Last weekend’s Cannabis Hemp Conference saw the event grow exponentially from its origins last year of 200 attendees to about 1,300, bringing together stakeholders in the fast-growing industry.

Cambridge House International president and event co-orgnaizer Jay Martin said the conference was a huge success for all involved and had the biggest agenda in the cannabis industry he’s seen in Canada.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever worked with a community that was as emotionally invested as the cannabis industry,” Martin said. “It was mind-blowing how dedicated and compassionate and just wonderful the people were.”

Martin was introduced to event organizer Salimeh Tabriz by mutual friends and the two aimed to increased the scope of the Cannabis Hemp Conference.

Increasing the number of companies last year from 12 to 70 in 2016, the conference also boasted a range of 57 speakers from across the cannabis community, with what Martin said was a focus on being inclusive.

“We try not to take a bias, it’s our job to bring the industry together and allow all voices to the podium and then let people make up their own mind,” Martin said.

He said the Cannabis Hemp Conference attracted a different group of attendees than more traditional gatherings like 4/20 or Cannabis Day.

“There’s a large population of people that are interested in medical cannabis but are maybe intimidated by the sector itself and the stigma,” Martin said. “The comments that I heard on the floor that really pleased me were “it’s a different crowd than we’ve seen at a cannabis event,’ this is from the exhibitors, ‘it’s a lot more professional crowd.’”

One of those exhibitors was Internet Dispensary owner Travis Lane, who said conferences like this one are indicative of the progression of the industry.

“There’s the inner culture for those that really love the product and then there’s the business side of things,” said Lane. “Up until now, cannabis has only really had the cultural side of it, because of the illicit nature of the substance — we haven’t had a chance to have business to business kind of conference or to get a bunch of professional from both the medical production and distribution.”

Lane said it was one of the most professionally organized and presented cannabis event he’s been to.

“I thought it was the most balanced conferences in terms of having a real conversation on the future of legalization that I’ve seen and I’d like to see it continue to grow,” Lane said.

Martin said with so much positivity, he’s been approached to expand the Cannabis Hemp Conference across the country.

“We’re very curious about a couple of cities, I think it would do well in Toronto, I think it would do well in Victoria,” he said. “So we’ve got a bit of work to do before we make that decision but, stay tuned