SUNY Celebrates Second Successful Cannabis Conference

Photo credit: Melissa Moore


by Victoria Ritter

SUNY Niagara (formerly Niagara County Community College) held the second SUNY Cannabis Conference to great acclaim. The conference took place January 8 and 9 and covered several topics, stretching from culinary uses of cannabis and the most up-to-date research.

The 2024 conference built on the success of the previous year’s event, expanding from one day to two. This year’s SUNY Cannabis Conference was sold out, welcoming 350 attendees and 30 vendors. Nearly every sect of the cannabis community was represented, from college students and canna-curious members of the public to members from the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and industry professionals.

“We drew a lot of attention and brought some people from out of state,” reported organizer and project lead Melissa Moore. She is also a cannabis instructor and co-coordinator of the horticulture department at SUNY Niagara.

On January 8, 150 attendees gathered at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute for a day of cooking demonstrations and presentations. “We had the American Culinary Federation join us and hold the first-ever national cannabis culinary competition,” Moore said.

Professionals and students alike competed in the American Culinary Federation Culinary Cannabis Competition. One of SUNY Niagara’s own students, Sturgis Sundown, achieved gold standard. He was subsequently invited to compete in a cannabis culinary competition in Toronto, Canada.

“We’re really excited for him,” Moore stated.

The following day was dedicated to a vendor market and educational sessions. The morning segment focused on medical cannabis and research while the afternoon classes covered business topics. National speakers from across the country gave presentations.

“We try to cover every part of the industry,” Moore stated. “We try to include cultivation, HR/business, genetics, breeding and medical.”

A Legends of Legacy panel featured representatives from legacy companies including Emerald Cup founder Tim Blake; Swami Chaitanya, founder and CEO of Swami Select Brand and Dan Herer, son of cannabis rights activist and author Jack Herer. For two hours the audience asked questions about cultivation and comparing the cannabis markets in California and New York, among other topics.

Some attendees came away with more than just knowledge and a better appreciation for cannabis. Moore knows of a couple people who landed jobs at the conference after talking with industry employers. “I work really hard to get industry players here so they can interact with the public,” she said.

Next year’s conference is expected to take place in the second week of January; no specific dates are currently set. Looking ahead, Moore hopes to get the community connected with experts, perhaps even bring authors in for book signing sessions. “People who love reading about cannabis will be able to meet their favorite authors,” she said. Additionally, a yet-to-be-announced, “top-notch” keynote speaker will be among the featured lineup.

To learn more about next year’s SUNY Cannabis Conference, visit its LinkedIn page at linkedin.com/company/suny-cannabis-conference.

“Building community is huge to support the cannabis industry,” Moore said. “That’s one of the best things that came out of the conference, the ability for like-minded people to communicate with each other and share camaraderie. It’s something I hope to cultivate.”

There are more cannabis learning opportunities available at SUNY Niagara. The college offers horticulture cannabis courses through its workforce development program. SUNY Niagara will offer one more year of full-tuition scholarships thanks to the $1 million Cannabis Workforce Development Grant from the state. The grant will also go toward the building of an extraction lab and 16- by 40-foot cultivation unit on campus this year.

To learn more about SUNY Niagara’s horticulture cannabis classes, visit niagaracc.suny.edu/wd/cannabis-classes.

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