By: Ana Gabriela García

On January 31, Betaworks Studios hosted Render(); Power Plant, a conference about the cannabis industry’s legal and financial landscapes. Betaworks offers a working and learning space for emerging tech companies and startups as they enter established NYC tech and business networks. This Friday, the studio placed a special emphasis on the role of technology in the cannabis industry. Participants and speakers shared how innovations such as integrative health care, E-commerce, and virtual communication with health professionals are and will continue to advance, influence and transform the burgeoning cannabis industry. The day began with Betaworks’ so-called “fire-side chats,” panels, and demonstrations. The networking and happy hour began at 3:45pm and ended at 5:00pm. Industry experts, entrepreneurs, cannabis curious investors and venture capitalists shared their insights and market projections.

Brian Weber, a Frontier Tech Enthusiast and host of the podcast Lit Up: Big Ideas in Cannabis Technology and Innovation said it was the best cannabis event he had been to for now. Explaining the difference between Betawork’s event and other cannabis ones that are free, Weber said “Paying up for a premium event you are going to get more focused people with more experience. It’s worth your time.”

The Power Plant conference also featured many complex, important conversations regarding race, gender, and implicit biases. The cannabis industry is developing at a time in which businesses are trying their hardest to break down the barriers of entry that deny many access to employment and ownership. The industry evolves and grows alongside powerful social movements. It is becoming more frequent to denounce established business practices which exclude people of color and LGBTQIA individuals, and more frequent to scrutinize the companies from which these practices arise. It is therefore necessary to question how the cannabis industry sets fair practices. With the help of tech, how is the cannabis industry going to make sure it doesn’t fall into the same marginalizing tropes as other new supposedly barrier-breaking industries?

Image By: Ronit PintoJeanne Sullivan, Partner at the Arcview Group discussing the history of Cannabis in her panel “Why are YOU doing THIS? 30 Years of Tech investments… And Now Cannabis”

The last panel of the day was called ‘Social Equity: A Founder & an Investor Discuss” hosted by Christina Hollenback, an Impact Investor, and Tamara Allen, co-founder of The People’s Dispensary. The panel discussed the ways in which people of color and LGBTQIA individuals are facing roadblocks because of implicit cultural biases and the ways in which the cannabis community can combat these obstacles.

The studios open concept space encouraged individuals to mingle. Betaworks supplied beverages and lunch. Recess, sparkling water hemp drinks dotted the tops of tables, and many attendees also enjoyed the refreshing beverage . The diverse, enigmatic leaders and members of the cannabis industry reflected the dynamic and multi-faceted nature of the industry itself. The pink lights cemented the vibrant energy felt in the studio. Participants, anticipating the impending change to New York’s cannabis laws, listened to panels that delved into legal cannabis legislation with excitement and dedication. Section IV of the conference, aptly named ‘Legalize it!… And then What?’, included an hour and twenty-minute panel called “Cannabis Law: Now and What’s To Come” hosted by speakers Barry Hartman, Randal Meyer, and Alyson Martin.

Dr. June Chin on integrative medicine and the endocannabinoid system

As soon as 3:45 hit, the studio became synonymous with a beehive. Delicious draft beer, wine, cheese plates, and good conversations abounded. The participants, which included industry experts, cannabis curious investors, VCs, analysts and entrepreneurs, exchanged information, advice, and business cards hungrily. No one left empty-handed. Participants walked away with knowledge, professional relationships, and a goodie bag filled with CBD goodies and caramels, even a copy of Honeysuckle magazine.

<e/m> Ana Gabriela García, one of our Spring Interns, is currently pursuing an MS in Publishing at NYU SPS. <e/m>