Innovation is the Budding Theme at Marijuana Summit

Article by Dana Kerr, CNET

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The New West Summit at the Hyatt hotel in downtown San Francisco looked similar to other business conferences held there throughout the year. Men and women in business suits hurried around, people huddled in corners talking shop, and unembellished booths showed off varied graphs and charts.

But every once in a while, conference goers got hit with a strong waft of marijuana.

That’s because this summit was all about weed. At their booths, companies displayed glass urns filled with buds, cannabis-laced chocolate bars and different kinds of vape pens and bongs. Yet among the firms touting this typical pot paraphernalia, there were other kinds of businesses dealing in marijuana: tech startups.

“This plant has been illegal and underground since the invention of technology,” said Steve DeAngelo, founder and CEO of Harborside, one of the world’s largest medical cannabis dispensaries. “This conference represents the intersection of Bay Area startup culture and cannabis.”

Weed has become big business. Four states — Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Colorado — have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 25 states allow for medical use of the drug. That number is bound to grow too; this election season nine more states are set to vote on legalization. The industry is now worth $7.2 billion, according to New Frontier, a data-analysis group focused on marijuana, and it’s growing 29 percent per year. By 2020, New Frontier forecasts, the industry will be worth $20.5 billion (and some estimates put that figure a lot higher). That type of escalation makes the weed business one of the fasting-growing industries in the US.

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