Highlights from the 2018 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo

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The second annual World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo was held April 12–14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The conference was organized by Compassionate Certification Centers, a physician-owned national medical cannabis network. According to their press release, the multifaceted conference showcased the latest in cannabis education, research, technology, cultivation, dispensary management, industrial hemp, cannabidiol (CBD) products, licensing, and ancillary business that support the industry.

The conference featured three tracks-continuing education courses, workshops, and main stage talks-that focused on areas such as business, medical, law, and cultivation. The conference opened at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 12 and featured approximately 18 talks throughout the afternoon. Friday and Saturday were full days of exposition and talks starting at 9 a.m. On Friday, there were 25 talks given and on Saturday there were 20. A few talks throughout the three-day show are highlighted below.

The first talk on the main stage on Thursday was given by Patrick Nightingale and was titled “Second Class Citizens? How Cannabis Consumers Continue to Face Prejudices and What They Can Do About It.” Nightingale gave a brief history of the war on drugs in the United States and the stereotypes and prejudices that were propagated as a result. He also discussed the biggest challenges facing the industry including the myth that cannabis is a “gateway drug,” the threat of federal intervention, and the impediment to research because of the status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug.

Also on Thursday afternoon was a session titled “Cannabis & Your Family: Meet the Parents of Children Using Cannabis,” in which several families got up and shared their stories about how medical cannabis helped them. Panelists included Penny and Lilly Howard, Cassandra Stephen, and Gina Caracciolo, who each shared their unique experiences and efforts to help with medical legalization. Penny Howard closed out the talk by saying, “We’re all just people, but it’s just people that change the world.”

Nadir Pearson gave an interesting talk titled “Inspiring the Next Generation,” which discussed the role that millennials play in the cannabis industry. He stressed the importance of educating college students about cannabis and breaking the stigmas associated with it.

Josh Crossney also gave an informative and interesting talk titled “In the Know: Cannabis Science, QC Testing & Academic Research Updates.” Crossney gave the audience an update on recent cannabis research, including the work CannaKids is helping to fund with Dr. David (Dedi) Meiri of Technicon Institute in Israel. Dr. Meiri’s plan includes creating a cannabis strain database, a patient database, using mouse models, and eventually getting to clinical trials in humans.

Crossney also cited the research from other leaders in the field, such as Dr. Sue Sisley’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) study. Dr. Sisley holds the only schedule I research license but faces challenges in getting good samples of cannabis to use in her research. Crossney concluded his talk by stressing the need to work together and collaborate. “We need to keep looking to the future to make this personalized medicine,” he said.


Dr. Mowgli Holmes gave a presentation titled “Cannabis Is So Complicated That It’s Going to Break Western Medicine,” in which he explained the need to answer two key questions in cannabis science: what are you smoking and what should you be smoking? Dr. Holmes explained the science angle a little more in depth, showing images of what your brain receptors look like. He also explained that the biggest challenge is mapping the different molecular combinations of plants to people, calling it an incredibly complicated math problem. “We’ll be working on this problem for decades,” he said. “It’s a very long and complicated research project, but at the end of it you’ll get a more enlightened medical system.”

Shimadzu Scientific Instruments featured a full day of workshops that covered topics ranging from an overview of cannabis science testing, regulations, pesticides, extraction, and more. “The goal of the workshops was to bring scientists together to learn about how analytical chemistry can ensure the quality and safety of medicinal cannabis,” said Bryan Evans, a field sales engineer for Shimadzu.

There was an interesting panel discussion titled “The Suit Against Sessions,” where several of the plaintiffs explained why they got on board to file the law suit against attorney general Jeff Sessions. Former NFL player and cannabis advocate Marvin Washington explained that he got involved to help athletes get access to the medicine that will help them heal the best (among other reasons). “The government should not get between you and your doctor about what treatment is right,” said Washington.

Sebastien Cotte is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Jeff Sessions. He shared his story about advocating for medicinal cannabis in his home state of Georgia for his six-year-old son Jagger, who was diagnosed with a terminal neurological disorder called Leigh’s Disease. The law he helped pass in Georgia has made them “medical refugees” because they only have access in their home state and they cannot travel with medicinal cannabis. He explained that this lawsuit is about freedom for everyone.

The final plaintiff in the panel was veteran Jose Belen who described his 14-year battle with PTSD after returning home for the war in Iraq. Belen said he went to Veterans Affairs (VA) for help and received pills that often made his depression worse. The answer time after time when he went back to the VA was more pills. Belen wasn’t afraid to try cannabis, but he didn’t want to get involved in an illegal market. He is now an advocate for medical cannabis in the hope that he can help other veterans who are suffering from PTSD, depression, or other issues. Belen stated that he views this advocacy work as his next mission and he will do anything he can to free the oppression of cannabis in our country.

There were a number of other great talks throughout the conference as well. For example, there was a panel discussion from several former NFL and NHL players, and a former mixed martial artist where they all shared their personal experiences of pain management and how cannabis helped with that.  There was a talk titled “A Caregiver’s Guide to Navigating Your Medicinal Marijuana Program,” that featured several panelists with experience being caregivers in Pennsylvania and Delaware. “Diversity in Cannabis,” was another panel discussion that explained the work being done in California to create a social equity plan. There was also a great international panel titled “The Growing International Cannabis Industry: Insights on Canadian and Australian Markets.” Overall the conference was a great place for patients, entrepreneurs, doctors, and cannabis advocates to learn more about the industry and network with each other.