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This Year’s SXSW Festival Has a Top-Shelf Cannabis Lineup

The 2019 SXSW Festival and Conference steps into America’s legal future later this month, offering three days of insight and debate among cannabis experts, political advocates, scientists, and entrepreneurs. It’s the famed festival’s first-ever foray into cannabis, and it’s all sponsored by Leafly.

This year’s full SXSW opens in Austin, TX, on March 8 and closes March 16. The conference’s new Cannabusiness track opens on Thursday, March 14, at the Hilton Austin Downtown, and runs through Saturday, March 16.

SXSW Teams With Leafly to Go Big on Cannabis

In a world filled with cannabis business conferences, SXSW’s programmers have assembled a fresh, cutting-edge cultural lineup with 44 keynotes, panels, and one-on-ones.

Some highlights:

  • Cutting-Edge Cannabis Science: Leafly’s principal research scientist, Nick Jikomes, offers a glimpse into the future of cannabis categorization in his presentation, “Reimagining Cannabis with Lab-Verified Data.” If you’re into strains, terpenes, and the evolution of cannabis quality, our own Dr. J will blow your mind. (Learn more about our lab partners.)
  • Cannatech vs. Trad Tech: Tahira Rehmatullah of Hypur Ventures, Headset CEO Cy Scott (one of Leafly’s co-founders), and others discuss the convergence of cannabis and tech culture in “Why Cannatech Will Disrupt Traditional Tech.”
  • The Leafly Lounge will be open for chilling throughout the three-day Cannabusiness track. Stop in and hang out, have a terpene-flavored fizzy beverage, and meet our cannabis experts. Bring all those cannabis questions you’ve always had but were afraid to ask.
  • The Hot Podcast: Leafly’s own What Are You Smoking? podcast will lay down live episodes at SXSW. Host Will Hyde has interviews with Flow Kana’s Amanda Reiman, Canadian cannabis celebrity Sarah Hanlon, and other movers and shakers.
  • The Hot Cannabinoid: Get your CBD info straight, no chaser. Christina Sasser (Vital Leaf), Shawn Hauser (Vicente Sederberg), and Geoffrey Whaling (Canopy Hemp Development) tackle the tricky issues of CBD legality, sourcing, and delivery in “CBD: The Cannabis Trailblazer,” March 14 at 5 p.m.

Cannabis at SXSW: How to Get In

Admission to the Cannabusiness track and all the conference sessions comes with a SXSW admission badge. There are many badges and multiple levels of access—check out the festival’s Attend SXSW site for more information.

Keynote: Can Activism Coexist With Big Business?

Learn how to do well by doing good with Troy Dayton, co-founder of cannabis investment pioneer the ArcView Group.

Dayton: Activist/Investor

There’s often been tension between legalization activists and emerging cannabis companies. Are the chronically underfunded activists just blazing trails—for free—for investors and entrepreneurs who cash in on legal markets? Do cannabis companies have a responsibility to support the activist community? If activists receive industry money, are their standing and message undermined?

Troy Dayton is exactly the person to take on these questions. Dayton started working on legalization 24 years ago as a young activist with Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Later, in 2010, he co-founded the ArcView Group, a pioneering cannabis investment and research firm. ArcView created the ArcView Investor Network, where more than 500 high-net-worth investors have pumped more than $65 million into 105 cannabis-related ventures, and raised more than $815,000 for the legalization effort.

Dayton sits for a “fireside chat” with Leafly’s California bureau chief David Downs on March 14.

Subscribe and Listen Live

Subscribe to Leafly’s What Are You Smoking? podcast before the show’s live taping in Austin. Cannabis expert Will Hyde records an episode of Leafly’s cannabis products and strains podcast with special guests Sarah Hanlon, J.J. O’Brien (PAX Labs), and Dr. Amanda Reiman (Flow Kana) on March 14.

Will Hyde, a.k.a. the Avid Dabber, hosts a live episode of Leafly’s What Are You Smoking podcast at SXSW on March 14.

