As an increasing number of states work to legalize marijuana, entrepreneurs all across America are searching for business opportunities to help them achieve their dream of building an empire in the cannabis industry. Unfortunately, with the federal government hell bent on prohibition and legal marijuana states being regulated by varying degrees of legislation, it can be difficult to launch a marijuana startup.

It is for this reason we are seeing a number of marijuana workshops and cannabis colleges popping up all over the country, teaching ambitious ganjapreneurs the ins and outs of this burgeoning industry. One in particular, the Comfy Tree Cannabis Academy, is preparing to tour the Midwest in order to educate curious cannabis enthusiasts in Kentucky, Georgia and Illinois on what it takes to successfully enter the field of medical marijuana.

Comfy Tree co-owner Tiffany Bowden says their business and legal workshop is a highly beneficial tool for anyone considering a career in the cannabis industry, even for entrepreneurs living in states where marijuana laws have not experienced much reform.

“For the people who are in the places where they don’t have plant legislation or decrim laws, they can still get involved in the cannabis industry,” said Bowden. “And that helps them to get a foot in the door and build a brand up for themselves until the legislation comes though.”

During this weekend’s seminar in Owensboro, Kentucky, Comfy Tree will host several cannabis experts from across the country who will provide in-depth presentations about the many facets of the medical marijuana and retail hemp industry. “We have at least two cultivators that will be coming in talking about things like quality control and seed to sale,” in addition to basic cultivation techniques,” said Bowden. “So if you’ve never grown anything ever before, the cultivation lecture will be invaluable.”

More experienced growers will benefit from listening to expert from Denver-based GrowHire, who will speak in detail about the cultivation of terpenes, which Bowden says is an important aspect of growing medical marijuana that many aspiring growers do not fully understand.

Apeks Supercritical will also be on hand to give a lecture on CO2 extraction systems: a crucial crash course for anyone in Kentucky planning to work in medical marijuana once it becomes legal. “The way the industry is going, everybody is going to likely ending up having to use CO2 extraction versus, say, butane or other methods within the state regulated market,” said Bowden, adding that people need to be aware of the high costs involved with purchasing these extraction systems.

Marketing and advertising is another important topic Bowden says will be touched on throughout the day. “People need to know ahead of time that you can’t just throw up a shop and expect that the products are going to sell themselves,” she said. “It is a very difficult industry to market within, given the FCC regulations and their federal tie in.”

However, one of the most vital subjects Comfy Tree will use to enlighten attendees is investor relations and financing. “Funding is one of the largest issues in the industry, and we understand that,” said Bowden. “The work is getting done through angel investing, primarily, and being able to connect with individuals who are willing to invest in your cannabusiness or network with teams that already have some resources behind them, that’s kind of critical. We’ll be introducing that opportunity to people there, as well.”

Bowden says in states like Kentucky, where medical marijuana is only legal for research purposes, she often finds individuals are eager to learn what type of business they can get into immediately, without having to wait for legislation to pass. This is where she says retail hemp comes into play. “Whether they want to work from home on the Internet, or if they wanted to have a traditional brick-and-mortar kind of business. We can help them with all of those things,” said Bowden, adding that a retail hemp business may be the most advisable option in Kentucky until the state makes additional changes to its marijuana laws, which she insists is coming sooner rather than later.

“We do have some high hopes for both Ohio and Kentucky in their progress,” said Bowden, who believes it is wise for people to get in on the medical marijuana market before legalization happens. For example, the CBD trials set to get underway at the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky will require peripheral assistance, she said. Patients involved with that study “Will still need information in terms of where to go and they will need information as it relates to the medication,” which means there is a wealth of opportunity available at this point in the game.

Medical Marijuana: It’s Personal, and It Will Be Legal Across the Nation
The inception of the Comfy Tree Cannabis Academy happened shortly after Bowden, a PhD student at the University of Illinois, discovered that her father had been secretly medicating with cannabis before he died from kidney failure several years ago. She says she watched him use marijuana to replace much of his prescription pain medication. “Because I was able to see all of that, it really opened up my eyes to explore further,” said Bowden. “It helped me an others see the medical benefits. Not just the recreational aspects, but the true medical benefits.”

Not unlike other marijuana proponents, Bowden strongly supports the legalization of marijuana because she, too, feels it is a safer alternative to many of the legal substances people consume on a regular basis. “I don’t think cannabis is any more harmful than alcohol,” she said. “I think alcohol does a lot more damage.” Yet, while she is not at all opposed to recreational marijuana, Bowden does feel the smartest way to move forward in the industry is to approach legalization from a medicinal standpoint, “just because of the way that politics tend to be,” she said.

Many lawmakers have predicated the United States will experience nationwide legalization with the next decade, which is something Bowden agrees will happen, but not like most are anticipating. “I’d say we’ll probably go medical within that time,” she said. “I would be really surprised if it went full on legal -- I would be excited to see it.”

One of the primary reasons Bowden thinks the US will not be ready for a fully legalized marijuana commerce within the next ten years is because there still a great deal of misinformation being spread that must first be overcome. “Even people who are in support of the movement, they don’t necessarily know what to do to get the job done,” she said. “So, we have people, for instance, in Kentucky waiting to vote on something, where there is not a vote in Kentucky -- they actually have to pick up the phone and call their legislators.”

Bowden also attributes the subtle nuances between the goals of both political parties that prevent us, as a country, from a more rapid progression towards the end of prohibition. “People should be thinking more big picture,” she said. “The more the people see the revenue coming in from the taxes, and that replaces the revenue that’s coming from the prison industrial complex, I think that things will move a lot quicker.”

Do Law Enforcement and Cannabis Workshops Collide?
Some people interested in attending a cannabis workshop in a small community, like Owensboro, where even low level marijuana possession often leads to jail time, might not be comfortable joining the upcoming Comfy Tree event for fear their presence may lead to harassment by the local police. However, Bowden says they have never experienced a situation where law enforcement has attempted to shakedown or cause a hindrance to their seminars in any way. “There are a lot of law enforcement officers that think it is a complete waste of time for them to spend their time running around catching marijuana users for simple possession,” she said. “So, they are actually on the side of legalization and sensible policy. There are some, obviously, that are not necessarily in that loop, but it has not been my personal experience that they’ve been trying to hold us back from doing anything.”  

Comfy Tree Cannabis Academy will be in Owensboro, Kentucky on August 2, 2014 from 10am-7pm. Tickets for the day-long seminar start at $149.99. They will also be in Atlanta on September 20 and then in Chicago. To learn more about Comfy Tree and to reserve your space at one of their workshops, visit the website: www.hellocomfytree.com

Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in HIGH TIMES, Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.

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