San Diego becomes the Emerald city


San Diego is known for a few things including beaches, craft beer, hospitality and bio tech. Could cannabis science be the next big thing to add to that list? The Emerald Conference, an annual cannabis science convention, is coming to San Diego Feb. 27 through March 1 taking place at Loews Coronado Bay Resort. The conference was created in part to encourage collaboration — something that may be popular in the craft beer industry, but which some say is sorely lacking among scientists in the cannabis industry.

Organized by San Luis Obispo-based cannabis science distributor, Emerald Scientific, the first Emerald Conference was held in 2015 in San Francisco. At that inaugural event, Emerald Scientific’s president, Wes Burk, said there were about 85 attendees and six vendors. Since then, organizers say the convention has grown substantially.

“This year in San Diego, we’re expecting somewhere between 700 to 800 attendees,” said Burk. “The conference has grown quite a bit, but we still work really hard to keep it a boutique conference.”

Burk said the Emerald Conference outgrew its previous venue (last year it was at San Diego’s Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina) so Loews was chosen as a new venue. In addition to highly technical sessions such as “Cannabis Genomics and Chemotyping” and “Current State of Cannabis Testing,” meals, mixers and a golf tournament are also part of the agenda.

Burk said that Emerald Scientific started their conference for several reasons: it would potentially be good for business, they’d meet industry players and encourage collaboration and networking in the cannabis industry.

“A lot of folks that attended that [first] conference ... were starting to get disillusioned with the cannabis industry,” said Burk. “They hadn’t had an opportunity to really collaborate across the industry. They were starting to wonder if any other real science was being done besides what they might have been up to themselves.”

The Emerald Conference has been held in other cities previously including Las Vegas and San Francisco but Burk said San Diego is a great place for the conference. Not only is the sunny weather a plus for East Coasters, but San Diego is home to established science institutions such as the Salks Institute for Biological Studies and the University of California, San Diego, as well as companies in the cannabis science space. San Diego-based science companies including Agilent, Fireflower Tech and OMNI Lab Solutions are among some of Emerald’s sponsors.

Josh Swider, CEO of San Diego cannabis lab Infinite Chemical Analysis, said that San Diego is a hub for startups and biochem, and is starting to become one for cannabis science too.

“I personally think San Diego is the place where people are doing a lot more of the science, not just pure production or line manufacturing with no science going on,” said Swider. “When people are looking in San Diego, the people I work with, they’re looking to improve something or improve like an uptake of cannabis or different ways of production of THC or CBD.”

Swider said he’s attended Emerald Conference four times and, in his opinion, he thinks it’s the top science conference in the cannabis industry. It’s truly one for scientists, whereas many other cannabis conferences are consumer focused.

Swider echos Burk’s concerns about scientists in cannabis not collaborating enough. Good things can happen when scientists get together in a conference like Emerald, said Swider.

“That’s where you get feedback from a community of scientists,” he said. “Then you’re growing and evolving as a scientist instead of just focusing by yourself and hiding all your data.”

Fifth annual Emerald Conference

When: Wednesday, Feb. 27 through Friday, March 1

Where: Loews Coronado Bay Resort, 4000 Coronado Bay Rd., Coronado

Cost: $429 (if registered before Feb. 28, $550 day-of registration)