Shattering Conventions: The San Francisco Weed Con Goes Straight

February 16, 2018

Weed has been legal in California for barely a month now, but this has already made the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) into just another tradeshow. 

For starters, the conference began at 8:30 a.m. and people actually showed up to the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco at this inhuman start time, or not long after it. Many convention goers are dressed in blazers and checkered dress shirts. Some of these dress shirts are even (gasp!) tucked in. 

“How many sport coats and blue jeans do you see out there?” cannabis comic and ICBC emcee Ngaio Bealum asked. “You see that way more than just tie-dye and shorts and crazy long hair and white people with dreadlocks. It’s changed a lot.”


The event’s speakers all have professional headshots on the ICBC website. Only a few of the male speakers have beards. In fact, you can probably spot crazier beards in the line for Pliny the Younger at the Russian River Brewing Company in nearby Santa Rosa than here at the weed con.

Beer is now crazier than pot in this very short time.

“Listen, it’s changed a lot because it also doesn’t smell like burning weed for the whole day—now only at lunch, and sometimes at the after party,” Bealum said. “Everybody is way more serious.

"Nobody gets stoned at work these days," he added.

You can detect the smell of weed here and there, coming from the hallways next to the Hyatt’s conference rooms, but it quickly wafts away. As I emerge from the hotel’s revolving door into the Embarcadero Center, I see a woman taking her last drag off of a fat blunt while she waits for her Uber. She stomps the blunt on the ground without even bothering to save the roach as the Toyota Corolla she hailed arrives. 

Inside the same hotel with the funky elevators where High Anxiety and The Towering Inferno were filmed in the 1970s, all of the samples boast of being bereft of any THC whatsoever. This is because of compliance.

Compliance is the big buzzword at this year’s ICBC. 

At the Tommy Chong booth nobody is giving away pre-rolls or weed-infused gummy bears, although those products are sold with Chong’s licensed image on them. They will give you a free sample of their hand lotion though, just like at any other tradeshow. This hand lotion has hemp oil in it, making it all so weedy.

But what is it with the hand lotion at the tradeshows? 

The most popular speaker at the ICBC by far is Lori Ajax, the California state cannabis czar. The crowd that surrounds her when she gets off the stage is so big that it interferes with the video promoting the Whova event management app, one of ICBC’s sponsors.

Ngaio has to get on the mic and ask them to take it all outside into the vendor area.

And this moment of aspiring businesspeople peppering the state regulator with questions about compliance and the licensing process is as crazy as this weed con gets.  

Every month in “Shattering Conventions,” author Bob Calhoun crashes a new tradeshow, convention or conference looking for a way to fit ineven when he doesn't always belong. Calhoun is the author of "Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor." You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.

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About the author
Bob Calhoun