Texas’ March Toward Freedom

South by’s Cannabusiness track covers a variety of topics, from “The Future of Hemp and Health” and “Non-Obvious Trends in the Cannabis Industry” to “Creating a California Craft Cannabis Brand.”

In addition to entrepreneurial sessions, panels on subjects such as criminal justice, cannabinoid research, sexual health, and inclusion will convene over the three days of the track.

A panel dubbed “The Politics of Marijuana: What’s in Store for Texas” examines what a changing national position on cannabis policy means for the Lone Star State. Panelists include Texas Director of the Marijuana Policy Project Heather Fazio, Texas state Sen. José Menendez, and Texas Tribune reporter Alex Samuels.

Republicans are the key to cannabis legalization in Texas

Not the Same Old Canna Panels

Inclusion and equity have emerged as a major theme in Austin this year, where Supernova Women’s Amber Senter and Word on the Tree’s Mona Zhang both speak.

In the “Can We Heal Ourselves From the War on Drugs?” panel session, entrepreneur and activist Felicia Carbajal (Smart Pharma) will be joined by Chas Moore (Austin Justice Coalition), Taylor Pendergrass (ACLU), and Latorie Wallace (We BAKED) to highlight cultural, medical, and legal solutions as a way forward from the injustices and systemic racism of the war on drugs.

In her seminar “Cannabis Research Shackled by Politics Since 1968,” leading cannabis researcher Dr. Sue Sisley will highlight the abuses of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and “raise awareness about the fact that $68 million taxpayer dollars every five years is going to maintain this Government-enforced monopoly that’s been in violation of the CSA for decades,” according to the conference website.

“Sex, Health, and Cannabis” will examine the emergence and intersection of medical and sexual wellness innovation in the industry as well as the vital role inclusion plays in marketing new products. Panelists include Kiana Reeves (Foria) and Mary Pryor (Cannaclusive).

For a chance to hear about what it was like as a founder and investor before marijuana went mainstream, check out “Real Talk from the Early Days of Cannabis.” Emily Paxhia (Poseidon) and Tahira Rehmatullah (Hypur Ventures/T3 Ventures) will share stories of pioneering their women-owned businesses back in the day.

John Boehner Makes His SXSW Debut

The former House speaker and Ohio Republican who famously joined the board of Acreage Holdings last year offers insight into his prohibitionist-to-investor transformation in a chat with Acreage CEO Kevin Murphy and CNBC “Fast Money” host Tim Seymour. The trio speak on March 15 at 2 p.m.

Boehner & Co. will also discuss the likely paths to national legalization and the challenges any such legislation faces in Congress. It should be an interesting session. We all want to know: If 63% of Americans support adult-use legalization, why doesn’t Congress act on it? Boehner knows. Will he tell? Show up and find out.

Wisdom From the Man Who Beat the Feds

Lifelong entrepreneur and activist Steve DeAngelo gives a seminar at SXSW on “The Cannabis Renaissance” on March 15 at 12:30 p.m.

Steve DeAngelo: Never challenge this man in court.

DeAngelo, co-founder of the Bay Area’s Harborside Health Center (now Harborside), traces the trajectory of the plant from ancient times to the present day and looks at how modern science has validated the therapeutic use of cannabinoids.

He beat a forfeiture case brought by the federal government in its 2011 campaign to shut down California’s medical dispensaries, so DeAngelo’s seminar is nicely juxtaposed against the appearance of former House Speaker John Boehner’s address on “the likely path to national legalization.”

Badge Prices Going Up Soon

The Cannabusiness track is one of 25 tracks at the massive SXSW conference. It’s sure to be an interesting assembly of knowledgeable people with diverse backgrounds, viewpoints, and advice for those interested in entering the wide world of legal weed.

Browse the full list of speakers and seminars in the 2019 SXSW Cannabusiness track.

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Leafly Staff

Leafly is the world’s largest cannabis information resource, empowering people in legal cannabis markets to learn about the right products for their lifestyle and wellness needs. Our team of cannabis professionals collectively share years of experience in all corners of the market, from growing and retail, to science and medicine, to data and technology.

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