When Illinois became the 11th state to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis this past June, the move was seen by many as a tipping point.
"It's a major milestone," said one supporter, predicting that, with the Prairie State on board, this once taboo activity could go mainstream. By January 2020, when the Illinois law goes into effect, 30 percent of the U.S. population will live in a place where it's legal for adults to possess and consume marijuana for recreational use. It's also legal in the District of Columbia, and another 22 states permit it for medical purposes only.
Meeting planners were also watching closely. In July, just weeks after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Illinois law, 400 attendees flocked to the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park for the Arcview Investor Forum, a conference designed to bring together aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs and potential investors. Exhibitors displayed everything from CBD "topicals" to cannabis-infused drinks, but no one was there to get high -- unless you count the high that comes with nailing a million-dollar deal.
The boom poses questions for the meetings and events industry. Will we be seeing bud bars at receptions or marijuana-laced edibles in swag bags? Will pot tastings be the new wine tastings? Probably not, for good reason: Despite the groundswell that began when Colorado residents voted to legalize weed in 2012, the laws governing where and how the drug can be consumed are complex, and they differ dramatically from place to place.
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