New SXSW track recognizes budding opportunities in cannabis industry

Celesia Smith

As state laws about marijuana progress in the Unites States, investors, businesses and cannabis-savvy individuals have high hopes for a cannabis industry movement deemed the “Green Rush.”

South By Southwest, not one to be left behind the curve, upgraded cannabusiness from a mere trend to a full track for 2019. From March 14–16, SXSW will offer sessions that explore cannabusiness and how it intersects with sustainability, wellness and more. The sessions will be open to all SXSW badgeholders. 

Entrepreneurs already in the cannabusiness space said it was only a matter of time before SXSW included cannabusiness as a track. Robert Flannery, founder and CEO of Dr. Robb Farms, said it fits in well into SXSW culture. 

“SXSW has always been a place for forward-thinking individuals to come together and discuss what’s going on in their worlds,” Flannery said. “Cannabusiness is absolutely perfect for that.”

Flannery is speaking in a SXSW panel about starting a cannabusiness as well as a session about emerging cannabis consumers. He said he wants to break the cannabis stereotype and showcase its health benefits.

“Ultimately, cannabis use is medical use,” Flannery said. “More and more people are purchasing cannabis because they want to feel well. (They) buy microdoses that aren’t meant to get you high. They’re for anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia.”

Other cannabusiness sessions involve discussions on cannabis and health as well, but from a different standpoint. 

Lauren Bille, co-founder of Cycles+Sex, a digital center for reproductive and sexual health, is speaking in a session called “Sex, Health and Cannabis.” Her session will include examples of sexual health issues that can be addressed with THC or CBD doses. 

“We see cannabis as a tool to help you with your own embodiment,” Bille said. “When cannabis is used as a tool, it can help you with feeling good in your own body, understanding your own body (and) being closer to listening to your body.”

The Green Rush is not confined to the health and wellness space, however. 

Derek Smith, executive director for the Resource Innovation Institute, a nonprofit that works to advance a resource-efficient future for cannabis, is speaking at a cannabusiness session on sustainability. 

“(Cannabis) is an incubation platform for new technology that will influence the agriculture of the future,” Smith said. “(It influences) hyper-efficient controlled environments that we’re beginning to see in vertical farms (in) the food industry, and even regenerative soil practices.”

Smith said he has never seen a bigger opportunity to scale sustainability than in cannabusiness. He said he’s excited to get SXSW guests interested in this opportunity.

“It’s a microcosm of the opportunity to create a more just and sustainable model for how any industry can operate,” Smith said. “(The speakers) completely welcome audience participation and are super jazzed about interacting.” 

Some of those audience members could be UT students. Business honors sophomore Riley Steward said the novelty of the track might entice students and become a discussion topic. 

“(Cannabis) is a popular topic in student culture right now not necessarily because it’s a big industry in Austin, but because it’s a popular conversation point,” Steward said. “It’s good marketing. People will be more interested in SXSW when they hear about the track and want to learn about it.”