01/24/16 Mary Lou Burton

This week we speak with Mary Lou Burton about the Cannabis Creative Conference.

Century of Lies
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Mary Lou Burton
Download: Audio icon COL012416.mp3



JANUARY 24, 2016


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

STEVE PHUN HADLEY: Let's hear it for Doug McVay!

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. And now, on with the show.

Well folks, on February 3rd and 4th, here in Portland, Oregon, my home town, we'll have the Cannabis Collaborative Conference. It's the second annual cannabis conference by these folks, the Cannabis Creative Conference was last year, this year, the Cannabis Collaborative Conference. As this evolves, it's essentially an industry trade show. This one is run by someone named Mary Lou Burton. She has a successful business in the Portland area doing events: corporate, trade shows, and also, most particularly weddings and wedding trade shows. I spoke with Mary Lou the other day just to get an idea of who she is and how she got into this. Let's hear that conversation.

There are a lot of these conferences going on, it's a new business, it's a new industry, of course there are conferences and networking events going on. You do that, and so, you created the Cannabis -- well it was originally the Cannabis Creative Conference last year --

MARY LOU BURTON: Yeah, and there's kind of a story to that, and we can go into that in a minute, but, it is kind of a funny story how I fell into this. I've been, I think, what people call a serial entrepreneur. I've survived three recessions. Weddings are pretty much recession-proof. So, I've created a whole resource for the meeting/event planning/hospitality industry, and what I've taken is literally that formula and I've applied it to the cannabis industry. And how that evolved is, I have my best friend from college, a very smart woman, Angela Jayo, and her partner, Michelle Grogan, who opened a tier 3 grow producer up in Kelso, Washington. So, when I heard what they were doing I came up and checked it out, and I was just blown away at what they were doing. And in talking to them further, you know, and watching that Michelle had to literally deadbolt a safe in the back of her Volvo, I'm like, this is the craziest industry I've ever seen.

And they had attended a lot of the big conferences, and they were wonderful for an overview of the cannabis industry. But, when it comes down to it, it's really what is happening in each state, because the rules and regs and everything apply to the state. They also met hundreds of people, but did they meet the people in the local industry that they needed to network with? So, luckily, they ran into Noah at CannaGuard, who's local as well, and so there were some great contacts, but the two of them literally sat down with me and said, Mary Lou, this is big, and you should really do a conference in conjunction with Measure 91 in Oregon.

So, I'm looking at it going, wow. I've never really smoked, and KGW interviewed me and said, what is your relationship with marijuana? And I told that part of the story, but then I said, well, I've had a couple of teenagers that smoked it, and now I need to put them through college. So, having a blast with it, but realizing that the industry really needed to be pulled together, and my overall goal of this thing was to make Oregon a model state. And Senator Ginny Burdick, I think I heard that in one of her presentations. And Oregon is very unique, I mean, when you look at our breweries, and our wineries, and all that, we, I think what's amazing is OLCC has done a phenomenal job of looking at what Colorado and Washington did that didn't work so well, and were applying new principles.

So, the first conference was in conjunction with Measure 91, and it was a high-level overview, just basically to get information out to the people that are interested in getting in, the investors that want to get in, the existing people in the industry. And I think you said it earlier, that there's the people that have, I believe are the hardest workers, the ones that have taken the risks, the ones that are the true experts, are not me. But what I've become is the cannabis, pot cheerleader and the cannabis connector. And basically telling these people, if we all work together and learn from each other we're going to be that much more powerful of a force.

We've brought in over 70 speakers, and I have to tell you, I'm amazed at the variety of speakers. We have a man coming that was a NASA scientist, you know, and they're, just the things that they've learned. We've got people that have developed new software and new technology. MRX Labs, located right here in Oregon, is producing these extractor machines that are being marketed all over the country, and it's cool, they're a family-run business, actually one of the owners, Mike, was in the produce business with my grandpa, in the day. So, you know, these are guys that have come up with this hundred liter machine that's going to be showcased at the show for the extracts. And they're right here locally in Oregon.

So, I see that we can really take these speakers and we're going to be hired by every other state to help them get their states set up. I've already been contacted from California, and some of the legislature, and they're asking and want to see how we're doing this conference, so that we can implement it in other states. There are a ton of conferences, and when I met with Noah from CannaGuard, he basically saw this as an opportunity to create a show that is for the industry, created by the industry. So, that was a huge point, that there are a lot of show promoters out there, doing good shows, but they're inviting in consumers as well as B to B, and it just never works that well. So me being a professional trade show coordinator, and my head people, Denise Hall and Sandra Semling, came from planning events for Microsoft. So, one of our exhibitors said, you have Microsofted the cannabis industry. I thought that was a very big compliment.

