Exchanging business cards decorated with marijuana leaves, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, legal experts and cannabis enthusiasts alike descended on the Yale School of Management on Friday for the first cannabis-oriented conference organized by an American business school.
The single-day conference was entirely student-run and brought together participants from all sectors of the legal cannabis industry to comprehensively analyze how the industry has performed in the infancy of its legality and where it is headed. Speakers repeatedly addressed issues of racial, gender and cultural diversity within the industry.
Head organizers Connie Lee SOM ’18 and Billy Marks SOM ’18 said they were inspired to organize an event that would provide a holistic overview of the cannabis space, its history and potential futures.
“We are both interested in cannabis for many reasons, including the impact of the war on drugs on communities of color, the growing concerns about environmental impacts and the proliferation of innovative products and services in this emerging industry,” Lee said during the opening remarks.
The conference began with a series of addresses from the CEO of a private equity firm, the director of a cannabis research initiative and the managing director of a venture capital firm. The speeches were followed by a moderated panel discussion on the legalization and regulation of cannabis. After the morning’s activities, attendees broke for lunch, engaging in friendly and occasionally contentious discussion about their different perspectives on the young industry.
After lunch, the large group split up for panel discussions on topics ranging from diversity to the potential for innovation in the field. Speakers drew from their personal and professional experiences in the cannabis industry, often touching on weighty topics like illness and mass incarceration, in discussions about legal compliance and taxation. Emily Paxhia, co-founder and managing director of Poseidon Asset Management,