The North Bay Business Journal hosted a North Coast Cannabis Industry conference on May 9, sponsored by Farella Braun + Martel law firm. The event drew about 250 attendees from the North Bay business community, including professionals who serve the emerging cannabis industry and entrepreneurs in the industry.

The keynote speaker was Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation for California. She spoke about the bureau’s actions to develop regulations after the passage of Prop. 64, which legalized adult-use cannabis in the state. Regulations for production and sale of adult-use cannabis are expected by January 2018.

“It’s quite a journey we have all been on since the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act was passed in 2015,” Ajax said. “I didn’t realize what I was getting into. I didn’t realize how much different cannabis is from alcohol. Alcohol is simple to understand. Cannabis is a lot more complicated. I had to start over to learn how best to regulate this industry.”

The first panel was on how to invest in the cannabis industry. Speakers included Emily and Morgan Paxhia, co-founders of Poseidon Asset Management, a San Francisco-based investment fund dedicated to funding cannabis-related enterprise. Sherri Haskell, founder of CannaAngels, also spoke.

“I have been in the financial arena for a couple of decades,” Haskell said. “I have raised a fair amount of capital.” She started CannaAngels about a year and a half ago. “We are an angel-investment consortium,” she said, with a 12-member board.

“My brother and I launched our fund, dedicated to investing in the cannabis industry, in January of 2014,” Emily Morgan said. She has a background in research and grant consulting. With cannabis, “there’s no weakness in demand,” she said. “You have to work very hard to get through regulatory hurdles to make it accessible to everybody.”

The second panel was on the permitting process for cannabis operations. Tawnie Logan, executive director of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, addressed the group. The panel also included two attorneys: Rebecca Stamey-White from Hinman & Carmichael; and Cassia Furman, Vicente Sederberg, based in Santa Monica. David McPherson, cannabis compliance director for HDL Companies, and Tennis Wick, director of the Sonoma County Permit & Resource Management Dept., also participated in the panel.

Detailed coverage of the conference will be published in the May 29 issue of the North Bay Business Journal.