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Florida in Spotlight as MJ Business Conference Kicks Off, Decrim Approved

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Coincidence? Providence? Either way, marijuana was in the headlines in Orlando for more than one reason on Monday.

The same day the Spring 2016 Marijuana Business Conference & Expo got underway in Orlando, the city’s lawmakers voted 4-3 to reduce the penalties for possessing small amounts of cannabis.

The new law drops possession of less than 20 grams to a simple $100 fine for a first offense from a criminal misdemeanor.

The change underscores yet again how marijuana is moving into the mainstream, both as a plant and as an industry.

Florida, for its part, could become a new major force in the cannabis trade if a medical marijuana legalization ballot measure succeeds in November.

The spring conference, hosted by Marijuana Business Daily at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, runs through Wednesday. It will attract up to 3,000, executives, professionals and investors from 18 countries and 48 states.

The only two states not represented? Hawaii and South Dakota.

The top states represented by number of attendees are Florida, Colorado, California, Washington State and New York. Other states with particularly strong representation include Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The international contingent includes attendees from Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, Israel, South Africa and Spain, among other countries.

Attendees also hail from all corners of the marijuana industry, from retail, cultivation and infused products manufacturing to testing, professional training, lobbying and a host of other ancillary-focused sectors.

Tuesday morning’s highlight is a keynote address from generational marketing guru Chuck Underwood, star of the PBS miniseries “America’s Generations.” He will examine how the marijuana industry can use generational studies of its key demographics – Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials – to shape its developing marketplace and culture.

Orlando attorney John Morgan, who has spearheaded the MMJ legalization campaign in the state since 2013, will address whether medical marijuana has reached a “tipping point.”

The conference also will feature an hour-long debate session between six prominent industry insiders on hot-button topics, such as pesticide use and workplace consumption policies.

The conference expo hall features exhibits from 195 vendors, including 80 hydroponics and cultivation products companies, two dozen professional services companies, 13 packaging and related supplies exhibitors, a dozen infused products manufacturers, six pro-legalization nonprofits, and companies that focus on banking, testing, security, professional training, among others.