XpoCanna: A place to learn and grow
Mohegan ― Thousands gathered this weekend at the Mohegan Sun Sky Convention Center for the 2nd Annual XpoCanna cannabis convention and exhibition.
XpoCanna President Wes Jenks said roughly 3,000 people attended the “largest gathering of cannabis companies in the state” on Saturday alone and was hoping to hit that mark again on Sunday.
Jenks said attendance doubled last year’s, the first year the event was held.
The event featured 100 vendors, ranging from dispensaries and testing labs to packing and consulting companies, to showcase products and network. Roughly 50 guest speakers were on hand to teach businesses and the general public about cultivating, starting businesses and learning about different uses for the plant.
“Our goal here is to cover both,” Jenks said, “have an event that is good not only for the businesses to market amongst themselves but also the general public to come in and get educated.”
Though there were about six dispensaries present, state law prohibits the sale of cannabis outside of licensed dispensary locations. So, instead of selling weed, dispensaries handed out coupons for patrons to use at their official locations.
Jenks, a cannabis advocate and user who has a background in organizing events, said it was a dream of his to see cannabis grow the way it has on the East Coast. XpoCanna also hosts conventions in Pennsylvania and Montana, and Jenks said he’s excited to see how much it can grow.
“It’s a very complex business, and that’s what we’re here to represent,” Jenks said.
There were lectures running for the event’s two-day duration to learn about the history of the plant, how to obtain a license and the financial aspect of the industry, as well as one vendor whose mission is to teach people about the medicinal benefits of marijuana.
Burn N Lean CT, based in North Branford, is a private, members-only organization that believes in a more holistic approach to life and medicine, said Co-Founder Jennifer Messore.
The organization got started after Messore was diagnosed with bladder cancer and, through research, she found there’s a correlation between her illness and the food and medicines she previously put in her body. She said the more she learned, the more she wanted to tell people.
“A lot of times people don’t realize if you are working with plant-based medicine, you’re not putting chemicals and toxins and man-made stuff into your body,” she said.
Co-founder Patrick Hannon Jr., a self-proclaimed cannabis activist, said he suffered pain after a series of car accidents and did not want to become dependent on opioids for treatment. He said he saw too many friends become addicts, some even losing their lives.
The organization, which uses conventions to spread its mission and increase membership, aims to help people heal themselves with the plant and offered their own seminars on cooking, extracting and growing at the event.
“We like to teach people how to obtain their medicine that they need at home without having to go out to do it,” Hannon said.
For a young medicinal user like Stella Cheff, that is what she is looking for.
Cheff said she was diagnosed with functional neurological disorder that does not have a prescribed medication available. So, she turned to cannabis. She said she attended the event with her father to learn more about the options for her self-treatment and hopes to grow her own plants, once it is legal come July 1, and when she has enough space to do so.
“It’s pretty cool that it’s starting to become a more normalized thing for people to grow,” Cheff said of consuming and growing the plant.
The stigma surrounding pot smoking is what drove a local company, Kushley, to re-invent itself.
Based in Waterford, Jim and Colleen Seiler watched their daughter’s friend suffer from brain cancer and turn to marijuana to alleviate pain. Since it was not legal at the time, her parents did not approve, so she turned to the Seilers, who had already sold an odor-control product for 30 years, for their help.
One or two sprays of their product, known as Roban at the time, and her parents never knew she smoked.
“That’s when the light bulb went off,” Jim Seiler said. “Trying to reinvent yourself.”
That was about eight years ago, Seiler said, and the product and company became known as Kushley. He said he and his wife use conventions to get their name out and are now featured in dispensaries and head shops.
Seiler said their spray is non-toxic, biodegradable and safe on humans and pets as it is made of plant oils with no chemicals. He said it removes 99.6% of hydrogen sulfide and can get the smell of skunk off an animal, and is largely used on bathroom and kitchen odors.
“What’s unique about it is it doesn’t mask or perfume the odor, it actually biodegrades it,” Seiler said.
Products like Kushley, as well as the accounting firms and packaging companies, stuck out the most to one couple from Norwalk.
Marissa Gonzalez and Gabe Murillo, marijuana consumers, said they were surprised about the cross-section of industries present at the event, which reaffirmed their idea that weed is more than just the plant
“There’s a whole world out there to explore,” Gonzales said.
Gonzalez was most interested in learning about the different uses for the plant while Murillo was looking to gain a better understanding of how the industry in Connecticut will compare to neighboring states like Massachusetts.
They were both excited to see the stigma surrounding the plant’s use start to break.
“Stuff like this is really good, I think, for an industry like this because it gets its exposure, it gets us connected to people who are experts in this field,” Murillo said.