If you live in Austin, Texas, your feelings about the annual South by Southwest festival and conference are probably mixed at best. Sidewalks, restaurants, and stores flood with tourists, and traffic comes to a standstill. Sure, sometimes you luck out and end up at a free show that’s actually good, but most of the events feel overpriced and overhyped if it’s not your first Southby rodeo. This year, though, that all changes. This year South by Southwest has an entire track of events called “Cannabusiness” with a wide range of panels featuring professionals from every facet of the cannabis industry, as well as meetups, mentor sessions, and live podcast events.
This is a bold move in a state that’s severely lagging on the legalization front (Texas technically has medical marijuana, but it’s literally only available for one condition). It proves that every day, cannabis becomes more of a legitimate sector of business, and states that still haven’t legalized are woefully behind the times and falling short when it comes to the needs of their own citizens. But enough of the frustrations of living in a prohibition state. The real question is what does one actually get out of attending Southby’s Cannabusiness track? Is it worth the price of admission?
First off, all Cannabusiness events are being put on as part of a convergence track, meaning any badge can get you into any South by Southwest Cannabusiness event. So if you’re already attending the festival in any capacity, you’re good to go and should absolutely hit up any Cannabusiness event you can fit into your schedule. If you’re considering attending mainly for the Cannabusiness track, there are some pretty worthwhile opportunities that would be hard to find anywhere else. Featured speakers include Steve DeAngelo, a “life-long cannabis entrepreneur, activist, author, and on-screen personality”, Emily Paxhia, the co-founder and Managing Partner of Poseidon, which is “an investment management company founded in 2013 to invest exclusively in the cannabis industry”, and Dr. Sue Sisley, who’s the “Site Principal Investigator for the only FDA-approved randomized controlled trial in the world examining safety/efficacy of whole plant marijuana in combat veterans with treatment-resistant post traumatic stress disorder PTSD.” These speakers and many more will be part of sessions that address many facets of the current state of the cannabis industry.
The featured sessions have pretty broad titles like “CANNABIS: From Fringe Issue to Big Industry” and “Cannabis and Wellness: The Body and Beyond” while other sessions speak to more specific interests. There’s a session called “Cannabis Research Shackled by Politics Since 1968” which discusses the challenges and constraints of conducting scientific research on cannabis, and one titled “When Can We All Get High Together? (Legally)” which addresses the gaps in legalization that leave people in legal states without public places where they’re allowed to consume cannabis. There’s even a “Convergence Keynote” in which former Speaker of the House John Boehner and Chairman and CEO of Acreage Holdings Kevin Murphy will discuss “the likely paths to national legalization and the challenges and opportunities America's fastest growing industry face[s] today.” The meeting of a prominent politician with the CEO of a cannabis investment firm seems emblematic of South by Southwest’s Cannabusiness track and of the progress being made to end the stigma around cannabis nationwide.
But the Cannabusiness track isn’t all about sitting and listening. There are also mentor sessions with Lauren Estevez, attorney and founder of LME Law, Mills Miller, the founder of CBD company MINERAL, and Sameen Ahmad, the VP of Events at High Times. These mentor sessions offer 15 minutes of one on one time with industry professionals; basically a networking wet dream. They sound like an unmissable opportunity for anyone trying to get their foot in the door of the cannabis industry.
And last but definitely not least, GRAV will be at a few Southby events and we’d love to see you there! On March 12th we’ll be sponsoring an event called The Cosmic Stew at The Electric Church on E Cesar Chavez Street. From 7 pm - 2 am, seven different bands will play, accompanied by visuals by Astral Violet. There will also be vegan street food, and the show’s open to all ages and only costs $5 for admission. GRAV will be there with a pop-up shop selling merch and saying hi, and the first 100 people through the door will get a free GRAV Taster. We’re doing more pop-up shops on the 14th and the 16th from 12 pm - 5 pm in the patio area of Empire Control Room. Come see us, pick up some pipes, and chat! We love meeting new people.
On March 14th GRAV will also be hosting an event called “Being a Successful Entrepreneur in the Cannabis Space” with a keynote presentation by Patrick Rea, the CEO and managing director of CanopyBoulder. This event will include open networking and a Q and A session with Patrick Rea. It will offer valuable information about how to get in on the ground floor of the “green rush,” especially in states like Texas that haven’t legalized yet, where there’s an opportunity to be the first on the scene once legalization happens. Earlybird tickets are only $15 but they’ll go up to $25 for general admission, so if you’re interested get tickets sooner rather than later!
GRAV’s honored to be taking a small part in such an exciting moment in the cannabis industry. The plant's inclusion in a huge, mainstream festival like South by Southwest proves how far the industry has come out of the shadows and how much stigma it has shed. But the fact that this is happening in a prohibition state also highlights how far we have to go, both in legalization and in addressing the past and current social injustices of the racist war on drugs. We’re all living in an important moment for the history of cannabis, a turning point in the social discussion. And here at GRAV, a cannabis lifestyle brand based in Austin, it’s exciting to be along for the ride.
Will we see you at any Southby events? Let us know in the comments below!