Tech savvy New Yorker brings big names in cannabis to the Big Apple
Josh Weinstein doesn’t have the typical resume of a business owner in the cannabis industry.
For starters, the Princeton grad who was captain of two national championship chess teams has never even tried marijuana.
“But I am very passionate about the industry, its opportunities, its medicine, its criminal justice focal point,” he says. “With its multi-faceted, triple-bottom-line opportunity, the infrastructure for entrepreneurs and the industry for the tech scene should exist for the cannabis scene.”
So Weinstein brought in co-founder Gary Kofman, who had more cannabis experience, and the pair started CannaGather, a meetup series where some of the biggest names in the industry give presentations on a wide range of cannabis-related topics. Speakers often address current projects they’re working on, challenges they’ve faced and breakthroughs they’ve accomplished. CannaGather’s monthly events have drawn upwards of 200 attendees. Past speakers have included Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo, Cronos Group CEO Michael Gorenstein and Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann. Topics have included investing, operating a publicly traded company and updates from nearby state markets, to name a few.
The presentations are similar to the ultra-popular TED Talks series, but Weinstein says the program was actually inspired by the New York tech meetups he attended while he was working in the tech industry.
But despite its tech-based roots, CannaGather doesn’t dwell exclusively on the tech side of the cannabis industry. Each speaker leads a themed discussion without attempting to sell a specific product or service. They’re more along the lines of “this is what I am working on and this is my experience and this is my high-level feedback and insight to share,” Weinstein says.
Now his full-time occupation, Weinstein’s CannaGather events combine aspects of the tech meetups with the TED-like info-dumps to provide insight into the global cannabis economy. The events are held at a Manhattan co-working space and admission costs $20-50 at the door.
Although the events have been gaining in popularity, the name CannaGather may have caused some confusion as the program was launching.
Some attendees may have been expecting more of a smoke-out than a business-focused networking seminar.
“At first it was tough to get a couple places and get people on board,” he says. “But now that we have come a long way, we have a nice scale and people have a better sense of what our experience is.”