Thousands gather in San Jose for cannabis business summit

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 7,500 people visited the San Jose McEnery Convention Center over the past two days for one of the nation's most influential cannabis conferences.

Former Deputy Attorney General James Cole delivered the keynote Thursday at the 5th annual Cannabis Business Summit and Expo, presented by the National Cannabis Industry Association. He wants the federal government to deal with cannabis as a medical pharmaceutical substance.

"If it's got a medical use, let's find that out. If it doesn't have a medical use, let's find that out," said Cole. "Let's just not ignore it, let's just do the science."

Many people have been keeping a close watch following Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision earlier this year to rescind the Cole Memo, an Obama-era policy authored by James Cole that protected state-legal cannabis businesses from interference by the feds, assuming they were in compliance with applicable U.S. laws and didn't sell to minors, among other factors.

"This is really an example of how serious this industry has become," said industry analyst Ricardo Baca, who is also president and CEO of the Grasslands Agency. " We're here talking about regulations and policy and there's no where in the world where this conversation is more important than California."

From policy making to pitching products, the event attracts some of the best minds in the cannabis industry, with some looking to educate and inspire others to get more involved.

"New trends, new businesses, meet people, networking, cause the cannabis industry is such a dynamic space right now, so if you want to be involved, you got to stay informed," said Taylor Blake, co-producer of The Emerald Cup, which seeks to advance the concept of sustainable, outdoor farming.

Vangst, which bills itself as the world's largest talent and staffing agency focusing specifically on the cannabis industry, was an exhibitor at this year's expo. The company says it has connected 300 companies with more than 5,000 employees to date.

"Multiple location dispensaries... all the way to the cultivation... so you have kind of big ag moving in and a lot of different opportunities in regards to plant touching and service side of the industry," said Kyle Arfsten, Vangst's director of growth.

The direct impact of Sessions' decision to rescind the Cole Memo so far remains ambiguous. In the meantime, conferences like these help members of the industry learn best practices and methods to succeed in a challenging and ever-changing regulatory environment.

"We've got cannabis really making its footprint, staking its claim and letting the world know that we're here," said Steve DeAngelo, Harborside Dispensaries executive director.

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