Marijuana's annual holiday, April 20, may be commonly associated with wearing tie-dye T-shirts and eating brownies, but a local Colorado Springs company wants to turn it into an event for business suits and entrepreneurship.
Every event hall and conference room at The Mining Exchange hotel in downtown Colorado Springs was filled with botanists, doctors, scientists, lawyers and investors for the first International Cannabis Technology Expo on Saturday and Sunday, which organizers described as a "wild success."
Live music from seven bands and four DJs blared from the speakers at the hotel's main event hall, which was lined with tables from 30 vendors representing medical marijuana dispensaries, attorneys specializing in marijuana law and manufacturers of the latest advances in cannabis technology.
The expo, which kicked off Saturday with lectures on how to finance a marijuana business, licensing, leasing, zoning, taxes, funding and law enforcement, was created by Studio A64 and the MMJ Business Academy to give marijuana enthusiasts and professionals in Colorado Springs a 4/20 event that brings investors to the Pikes Peak region.
"We had no idea what to expect because this was the first expo of its kind," said Studio A64 owner and MMJ Business Academy member KC Stark. "It has been a wild success. We've had about 700 people come through the expo by the middle of Easter Sunday, and the events will go on until midnight."
The MMJ Business Academy, founded by Colorado Springs-based attorney Charles T. Houghton in 2011, helps startups, investors and owners navigate legal regulations and take advantage of market opportunities in the Colorado cannabis industry.
The academy was designed to help entrepreneurs enter the marijuana business with the know-how necessary to have the best shot at a successful marijuana business.
"We've done it, we've been there ourselves, and we've helped hundreds of people do the same," Stark said.
"This is the end of prohibition, and the beginning of an industrial, medical and recreational revolution. That's millions of jobs, and I'd love to help bring thousands of them to Colorado Springs."
Removing the stigma from medical and recreational marijuana and to create a 4/20 event that was appealing to the Colorado Springs community were the two main objectives of the expo, said MMJ Business Academy strategic organizational engineer Ingrid Henderson.
"We're hoping to continually show that marijuana is a legitimate industry and that we're stimulating the economy," Henderson said.
"We want to show that Colorado Springs is on the map, and we do have fun cultural events. It's a way of legitimizing the industry and showing people that you can have a safe, fun time and release the stigma on cannabis."
With the success of the first expo, Stark said the Mining Exchange and the MMJ Business Academy have agreed to hold the event for the next 10 years.
The potential of the marijuana industry in Colorado Springs is largely untapped, and Stark said entrepreneurs and investors could to expand the industry, possibly surpassing the popularity that Denver has enjoyed since recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado.
"I'm going to make sure that Colorado Springs has lots of reasons to bring business here. I don't want a bunch of dope smokers. If you just want to get high, then go to Denver. If you want to change the world, be involved in business and politics and be part of a revolution, that's what we do here," Stark said.