When Alex Rogers, CEO and Founder of the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) told us his story it had us on the edge of our seats and maxed out our respect for him, his journey, and his vision.
There have been landmark moments in history – across the country and around the world – that shaped the future of culture, laws, and politics forever.
Thanks to decades of dangerous and often thankless activism and advocacy, the global cannabis reform movement is in the midst of a series of such moments but despite what the movies might make you think, rarely is it the case that one person can be present for so many of these events, spread so far apart by geography and time.
There are some folks, though, whose thread is woven tightly into the fabric of cannabis reform history and though they may not be mentioned among the legendary names or cited in attendance at those turning points in history, they were there, at the righteous place at the right time.
Alex Rogers, CEO and Founder of the International Cannabis Business Conference is one of those people.
From Jack Herer’s living room to a German jail cell, Rogers’ story is as grassroots as it gets and that earned life experience is reflected in the ethos of his ICBC events where global attendees not only receive top-shelf financial and business guidance, but also learn about the inherent value of legacy, and so much more.
As the Beard Bros begin to pack their bags for the Spring 2022 International Cannabis Business Conference in Spain, we wanted to shine a bit more light on this all-inclusive event founded by someone we highly respect.
What is the International Cannabis Business Conference?
Well, that is a bit of a loaded question, so perhaps the best answer is that the ICBC is always evolving.
Though the event first took root in Portland, Oregon, it has since set sail seeking more emergent and curious cannabis markets outside of the U.S.
In 2022, for example, the International Cannabis Business Conference will hold four events with a Barcelona Business-to-Business (B2B) expo in March, followed by two events over the span of three days in Berlin in July, and culminating with the ICBC Global Investment Forum in Zurich, Switzerland in September.
The Barcelona event will see cannabis aficionados from dozens of different nations in attendance looking to soak up insight at thought-provoking and highly informative speaking panels, source essential services at Spain’s largest cannabis B2B expo, and level up their nightlife and their networking at the dopest afterparties on Earth.
This year, the ICBC in Barcelona will be held on March 10. The event is associated with the iconic Spannabis which will be held on March 11-12.
This “super-conference” will cover the full spectrum of cannabis advocacy, reform, culture, and industry and is sure to attract some high-level players. Beard Bros will be there and rumor has it that Jim Belushi has his bags packed and his sights set on ICBC in Spain, too!
As two separate events, the International Cannabis Business Conference Global Investment Forum and the B2B Expo require separate registrations and offer different programming, but both offer a deep pool of opportunities to help you launch, grow, or sell your own brand or business.
First up, attendance at the ICBC Berlin Global Investment Forum (GIF) is more than just a seat at an event, it is a defacto membership into an exclusive (but growing) club of those rare innovators, investors, and potential partners who are not only well-versed in global economics and finance, but in the extremely nuanced niche of cannabis as well.
Over 150 investors will be there, each looking to throw down no less than a million bucks on the next best thing.
Real-world data and experience converge with real-deal capital and funding to fuel upcoming multi-billion-dollar markets at the International Cannabis Business Conference Global Investment Forums.
Of course, knowing Alex, that afterparty and venue will be lit as well. He’s not dragging you to Vegas or some parking lot in San Bernardino. These are epic destinations strategically determined to be emerging epicenters of cannabis commerce and culture.
Those wise enough to stick around for another couple of days to attend the follow-up event will bear witness to Europe’s largest and most successful cannabis-related B2B expo held at the illustrious Estrel Berlin Hotel with over 5,000 guests representing 80 different nations expected to be in attendance.
The ICBC in Berlin is for everyone who has ever left MJBizCon feeling unsatisfied with the event and unimpressed by Las Vegas. It’s an easy decision for anyone intrigued by the global cannabis market, and not to mention it is probably the smartest and most memorable tax write-off of the year!
Zurich stands as the largest city in Switzerland and is highly regarded as the financial capital of Europe and one of the world’s principal financial centers.
What better backdrop for the final International Cannabis Business Conference event of 2022?
Zurich is where big business gets done and the second ICBC Global Investment Forum of the year is sure to bring that same energy as players position themselves for what is shaping up to be a rapid escalation of cannabis reform and industry everywhere from the Statue of Liberty to the Swiss Alps.
With attendance limited to just 200 people, the value of being there cannot be overstated as opportunities for one-on-one interaction with some of the most influential decision-makers and financiers in cannabis will never be higher.
Dozens of startups and established brands will vie for just 10 exclusive slots to pitch their dream to a lineup of deep-pocket investors at the Zurich GIF, setting trends and shaping tastes for 2023 and beyond.
Again, the networking at and after the event will be unrivaled as you traverse the grounds of the world-class, 5-star Dolder Grand Hotel. Originally constructed in 1899, the Dolder resort is an incredibly tasteful blend of old and new and it serves as a perfect reflection of how European cannabis markets can retain their culture while implementing reform.
There and Back Again – ICBC Roots Run Deep Worldwide
As we alluded to in the intro to this article, Alex Rogers has walked the walk when it comes to cannabis advocacy, and that path has led him to and through some pretty monumental moments in the history of our movement and our culture.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Rogers moved to Santa Cruz, California in 1992 at a time when the concept of “legalizing weed” was moving out of the realm of stoner fantasy and into reality.
The pieces and key players were coming together for what would eventually become Proposition 215 and lead to two decades of a mostly self-policing medical cannabis market in Cali.
