By: Keyanah Nurse
On January 21, 2020, cannabis industry leaders and enthusiasts alike shuffled into a packed auditorium at The New School in New York City in order to hear all things 2020 market trends and projections. Hosted by CannaGather, a national 13,000+ member organization that builds community within the cannabis industry through networking, education, and advocacy events, this January event offered a “Brand Insider’s View” by featuring Oren Levy, CEO of Green Angel CBD and Jaime Pearson, CEO and President of Bhang Corporation. After an hour of mingling, where event sponsors Cole Shotz P.C., MGO, Wilson Elser, Grassi & Co., Sunstone, and Anderson Kill displayed their professional service providing opportunities, guests sojourned to the auditorium for the scheduled speakers.
CannaGather Founder Josh Weinstein opened the lecture with news, announcements, and updates on the U.S. cannabis industry, urging audience members to keep abreast of the political developments surrounding the plant and to engage with politicians and lawmakers on Twitter. Such direct action tactics are absolutely necessary in the battle for federal legalization of cannabis. To that end, Weinstein also invited audience members to join CannaGather NY on a bus ride to Albany on January 28 for Lobby Day.
Oren Levy, CEO of Green Angel CBD took the stage soon thereafter. With Weinstein as his interlocutor, Levy shared with the audience the harrowing details of a recent encounter with the NYPD: in November 2019, the NYPD wrongfully seized 109-pounds of his legal hemp supply, even though Levy demonstrated repeatedly that his products were within the legal compliance guidelines. After proving that all his legal paperwork was in order, the NYPD nevertheless arrested Levy’s brother and held him for 35 hours, prompting Levy to alert the media to shed light on this injustice. Channel 12 News took up the story and as he told the audience: “Every time [NYPD] put out a statement, I fought back. Eventually, the charges were dropped.” He even explained to the audience that the officer responsible for the arrest had a history of corruption and harassment. Although Levy has since recovered his supply, he is still suing the NYPD for $10 million dollars, given the legal and inspection fees that he has incurred due to this incident. He concluded his remarks by noting that cops need better and more updated education around hemp products and that fighting back against the political influence of big pharma is also key in the fight to legalization.
Keynote speaker Jaime Pearson, CEO and President of Bhang Corporation, closed out the lecture portion of the event. The daughter of a Vietnam vet who has cultivated cannabis for over 55 years, Pearson grew up on a farm in Montana and has always been in close proximity to the plant. However, she didn’t enter the industry until later in life when she teamed up with band Cyprus Hill (DJ Muggs is her first maternal cousin) to manage their relationships with cannabis brands. As CEO of Bhang, Pearson has overseen the company going public, as well as the expansion of the brand through licensing deals. Her hope for the cannabis market in 2020 included federal legalization, such that companies like Bhang can have a uniform national presence. “We’ve exceeded the tipping point and this election year will be pivotal,” she explained to the audience, “and I think people are underestimating the power of the cannabis issue…it’s the one thing that the Democrats and Republicans are actually agreeing on.”
Pearson was also optimistic about the research potential behind more scientific initiatives to study the Endocannabinoid System, which is largely responsible for hormone regulation and establishing homeostasis in the body. “What I think is gonna happen is as we start doing research on CBD, which we can do now, we’re starting to see that is does reduce inflammation and is 10 times more effective than ibuprofen and doesn’t have all these side effects,” she noted, “…CBD was the gateway drug for us and hemp is helping us get there, but I think we’re going to start seeing THCV, which is an appetite suppressant. You’re gonna start seeing CBC, which they know now actually does fight migraines… You’re going to start seeing products that actually do what they say they do because the science and technology is getting better.”
The evening ended with an after party, giving attendees the opportunity to try free samples of Bhangs’ delictible (yet non-infused) chocolates and to continue talking shop about the directions of the industry. Chatter even included speculations around CannaGather NY’s next event (February 18, 2020) which will feature guest speaker New York Senator Chuck Schumer on the future of federal legalization.