Cannabis summit in Schaumburg offers pot business lessons. Here's who's interested in them.

A Chicago couple who own a maintenance company. A Hanover Park man whose wife uses medical marijuana. Two sisters with a family farm in Peoria.

They were among the people who on Tuesday went to the Illinois Cannabis Summit in Schaumburg to do research and get information on business and other opportunities in light of the upcoming legalization of cannabis.

The three-day trade show that ends Wednesday at the Schaumburg Convention Center featured about 30 speakers and about two dozen booths staffed by industry professionals including attorneys, cultivation and pesticide consultants, equipment makers, payroll companies and more. The event is organized by CannaOne Nation Inc., based in Georgia.

Felix Cruz of Chicago said he was a staunch opponent of any drug use until he saw how his wife's father and sibling benefited from using medical marijuana. Now, he and his wife are interested in opening a pot shop.

“It made me open my eyes,” he said. His wife, Sandra Cruz, said it's all about getting educated about the facts.

As for attending the Schaumburg event, “it's economic opportunity above all,” she said. “As you see, this is the future.”

Recreational marijuana use by adults 21 and over will be legal starting Jan. 1; 75 licenses to sell it will be awarded by May 1, with more to come later. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries have first dibs on applying for licenses; everyone else can apply from Dec. 10 to Jan. 2. The new law also allows medical marijuana patients — though not recreational users — to grow up to five pot plants at home.

Craig Reeves of Hanover Park said his wife has chronic back pain and has benefited from using medical marijuana for roughly the last two years, so he wanted to find out about growing it.

“I think this is wonderful,” Reeves said of the trade show. “It's getting people together. It's getting people talking. That's important.”

Having a solid communications plan is key for anyone planning to get into the marijuana industry, said Bob Musinski, vice president of CBD Marketing in Chicago. Suburban village boards and city councils are having discussions about whether to allow marijuana sales in their towns, and it's important to address residents' perspectives, particularly those who might live or work near dispensaries, he said.

“The public may look at your new industry as something negative or confusing, even threatening ... the folks that don't understand the kind of business you operate,” Musinski said.

Gary Cohen, CEO of Cova Software headquartered in Colorado, talked about the top seven compliance issues dispensaries should avoid, including exceeding purchase limits, failure to report and pay taxes, and poor inventory management.

Some booths attracted curious onlookers, such as the one staffed by Michael Green — “perfect name for the cannabis industry,” he said — owner of the Virigina-based bookseller M. Revak & Co.

Green pointed people to two favorites among the 100 or so cannabis-themed books: “The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook” by Robyn Griggs Lawrence, and “The Cannabis Health Index” by Uwe Blesching.

A display from the Traveling Hemp Museum, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, had dozens of artifacts, including a 10-foot U.S. flag from World War II, a page of an Italian science journal dated 1783, and a modern-day Adidas sneaker. All were made with hemp, said museum founder and curator Amy Fisher.

The term “hemp” refers to cannabis with 0.3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient that gives you a “high.” Marijuana is cannabis that contains more THC and therefore has psychoactive effects. Hemp is not a controlled substance under federal law, but marijuana is.

Sisters Renee Nelson and Denise Johnson said their family grows alfalfa on about 40 acres in Peoria, and they wanted to find out about the possibility of growing hemp.

“We told our mom, and she said she was happy we were doing research,” Nelson said. “It could be an opportunity.”

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  Amy Fisher from California, founder of the Traveling Hemp Museum, shows off products made of hemp on Tuesday at the Illinois Cannabis Summit in Schaumburg. Mark Welsh/
  Andrew Kimbrell of the Naperville company BVV shows off lab equipment for the extraction of cannabis plant oil on Tuesday at the Illinois Cannabis Summit in Schaumburg. Mark Welsh/
  Michael McGee of Bensenville planned to show consumers how to use cannabis in the kitchen as part of the Illinois Cannabis Summit in Schaumburg. Mark Welsh/
  Michael Green of Virginia sold cannabis-themed books Tuesday at the Illinois Cannabis Summit in Schaumburg. Mark Welsh/
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