It looks like any other business conference — lots of suits, name badges, a long line to the buffet — except that the 700 people who each paid $599 to be in this conference hall south of Seattle are in an industry unlike any other: marijuana.
The people at this meeting aren’t Cheech and Chong. They’ve come bearing business degrees and investor money, looking for the next great thing.
"This conference is 100 percent focused on business," said Chris Walsh, editor of the Medical Marijuana Business Daily. His publication is sponsoring the National Marijuana Business Conference. Now in its second year, attendance has doubled, and more than 30 exhibitors paid as much as $16,000 to talk about investments, equipment, legal services and accounting.
"There's a lot of other types of shows out there that are for the typical stoners," Walsh said. "This is all business and financial."
The pot business is, well, growing. A Gallup poll shows that U.S. support for legalizing cannabis has reached 58 percent. Election night saw pro-marijuana laws passing in places such as Portland, Maine, and Lansing, Mich.
"It's an incredibly exciting time to be in the cannabis industry," said Tripp Keber, an investor and the managing director of Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, which sells products laced with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in pot) to medical marijuana dispensaries.
Business has tripled in 2013, according to Keber.
"Three years ago, nobody was interested in investing, but just yesterday I met with a hedge fund. I met with institutional investors," he said.