And, so our first show, the Creative Conference, was kind of, let's be creative, you know, this is a brand new industry, here's what you can expect. Steve Marks from OLCC came on as one of our keynote speakers, and saw what we did with the conference and was incredibly impressed. And they've got, I mean, they have a limited staff and what they've accomplished has been phenomenal. I think OLCC gets, you know, a lot of people are, you know, this and that and I think it's unfair because I don't think I've ever seen anything move as fast as this has. And they really are concerned with it being right for the industry.

So, when I approached Steve Marks and said we're going to be doing a second phase of the conference, the Cannabis Collaborative Conference, I said, can we collaborate with OLCC and do the cannabis tracking system training within the conference, or in conjunction? They're going to be right next door. And they thought that was a great idea. So, we thought instead of people having to attend five or ten different events, and meet all the same people that, you know, these are small businesses that can't afford to go to Vegas and spend $800, or, you know, be put up in a hotel room and all that. So to bring it on a local level, we've got people coming from all over Oregon. So that's kind of the story, that, it has been -- I like to call it, we've done a grassroots effort, because this industry is very tightknit. They're, they've been through a lot, and they don't want big business or, you know, fancy-shmancy things. They want bottomline, a quality conference with great results.

So, our first show we were anticipating 600 people. We ended up with 1,200. I mean, rarely do I exceed my expectations, so, that was phenomenal. And this next one is expected to be about 2,500. So, very exciting.

DOUG MCVAY: No doubt. You're listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, the editor of Drug War Facts, and I'm talking with my guest Mary Lou Burton. She's the coordinator of the Cannabis Collaborative Conference, and an event manager, event organizer, a businessperson here in the Portland area for quite a few years now. Now, again it is February 3rd and 4th, right? Here in Portland, Oregon, at the Expo Center on the north side of town. You mentioned one of the speakers you'll have, Steve Marks from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. And you'll have people from Franwell, the folks who make the tracking system, who will be doing workshops. You've got a lot of others, I'm just looking at your website, some of the other folks you have speaking, I mean old friends like Aaron Smith, and others. One of the folks you've got who's generating a heck of a buzz, and I've got to admit, I'm not really much of a sports fan, so, okeh, you say he's famous, all right, I'll take your word for it, but according to the newspapers and every story I've seen, he's pretty good, a former basketball player, Cliff Robinson, will be coming in to speak. Now, he's actually part of the business side of this as well, he's not simply an advocate, he's actually business. Can you tell me about him?

MARY LOU BURTON: Yes. You know, I think that, you know, Cliff, when I was approached a couple of weeks ago to bring him on as one of our keynotes, we, you know, have heard a ton of publicity about, you know, the benefits of cannabis to athletes. And there haven't been a lot of people that have come out and become public with it. So, Cliff is getting into the business, and he decided to come on as a keynote, and it's super exciting because, when they interviewed him on KOIN, Cliff talked about using, which was illegal at the time, and he basically said it was wrong, but he said that it helped calm his nerves, settle his stomach, and then, with the amount of wear and tear on their bodies, you know, these athletes, he said instead of the doctors basically throwing all the oxycodone and all these, you know, opiates, he said that he used this for medicinal. And a lot of other athletes did as well.

And so he went on and the newscasters were talking about it, and basically, there's all this controversy over how does it effect people, what does it do, there hasn't been a lot of testing, and reports that have come out because it's illegal, so there isn't a lot of that, but he -- these newscasters basically said, gosh, he had an 18 year run in the NBA, and basically was with the Portland Trailblazers for 8 years, and he's really an icon in this market, along with Terry Porter and Jerome Kearsey, rest in peace. They were kind of the big players. I've invited, put out an invite to Bill Walton, because he's a big proponent.

And I know that this is crossing the line, because I have four kids, and that play sports, and are we condoning it? I think that it needs to be brought out that this is the, the benefits of it medically are off the charts. The stories that I have collected from people that, they've had cancer and they weren't able to eat, and they took it. Somebody hooked on Ambien, which is a terrible drug, and that basically started doing CBD, which doesn't have hallucinogenics in it, that completely helps them sleep. My oldest son was diagnosed ADD, OCD, manic, you know, just one diagnosis after another. And they threw Ritalin, Concerta, all this terrible stuff at him, which some of it made him depressed, some of it made him, you know -- it was just crazy. And as a mother, I was just devastated when he'd say, mom, this stuff makes me not feel good, you know, I have bad thoughts, right? You want to protect your children. Well, when he injured his leg snowboarding, terrible accident, and had compartment syndrome, and the doctors were throwing, you know, all these drugs at him, and I was scared that, with his issues, that it's going to lead to heroin or a greater addiction.

