendors and representatives “from Mendo to Malibu,” the March 18 Emerald Exchange event, held at a private ranch in Malibu overlooking the Santa Monica Mountains, was a very unique experience.

The event showcased the opportunities and challenges in the cannabis sector as laws, ordinances and social perceptions change in the ever-evolving conversation in California and beyond.

“This medical marijuana event is designed out of a great need to put people in the cannabis industry all together in one place,” said Brittany Confer, public relations director of the third annual Emerald Exchange, a cannabis business sector and informational experience.

The farmers market featured vendors or all sorts, displaying various food options, both with cannabidiol- and THC-infused products. 

“The traditional cannabis farmers in Northern California who are sun-grown cultivators need to interact with the Southern California sector of the economy,” Confer said. “This event allows farmers, product distributors, consumers and investors to all get together in one space.”

Infused product offerings were plentiful; herbs, sushi, waters, wines, coffees, teas, pies, brownies and more were available. There were also plant medicines, tonics and an elixir bar.

Specialty vendors abounded, including Chef Holden Jagger of Altered Plates, who was also featured on March 19 at the third annual Vintage Grocers celebration in Malibu, where he served a Malay Charlotte’s Web Hemp Thai Tarik drink.  

Jagger provides private cannabis dining experiences focusing on cannabis pairings wherein a dish is paired with a specific strain of cannabis as one might pair a wine with a food. 

“I offer paired dinners with foods from my own garden that are sun grown and from right in the Malibu [American Viticultural Area],” Jagger said. 

Wholesam, a food truck featuring Sami Udell, the personal chef for Ludacris, provided additional options.  

The mood was festive and attendees were curious about the panoply of options and the seemingly unending emerging business, investment, and consumption opportunities in the canna sector.

The emerging recreational marijuana users market is exploding after California voters approved Proposition 64 on Nov. 8, 2016, legalizing marijuana use for citizens over 21.

The Emerald Exchange event focused not only on marijuana growing, but on growing pains in a burgeoning economy and sector in the state and national economy.

Attendees commented and reflected on how the national narrative has segued from a celebratory “smoke ’em if ya got ’em” tone to a realization that cannabis is emerging from a prohibition era to a manufacturing, distribution and regulation era. 

Further, there is a central focus on health and wellness, and how cannabis consumption can heal and provide effective therapeutic treatments. Some of the proceeds of the event benefited California-based CannaKids, a cooperative that provides marijuana-based treatment modalities to children and adults with cancer. 

Because of the ever-fluctuating dynamics in the cannabis sector, the Emerald Exchange included an informative and lively speakers series addressing emerging economic, supply and demand, regulatory, and cultural transitions that are surging ahead due to the changes in the regulatory climate. 

The Cannabis Appellations Project, featuring Justin Calvino, Genine Coleman and Sunshine Johnson from Northern California, attracted a lot of attention. An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical identification in which something is grown such as cannabis being grown for medicine, food, fiber, fuel or fun, the project’s website, www.mendomap.org, explains. Restrictions such as yields, constituent profiles, and other quality factors may apply before an appellation name may legally appear on packaging. Appellations are defined by natural and cultural boundaries, such as topography, climate and communities.

Now that marijuana is legalized, the challenges include how to regulate its growing, production, marketing and distribution. An industry that for so long was not part of the regulatory world is headed dead-on into the regulatory realm.

The speakers had an overall sense hope that, as the formal opprobrium attendant with laws prohibiting recreational marijuana use and possession subsides somewhat, the essence of cannabis culture in Northern California will not disappear. They had a strong determination to retain their culture and way of life. Medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, and for many of these farmers, marijuana growing goes back much further than that. As the artisanal, small batch cannabis cultivators and medicine makers from Northern California gathered to provide both education and top quality products in a format that encouraged a mindful dialogue in a pristine environment, the new 420-friendly world and all the complications of the forthcoming transitions seemed a world away. 

Regulatory and compliance issues, decisions whether to buy wholesale or produce on site, tax concerns, the forces of supply and demand, and issues surrounding all the emerging peripheral economies hover just over the horizon.

For one evening, as the sun set gloriously over the horizon of the Malibu Mountains, attendees settled in to watch the breathtaking view and to enjoy the evening’s festivities and music.  

Attendee Lynette Roblero summed up the mood.

“I came here today to be part of a change, a movement to an organic choice,” Roblero said. “I believe CBD is part of that movement. It is for people who don’t want to get high but want these products that are able to help with sports medicine, holistic health care, pain management, homeopathic remedies and overall organic wellness.”