Just a year after he hit the west coast, in 1993, Rogers found himself hanging with Jack Herer and soon went to work helping Herer promote the California Hemp Initiative.
In ‘94, Rogers formed his own Political Action Committee called End the Hemp War which was used as a vehicle to hold events, raise money, and gather signatures for Herer’s legalization effort.
Rogers vividly remembers meeting another cannabis activism legend, Dennis Peron, through his relationship with Herer and how the two would passionately try to convince one another to support their vision of legalization.
Peron, whose incredible legacy lies at the root of medical cannabis, wanted to focus on that facet first while Herer had a grander vision of legal weed for all.
Rogers soaked up those friendly debates firsthand, cannabis history unfolding before his eyes.
The dreadlocked 22-year-old kid from Minnesota was even featured in a Newsweek photoshoot at Peron’s place alongside another young activist by the name of Debby Goldsberry.
Goldsberry deployed Rogers to Hemporium on Lower Haight in San Francisco, the iconic building owned at the time by Ed Rosenthal and Dale Gieringer… more legends. His mission was to propagate the message behind Herer’s “hemp” initiative by literally popping up an informational booth on the curb in Haight-Ashbury.
Goldsberry, yet another first-ballot cannabis hall of famer, opened the Berkeley Patients Group dispensary in 2000 but she is also credited with co-founding Americans for Safe Access, the Medical Cannabis Safety Council, and the Cannabis Action Network (CAN).
Having recruited Rogers into CAN, the two organized a massive hemp festival in Golden Gate Park in the Bay Area in 1994 with over 30,000 hippies ahead of their time in attendance and Fishbone headlining the entertainment.
This was cannabis activism when it wasn’t popular and it wasn’t safe. These efforts, however, eventually tipped the scales in our favor, and Prop215 passed in 1996.
Rogers, though, wasn’t even around to see it happen.
His wook lifestyle had once again whisked him off on another adventure, this time a 10-year chapter of his life spent in Europe where his passion for cannabis was even more taboo.
Initially landing in Amsterdam (of course), Rogers hooked up with High Times back when High Times was HIGH TIMES, and wound up working for them running the Melkweg (Dutch for Milky Way), an abandoned dairy factory turned concert hall where some mind-bending Cannabis Cup afterparties went down.
A self-confessed “petty weed dealer” at the time, Rogers’ charmed life came screeching to a halt after a cannabis-related arrest in Germany landed him behind bars for just over six months.
“My sister went to Princeton and I went to prison,” says Rogers, reflecting back.
Upon his release, Rogers returned stateside, looking to recompense.
That mindset led to graduation from Southern Oregon University summa cum laude with a Political Science degree.
The flame was rekindled and Rogers would open Ashland Alternative Health, a medical cannabis dispensary in Southern Oregon, and Northwest Alternative Health in Eugene.
Rogers next founded the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference which quickly became the biggest cannabis B2B event in the state with 1000+ cannabis lovers converging on Ashland each year to talk pot.
By 2013, Rogers had a successful blueprint for producing this type of event and once again foreign shores beckoned.
It is crucial to keep in mind that in 2013, legal weed in Europe was a pipe dream. Hell, even here in California the biggest regulator was Weedmaps, and Colorado and Washington still hadn’t gone legal with recreational cannabis.
The International Cannabis Business Conference was formed in 2014 and, ironically, the first two shows were in Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California, before expanding to Vancouver, Canada with their third event.
In 2017, the ICBC landed in Berlin. The full circle of life events was not lost on Rogers as his time incarcerated in Germany left an indelible mark on his memory bank.
That experience redirected his energy from breaking the law to changing the law and though he had played an important role in that effort back in the U.S., he accurately predicted that Germany would be the first major European market to go legal and saw his event as a way of making right a past wrong.
Between the time he booked his venue for the Berlin event in 2016, and the time that the event actually took place in 2017, Germany blazed a new trail in medical cannabis acceptance, making it much easier for prospective patients to get regulated cannabis.
What happened next in Germany resembled much of what we saw here in California around the same time – Canadian investors flocking to the scene looking to partner with established brands in emerging markets.
As happened in Cali, some of those partnerships worked out for all involved and some did not.
This sudden spike in international cannabis commerce – and curiosity – absolutely benefitted the ICBC with Rogers’ educational creation becoming a gatekeeper for a multibillion dollar global marketplace dealing in a widely misunderstood commodity.
Now, in 2022, Germany is on the verge of nationwide recreational adult-use cannabis legalization, expected to pass this fall.
“I pushed, and I took chances, and I predicted it would happen, but even I didn’t think it would happen that way,” says Rogers.
The rest, as they say, is history, and that leads us to this year’s landmark schedule of events for the International Cannabis Business Conference.
The Future of Global Cannabis is Now
Alex Rogers is clearly and rightfully proud of what he has created with ICBC and his outlook for the future of the event is bright.
He is equally as optimistic about what a “global cannabis marketplace” will look like.
Sure, there are always concerns about regulation killing quality, but Rogers points out that any free market should have options and so while there are sure to be cargo ships hauling shipping containers full of biomass from Country A to Country B, there will always be the demand for local, craft-quality cannabis, just as there is for beer, vegetables, etc.
Thousands of attendees representing over 80 different countries will show up at ICBC events in 2022 where they will learn about fundamental aspects of true cannabis reform.
Topics like legacy, social equity, local control, branding, investing, and more will be debated in detail, sending those thousands of enlightened folks back to dozens of countries carrying a message of cannabis culture and that’s just good business.