So, we went to see a doctor that basically said, if medical marijuana helps him, I will allow him to get his medical card. And I tell you, he was a different kid. I wasn't sure whether to be mad as a parent or to praise his entrepreneurship, because he turned his dealer into his caregiver. And after seeing the results of how it helped him, and this doctor basically said, you can give your kid all these drugs, that are pushed from pharmaceuticals, or you can have him do a natural plant that's from our ground and probably one of our greatest resources. And it was a hard, hard thing, because I had three other kids, right? And if I'm condoning this -- but when I saw what it did for him, and by becoming legal, it wasn't that big of a deal anymore. So it was basically used when he needed to sleep, and he's now 25, thriving, and going to be opening his own grow. So, as a parent, and kind of going into the bigger picture and I'm sorry if I'm going off into too many tangents, my goal as a mother of four is to basically bring the truth out.

And, you know, my mother passed away a year ago, and again, they had her on so many drugs that she wasn't able to communicate, and they had just started recommending medical marijuana. So, you know, and the truth is that one psychologist that I went to see with my son said that he had done a survey on about 300 kids, and either they committed suicide or had gone off the deep end with a gun in schools, and they were either on an opiate or off of one, not monitored, and this is a huge problem. When I look at our school systems, and we're trying to plug kids into schools and there's 30 kids in a classroom, and we're just drugging them up. These are our entrepreneurs and our inventors, and our brilliant people of the world. They may not be academic. So the tax dollars that are going to come out of this will, number one, help education, and number two, mental health. Because all of these issues of gun control and all this other stuff, we need to fix the brain, or offer assistance to a parent who knows that their child is in trouble, and there's nowhere for them to go. They can either commit them, or they can wait until they hurt themselves or hurt someone else. And I think that's a very sad, sad situation.

So, what I'm going to -- the conference is amazing for education, bringing some of these stories out, letting people not be afraid. After I came out with my story, I had ten others that came to me and were literally crying, saying, thank you so much, because the same thing happened with my son. And -- or daughter, and I'm not condoning and saying that, you know, this is a miracle drug, but we don't know yet what the capabilities of it are, and so by pulling together this industry, and the talent in Oregon is unbelievable, and probably my favorite, favorite thing is that people care in this industry. Not only do we want to be a model state, but I believe it's a model industry, because everybody, every business that I am working with has a part of their business where they're giving back. Compassionate care, help with veterans, homeless, I mean, it's just -- it is, I think, a movement that is so big, and maybe I'm -- but I, in the 30 years that I've been in this industry and all the different facets of meetings and events and the corporate world and weddings, to see this industry has just been amazing.

And so, somebody like Cliff Robinson coming out, that's why I think the story has gone viral, is because it takes that. It takes somebody like me, or somebody who's had cancer, or somebody with a child with epilepsy, that has seen, you know, their child function when they were having 300 seizures a day. So, with this, I think it's kind of letting it out of the closet. People being educated. My 83 year old neighbor has intense back pain, and one of my vendors was working on a cannabis patch. And so I gave it to my neighbor and put it on her and monitored, and a couple hours later she was like, I have no pain whatsoever. And I -- it was a miracle, and so then she says to me, you'll appreciate this, she's like, hey, I'm 83. I have money. All my friends are in pain. Nobody markets to me. Come pick me up in a bus, take me to one of those dispensaries, and then to the casino. Isn't that great?

DOUG MCVAY: Ha! Ah, I'm not so sure about that second part, but the first. Better throw this in here before I forget. You're listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, the editor of Drug War Facts, and I'm talking with my guest Mary Lou Burton. She's the coordinator of the Cannabis Collaborative Conference.

I mean, that's the -- you know, and that's the thing, it's, people forget that we're marketing to -- sometimes people forget that we're marketing to people who really are in need, and patients -- fortunately it's becoming more professional these days, and so we're seeing the industry grow and evolve, and really a lot of us came out of social justice, the people who are in the movement to do reform, whether we're in the business or not. It's, the movement is rooted in social justice, you know, it's about -- and that's, I mean, your story's not, I mean, it's not surprising in a way. It is quite moving, I'm glad that your son has been able to find something effective, because you're right, as it is, we shove pills down people's throats for any particular illness.

