In time with Canada’s legalization of cannabis, Vancouver hosted its very first marijuana convention. A celebration and business opportunity surrounding the plant, without any of it actually being present.

The Vancouver Convention Centre, one the most iconic buildings that identify us Vancouverites, was the perfect scene for the Cannabis Expo, organized by “Lift and Co”. This was an expo/conference that brought together scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and cannabis advocates.

“Lift and Co.” is a Canadian company created in 2013. They have built an online platform to help share experiences, read industry news, and discover strains. Later, they introduced the idea of gathering together consumers and producers in conference, and today’s expo was the success of that. Today we were invited to cover the event, two amongst the hundreds of exhibitors, and thousands of visitors.

Anyone else interested was invited to purchase a ticket, and stop by to listen in on some of the conversations surrounding the plant. Many of the exhibitors we spoke to were very open to all kinds of dialogue. And if you were one of the entrepreneurs getting involved in this new marketplace, there were endless networking possibilities. All in all this was the perfect stage to gather this new and emerging community.

However, as I mentioned earlier, there was just one thing missing: the plant itself. Due to our current regulations, it was legally impossible to have any of the actual product present. Legalization comes hand in hand with responsibility and the Government’s promise to protect consumers; to create a safe and secure environment around the Cannabis Industry. This implies strict regulations, and so far only a few private companies have permits to run their businesses. In Vancouver there are more than 200 permit petitions awaiting to be approved by the City’s Government. This means there are only 3 legal stores open in the Lower Mainland, and not surprising: all of them are run by the Government.

A similar situation is faced by small producers, due the new regulations, is very hard to legally sell their cannabis. This is even when in many cases the quality of their flowers and plants are the best in the market. Paradoxically, small growers also have better knowledge and more experience with the plant, more so than many larger producers. Therefore they are the ones you want to be talking to, to learn what you are ingesting, and how to properly pick your strain for your needs.

During the Expo there was a perceived excitement surrounding big greenhouses and automatized facilities that will increase cannabis production like never before. But no one was able to answer the question of how are they being cultivated? What are farmers feeding their plants in these big factory productions? What level of stress is put into these new growing processes? And how will this stress will be passed onto us, into our bodies? There were also no conversations on how to protect the plant, or discussions on the responsibilities after legalization.

We hope as the cannabis industry continues its time in the limelight and on the forefront of people’s concerns, that we will soon have these answers. And cannabis advocates are hoping that producers, entrepreneurs, and consumers would engage in a different relationship with the plant. A relationship based on gratitude and respect for it and what it offers to human beings, and the planet.

What was promising, was the fact that there is a push for standardization. Producers and scientists are looking to regulate strains so that 10mg of THC, regardless of where you buy the product, will be the same and host the same effects. They are also researching how to increase resistance of the crops, using science applications to back cannabis education.

We took note of “Green Relief”, an aquaponic medical cannabis growing company. They use fish to grow plants free of pesticides and chemicals. Aquaponics combines the best attributes of aquaculture and hydroponics, without the need to discard water or add chemical fertilizers. It produces 10 times the crop yield per acre, and uses 90% less water than conventional farming.

“7 Acres” also brings a different perspective to the cannabis landscape, a fact noticeable in their slogan “Respect the Plant”. Their belief is that “you deserve plants that strive for greatness, rather than commoditization.”

The Expo not only brought together cannabis producers and sellers, but also other businesses and innovators that are benefiting from the cannabis industry. Enriched soil producers, lighting innovations, pest control solutions, irrigation systems, water treatments, handcrafted storage boxes, and much more.

There were also all sort of oils being promoted. Some of them were high in THC, which produces a psychoactive effect; while others were CBD-specific, offering medicinal relief. There were also elixirs, extracts, and concentrates, which are currently not legal in Canada.

Some companies such as “Namaste” are expecting to sell edibles in the future, but for now they too are illegal in Canada. But they have made note that before legalization, many shops reported more profits from edibles than any other cannabis product.

We are now entering a period of normalization, where the hope is that the stigma around cannabis can be erased, much like the lifespan of drinking and alcohol as a consumer product. There are more and more educational ways to increase common knowledge and appreciation for the cannabis plant. We all have this responsibility, like Irie Slekirk, Ceo of “The Green Tent”, said, do what you do best and put cannabis on top”.