Spotlight Series: Jessi Rae of CannaConnections and the CannaGrow Expo

The 9th CannaGrow Expo happening August 17 + 18, 2019 in Palm Springs, CA is billed as “The ultimate weekend dedicated to the art & science of growing cannabis.” The event is open to anyone over the age of 18 and is intended for cannabis growers, grow managers, extractors, and grow enthusiasts to explore the latest cannabis cultivation technology, tools, and techniques.

We spoke with Jessi Rae on the challenges and joys of producing cannabis educational events.

Connect with CannaGrow Expo on social media here: Instagram, Twitter or Facebook

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How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?

My involvement with the cannabis industry began as a family affair. My sister, parents, and I decided that we wanted to attend a cannabis conference to experience the culture and learn more about the plant. We chose the 2015 Denver Cannabis Cup as our first event. We lived in Kansas at the time, a state that boasts rather extreme anti-cannabis views, so as we requested our vacation time and discussed the trip with colleagues and friends, we simply reiterated, “We are taking a family trip to Colorado.” No one dared to mention we planned to partake in three wonderfully weed-filled days while we were there.

We took to the internet for advice on what to pack and what to expect at a cannabis conference, but we didn’t find much. In our search, we also began to see jarring gaps and discrepancies in cannabis information available online. These missing pieces were the catalyst for our cannabis education blog, Cannabisdaze. We proceeded to use the blog to help share tips for attending cannabis events and document what we were learning about the plant. 

With my passion for cannabis, events, and education, it felt natural to take the opportunity to begin a career with CannaConnections in May 2015 and help produce educational cannabis conferences like CannaGrow Expo.

Tell us a little bit about your product or service

CannaConnections hosts a variety of educational cannabis events including CannaGrow Expo, DispensaryNext Conference & Expo, and Science of Cannabis Summit. Our next event on the agenda is The 9th CannaGrow Expo, which will be held August 17-18, 2019 at the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel & Convention Center in Palm Springs, CA.

CannaGrow Expo is the ultimate weekend dedicated to the art and science of growing cannabis, intended for commercial cultivators, extractors, and grow enthusiasts to explore the latest cannabis cultivation technology, tools, and techniques. We will feature a selection of 35+ cultivation-focused educational sessions led by world-class growers over two action-packed days, endless networking with cultivators from around the globe, and a 125+ booth expo hall packed with the latest tools and technology for growing and extracting cannabis. If you care about producing premium cannabis products, you need to be at The 9th CannaGrow Expo.

What time does your day typically start and what does a normal day look like to you?

When it’s not the week of an event, I am typically in my office by 8:00AM. I work from home, so I often balance my time at the computer with house and plant care in between meetings, phone calls, and emails. Around 6:30PM, I take work mobile and leave for the gym, and if my timing is right, I have dinner on by 10:00PM. Because both my clients and colleagues are in a variety of time zones, I prefer not to adhere to a strict work schedule. I do my best to allow my career to organically intertwine with my lifestyle so I can best serve those I work with as well as my family.

What is your vision for your company going forward?

There’s an excitement and energy in gathering people that share a common passion, and that’s what we hope to continue. We believe knowledge is power, and our vision is to keep bringing together more passionate cannabis producers with each CannaGrow along with the companies that support premium cannabis production. If we share our knowledge and consistently improve operations, the foundation of the cannabis industry can benefit greater from the end-of-prohibition-era. Patent your genetics. Expand operations efficiently. Market your products right. That’s how we combat big business, maintain product integrity, and protect craft cultivation.

What would an ideal post prohibition society look like to you?

An ideal post prohibition society serves the people that need cannabis the most and benefits the original breeders, growers, and extractors who got us this far. Consumers have the ability to choose between recreational or medicinal use. All products are tested, clean, and safe. If consumers want to use cannabis medicinally, there are ample medical professionals who are educated on the variety of uses and can help select a product that’s best for a patient’s condition. Accurate cannabis information is available in the media. The original growers are behind the products that made cannabis what it is today, and we can still taste and feel their passion for the plant in the products we consume.

What was your first experience with cannabis like? 

I was 14 years old sitting on the bed of a pick-up truck in the fields of central Kansas with my best friend and her brother when I smoked my first bowl. The first few times I consumed, I did so with alcohol, which proved to not be the best combination for me. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I began to regularly consume cannabis and substitute it for alcohol consumption.

Tell us about some of the challenges you face working in the cannabis industry

Two of the biggest challenges we face with cannabis events are banking and advertising. Even though we do not directly distribute cannabis products and our events are strictly educational, supporting the industry has been enough to have multiple bank accounts closed over the years. We regularly invest in advertising that is denied as well because we are ‘supporting the sale of illegal drugs.’

What are some solutions you've found?

For advertising, we’ve found removing mention of ‘cannabis’ can help get our ads approved. An example is our recent 'Tomato Growers' advertisement. We substituted the word and imagery of ‘cannabis’ for ‘tomato’ in order to bypass social media flags on education for the cannabis industry. We also design creative images with aspects from the city we’re hosting the event rather than use images of flower or oil. So for example, our ads running for The 9th CannaGrow Expo in Palm Springs include more photos of palm trees than frosty bud.

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about cannabis?

It’s not magic. While cannabis has truly performed medical miracles for some, it’s not a one-size-fits-all, cures-all product. If you’re in a legal state where you can grow, and you’re not finding what you need on the shelf right now, learn how to produce it. You may need to keep trying different varieties to find what works for you, just like any other medicine.

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about your product or service?

One thing that differentiates CannaGrow Expo from other cannabis events is the exciting educational content focused on the foundations of the cannabis industry. Sessions are generally led by a single educator and dive deep into a specific cannabis production topic, similar to continued-education courses. All sessions are purely educational and we are not ‘pay to play.’ Our educators are established, experienced commercial cannabis growers or extractors.

If you could go back in time and do it all over again, what (if anything) would you do differently?

There’s nothing I would do differently. Education has always been my passion, and bringing quality cannabis information to the masses has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my lifetime.

What is your favorite way to consume cannabis?

I like to switch it up. I think changing your consumption method helps with affect, so I regularly dab, eat, and smoke my cannabis. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be dabbing.

Concentrate or flower? Why?

Concentrate. I’m a busy gal, and a little concentrate goes a long way. I find concentrate gives me greater time in between doses as I use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Do you think cannabis legalization will change the world for the better? Why?

I do believe cannabis legalization will change the world for the better. I’m a better human being because of cannabis, and I’ve watched others improve their livelihood with this plant as well. I know there will be struggles with legalization, but experiencing this plant change my life and the lives of others makes me know that only good can come from the end-of-prohibition struggles we’re dealing with now.

What advice would you offer to another woman who is looking to get into the industry?

If you’re a writer or researcher, publish your work and findings. Share it on LinkedIn and other social sites. Make online and in-person connections with people who have similar interests in the cannabis industry. Be open to differences in opinion. If you’re a current or aspiring cultivator, extractor, distributor, or retailer, attend the conferences that help you grow in your profession. Connect with others who share your interests, and give freely of your knowledge. The only way we can grow is if we share our passions.