It's a business conference, after all, which is why you may see more suits and casual business dress than, say, tie-dye, on Sunday and Monday at the Hilton Eugene.
That's where 300 or more people are expected to show up, each paying an admission fee of $349, for the two-day Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference.
"The marijuana industry is more professional and organized than people perceive it," said Anthony Johnson of New Approach Oregon, a marijuana legalization advocacy group helping to sponsor the conference. "We want to help professionalize the industry even further as we move into mainstream society."
On its website, the conference asks, "Are you ready for the future?" -- an allusion to the rapidly changing face of medical marijuana access in Oregon.
Earlier this month, the state Legislature passed a bill allowing for the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries. But as part of a legislative compromise, the bill allows cities and counties to declare a one-year moratorium on dispensaries within their borders -- as long as they act by May 1 of this year.
The city of Florence already has done so, the city of Veneta has decided against a moratorium, and Springfield and Lane County are weighing the same question.
Much of the two-day conference will focus on the rules and regulations surrounding the dispensaries, how to maintain them and grow them into thriving businesses. The title of one speaker's presentation is "Dispensaries 101: How to Stay Open."
Other speakers -- including state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, who championed the new state law -- will address legislative and legal issues.
The conference comes on the heels of a similar event held in Ashland in late January, which drew 150 people and had to turn away a similar number, according to Johnson.
Eugene seemed like a logical place for an even-bigger conference, and not merely because the conference's lead sponsor, Northwest Alternative Health, has an office here, Johnson said.
"Lane County has a large number of medical marijuana cardholders, and it's a nice central location," Johnson said. "We want people to come to beautiful downtown Eugene."
Prozanski was invited as a speaker because he's recognized "as one of the leaders for common sense cannabis laws," Johnson said. "This event is a perfect audience for Senator Prozanski."
At the conference's conclusion on Monday, organizers are planning a political fundraiser for Prozanski, Johnson added.
Johnson said advocates of medical marijuana facilities -- or MMFs -- foresee the day when they "can operate the same as Rite Aids and Walgreenses," a part of the regular commercial landscape.
Medical marijuana advocates and users "don't necessarily need to be part of the counterculture -- not that there's anything wrong with that," Johnson said.
Advocates recognize that local communities should have the right to craft regulations that reflect community sensibilities about dispensaries' locations and appearance, Johnson said.
Nonetheless, there also is concern, he said, about the decision by some communities to declare a yearlong moratorium on such facilities.
"It's mainly for the sake of the (medical marijuana) patients," he said of the concern. "Many who need to use MMFs are people who can't grow their own, or have financial issues or physical ailments.
"These moratoriums will force many patients to travel long distances" to secure their marijuana.
There's also a political concern that opponents of medical marijuana dispensaries will lobby the Legislature either to extend the moratorium or establish a permanent ban, he said.
"The industry will remain vigilant" and fight any such efforts, he said.
Johnson acknowledged that, from advocates' perspective, the acceptance of medical marijuana dispensaries is seen as a gateway to broader legalized use of marijuana in Oregon.
"These MMFs provide the foundation for cannabis commerce for all adults," he said. "As we've seen in Colorado (where both medicinal and recreational marijuana use is allowed), the jobs and revenue generated from the medical marijuana industry is a springboard for more jobs and more revenue -- once you end the prohibition for all adults."
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