We have all these overdoses? Hey, you know what, it's not just opiates, a lot of it's also the anti-anxiety medications, the anti-depressant medications, and -- exactly that -- the alcohol in combination. All those things together, you know, and, you're right on the other part. Because it's emotional and psychological. All these overdoses and such, we hope that they're accidents, and we don't want to think about the possibility that maybe a few of them, a few more of them weren't accidents. A few more than we'd like to think about weren't really accidents, you know? Because we just aren't very good at helping people. And that's the difference with this, and it's good to see. I just think it's great to see people, as I said, you've got a track record of doing work in a particular field, and you're bringing that expertise to a place that needs one. You don't have any political axes that you're trying to grind, you don't have any favorite grower or favorite business that you're trying to promote, and you're just looking at it as, okeh, I do event planning and industry trade shows and the rest, how can I make this work for the cannabis industry?

MARY LOU BURTON: And the fun part is, I've actually gone up to grows and helped them plant, and I'm getting my hands dirty, because I feel like I can't promote the industry unless I know, and then I'm literally going through the process with people. And when the application process came out on OLCC, I said to them, let me come in and videotape this, because people can't read a 400 page document. So Mark Pettinger over at OLCC allowed us to, I mean, they hired basically us to come in and he said that it's received over 3,500 views. So what I'm trying to do is also help the industry, you know, because it's a lot. I mean, people think that they're going to come into this and make a ton of money. And they need to understand that it is not an easy process. I mean, even the smartest of people, you know, it's a big process.

So part of this show is to say, listen, rather than, you know, put $500,000 of your hard earned money into a grow, why don't you invest in somebody that's already doing it, and work together? Because the statistics are, there's 400 grows up in Washington, and there's only 160 retail dispensaries. I mean, that's an overabundance. And so, you know, half of those grows are going to go out of business, and that makes me sad. And I feel like, if I can help these people to connect with the right people, get the education, really prepare for what they're going into.

There were several of my clients are like, we need funding. So that's how I brought the investor bootcamp summit on board, on February 2nd, where literally we've got hundreds of people coming in with money from all over the world that want to put money into Oregon. And then on the other side, we've got the people that need the money. And then a job fair, we're going to do a job fair that day before, even though it's a ton of extra work, Veridian Staffing came on board and they're coordinating this entire job fair. We're going to probably have 500 people that are going to come in, be interviewed, and be hooked up with people in the industry that need helpers, I mean, need workforce. So, you know, it's been a labor of love, I have to tell you that.

DOUG MCVAY: You're going to have a bunch of really good speakers, and I went to your Creative Conference last year. I was very impressed. I've been to several, and this was a, well, it was a trade show. I didn't feel like it was one thing trying to be another, and it was just really well done.

MARY LOU BURTON: Thank you so much, that is I think the best part of it, is going up against all these other events and trying to explain to people that we're different. We're for the industry, by the industry, and so for everybody to be so happy with it, is, that's the best pay off ever.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. And again, Mary Lou Burton, your website CCC-CON.com. I see you've got a twitter, you're CannaConference, @CannaConference, people should make sure to give you a follow. And --

MARY LOU BURTON: Go in and like my facebook page, and check out the press room on the website, because this thing has trended and gone viral, with the Cliff Robinson thing.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, I'm looking forward to it. Mary Lou, I'll be seeing you in a couple of weeks, and I thank you so much!

MARY LOU BURTON: Thank you! I appreciate you having me on air.

DOUG MCVAY: That's a conversation I was having with Mary Lou Burton, she is the founder and coordinator of something called the Cannabis Collaborative Conference. It's being held in Portland, Oregon, on February 3rd and 4th. Actually on February 2nd they're also holding a job fair and an investor's conference. So it's three days of information and activity and stuff that people can use in this growing cannabis industry.

Oregon has adult use retail now. They've had medical for many years. Only had dispensaries and an actual business however for the last couple of years. So the dispensary and medical business has been growing, and now we have the retail, adult use retail, which has been packed on top. And in the next couple of years, this whole thing will take shape. There's a very good possibility that medical patients are going to lose out. They're already seeing some restrictions from the growers and caregivers side, and also on the patient side. So we'll see how things shake out as time goes on.

And well that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. This has been Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DrugPolicyFacts and of course also @DougMcVay. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please be sure to give it's page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We'll be back next week with thirty minutes of news and information about the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.