Pritesh Kumar talking with Cannabis Academy (photos by Keith Gibson)

Pritesh Kumar talking with Cannabis Academy (photos by Keith Gibson)

Kentucky Sen. Perry Clark (D) isn’t a prognosticator, but he concedes that he thinks legislation to legalize the use of medical marijuana has a 50-50 shot at becoming law.

Sen. Clark’s previous bills in 2012 and 2013, both named the “Gatewood Galbraith Memorial Medical Marijuana Act,” died in committee, but the legislation will be reintroduced in 2014.

“It’s coming along pretty well,” Sen. Clark, on hand at the Galt House on Saturday to speak at the ComfyTree Cannabis Academy, said. “We’re picking up support; I’m still cautiously optimistic.”

If Kentucky becomes a legal state, it not only opens up options for those dealing with painful health problems, but it also opens up a whole new industry in Kentucky that brings with it plenty of economic opportunities – from dispensaries to cultivation centers, plenty of specialists will be in demand.

That’s where ComfyTree comes in. ComfyTree is taking its Cannabis Academy to cities around the Midwest, educating those interested in getting into the business of medical marijuana. With 22 jurisdictions already passing legalized marijuana laws, opportunities are growing.

At the academy on Saturday, a variety of speakers presented 93 paid attendees with information laying out not just the opportunities but also the caution flags accompanying a legalized medical marijuana industry.

One speaker explained how taxation can be a challenge, since marijuana remains an illegal Schedule 1 drug in the eyes of the federal government.

Cannabis_Academy_attendee_workbookOne attendee asked speaker Dwight J. Lacy, a University of Kentucky law student, about business write-offs such as employee salaries.

“If you attempt to write off employee salaries on the federal level,” Lacy said, citing Tax Bill 280E, “most likely, that will trigger an audit.”

There was also plenty of general support for marijuana’s medical applications, which at times provoked lively discussion.

Amid open discussion about those who doubt marijuana’s use as medicine, speaker Pritesh Kumar, his voice rising slightly, said, “Bring me anybody who says it’s not a medicine, and I will shut them down quickly.”

This drew a mix of enthusiasm and laughter from the room. He then added, “It’s not debatable at this point.”

At the same time, Kumar, a cannabinoid research scientist for Quantum 9, a Colorado-based cannabis consulting company, fully believes that as a medicine, marijuana must be regulated. Home cultivation, in other words, is a no-no, unless is done strictly for one’s own use in an approved environment. Only licensed dispensaries can distribute medical marijuana.

Just because one knows how to grow, “that doesn’t give you the right to act like a pharmacist.”

One attendee noted that in the state of Kentucky, it’s fairly common knowledge that there are plenty of people who are skilled at growing and cultivating marijuana.

“If someone has a criminal record of growing marijuana,” another attendee cracked, “can you now put that on your resume?”

This elicited quite a bit of laughter. However, cultivation centers are tightly regulated, with issues that will include proximity to schools, odor – “And believe me, there will be odor,” Kumar said – tracking, limits on plant count, black market concerns and more.

At the same time, all the questions asked raised interesting points of discussion, including who potentially can benefit from medical marijuana.

Interestingly, Sen. Clark said his drive to legalize came from a Teamsters meeting nearly four years ago in which several retired Teamsters implored him to introduce a legalization bill.

“They were bitching about the prohibition of cannabis in general,” Sen. Clark said. “They didn’t want to have to pop pills [for pain] anymore. These were elderly retired people.”

He said that at support rallies he sees “moms, dads, doctors,” which naturally flies in the face of critics intent on casting a negative light on marijuana users. Sen. Clark believes marijuana remains illegal only “because of the last 90 years of propaganda.”

That’s where ComfyTree comes in. The mission is to educate about and foster understanding of the benefits of medical marijuana as well as the business side.

Co-founder Tarik Adam, who handles branding and strategy for ComfyTree, said, “When we simplify the message of medical marijuana, that’s when the tipping point will happen.”

The diversity in the room was telling. Another ComfyTree co-founder, George McGill, said in a phone interview prior to the event that attendees at Cannabis Academy events include college students, veterans, professors, doctors, pharmacists and more.

“We’ve had people who own bakeries come to our events,” he said. “You really can take your current skill set and apply it to cannabis.”

Adam said the turnout in Louisville was promising enough that he expects they will hold another Cannabis Academy in March. Perhaps that means a tipping point in Kentucky is near.

“To be honest,” Adam said, “with Louisville, we were going to be okay with 15. To see this big of a crowd is actually really exciting.”