The Oregon Marijuana Business Conference scheduled for Nov. 19 at the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites will bring in more than $250,000 to the local community and continued cachet as an epicenter for this industry, according to organizer Alex Rogers of Ashland Alternative Health. “This is bigger than the international business conference. It was sold out last year and it’ll be sold out again this year,” said Rogers.

Rogers is also bringing comedian, movie actor and cannabis activist Tommy Chong to the convention as a speaker. Chong is planning to create a large grow in the area, according to Rogers, and that’s one of the reasons for his presence. He’s also knowledgeable about the industry and has been an activist for legalization for decades.

He’s a draw for the conference which is expected to be well attended. Last year the conference had 600 in attendance; this year Rogers expects closer to 800.

Rogers is the largest organizer of these conventions, he says, and does work overseas, such as an international conference in Berlin. But Ashland is home. Rogers says the conferences here winds up outselling the others and he appreciates the advantage of being close to home. “It’s easier here. All this love is here and it feels like family. It’s really heartening.”

The subject of the conference, attended primarily by growers, is to go over the policies and regulations affecting people in the industry. “All the rules change so quickly and growers, our main audience, need informative talk about policies, rules and regulations,” said Rogers. “ One year of not having it is like five years of not having a conference in another business. Things change so quickly from year to year. There’s also lots of disinformation out there too.”

Rogers says policy makers attend the conference to network with growers and people in the industry to get a better feel. One of the discussions will no doubt center on taxation. In Jackson County there is an ordinance to raise taxes for marijuana in county areas and the city of Ashland also has a measure to levy a 3 percent local tax. “What I tell administrators and policy makers is, 'don’t tax prohibitive fees that push people toward a black market.'”

Cannabis businesses are feeling pinched from a number of sources: increasing taxation, large scale competition and falling prices.

Prices of marijuana have dropped for patients and recreational users because the supply is large. Many growers are opting for a black market to get higher amounts per pound of cannabis.

“Most growers want to stay legal. Higher fees push some to consider selling at a higher price out of state,” Rogers said. 

But, Rogers says, regardless of market conditions such as large commercial growers driving down prices, it’s still a very viable market. “There’s still a lot of money to be made. Not the crazy amounts we saw during prohibition, but still a really good living. Anyone who says $250,000 isn’t a good income, isn’t correct.”

The conference will be discussing ways to maximize profits while staying within the margins of policy and regulations.

Rogers points toward the artisanal beer market. “If you want a Coors and you want to pay less, you’ll do that. But for those who want a craft beer, they’ll pay more and it will be available. This industry will be modeled after the boutique market. There will be people who want better marijuana and will pay extra.

“We bring a ton of money to the community. This conference will bring a quarter of a million dollars in residual income.”

This is the third time for the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference in Ashland and the sixth conference of its type organized by Rogers. It will be a one-day conference featuring the interview with Tommy Chong, an appearance by cannabis author Ed Rosenthal and promises to cover updates and information concerning both medical and recreational marijuana businesses in Oregon.

It will be followed by an after party at The Brick Room, an Ashland restaurant and bar on the Plaza. Those interested can buy tickets on line at OregonMBC.com or through Ashland Alternative Health or Northwest Alternative Health.

Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.