The New England Cannabis Convention Is Coming to Boston

It will focus on educating the public about medicinal marijuana laws, and help directly connect qualifying patients with vendors.

When it comes to the burgeoning medical marijuana industry in Massachusetts, there are still a lot of burning questions left unanswered, even as the state moves forward with the distribution of its provisional licenses for dispensary owners, and continues to allow patients to use the drug legally.

But Jeff Lawrence and Marc Shepard want to clear the smoke.

On January 31 and February 1, Lawrence and Shepard will host the first ever New England Cannabis Convention in Boston, welcoming businesses and speakers to the table to help tackle the difficult lingering questions about the laws surrounding medicinal marijuana, and explain where the industry is headed.

“This is a first time event not only in Massachusetts, but really of this scale,” said Lawrence, founder, owner, and publisher of the city’s remaining alt-weekly publication, dig Boston. Although Lawrence is also the driving force behind the NECC, the two are unaffiliated.

Lawrence, who has been involved with the medical marijuana movement since he was 17, said the two-day event in 2015, packed with workshops and seminars, is geared toward pooling resources from the different facets that make up the complicated medical marijuana industry in Massachusetts, so information can be more easily disseminated.

“This is something near and dear to my heart, and I have been championing this cause most of my life,” he said.

That’s why it’s important for the convention to help people better understand the implications of the current state laws, as well as connect qualifying patients who hold a medical marijuana card with those who are knowledgeable about growing, selling, and distributing the drug legally.

“It will be a typical convention style: 30 to 40 booths, people pay an admission fee, enter the space, and then speak one-on-one with vendors and providers on a personal level,” said Lawrence. “It will give people a chance to really learn. Consumers can come out of this convention and know a ton more about this industry….and be a lot more educated.”

The event comes at a time when officials from the Medical Use of Marijuana Program, which is run by the DPH, are continuing to work on awarding licenses to dispensary companies so they can ultimately set up operations and undergo the necessary inspections before opening sometime in November of this year, or by February of 2015.

Lawrence stressed more than once that the convention is not a time for people to come together and light up; in fact, there will be no pot of any kind for sale at the event. “That’s not part of the convention at this point,” he said. “There will not be any smoking or vaporizing on the premises. We have partnered closely with the venue, and want to work with the city to fall in line with all policies.”

What will be there, he said, are educational opportunities. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” he said. “Education is top of our agenda.”

Lawrence didn’t entirely rule out the possibility of working with the DPH and the venue owners to figure out a way for medical card holders to purchase some pot in a designated space, but he said that conversation would only happen if and when the state laws are finally ironed out, and dispensaries open for business.

“I want to allow the system to continue to evolve and let the state make the right decisions when rolling out the licenses. If it’s in line in time for the convention, then we will look into moving forward with [that idea],” he said.

The January convention is part of a larger network of similar events the NECC is hosting throughout the region, including in Providence, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine, before the founders bring the series back to Boston again in September.

According to the NECC website, vendor space is still available for companies and advocacy groups that are looking to spread their message and make available information tied to their cause.