Medical Cannabis Conference kicks off Thursday in Pittsburgh
Riley Cote played in the National Hockey League for eight seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers.
At 6 feet 2 inches and 220 pounds, he was known around the league as an enforcer, which meant he got into a lot of fights with opposing teams.
“It was a lot of wear and tear,” says Cote, now 36, whose last year as a player was 2010. “I was fighting 30 to 35 times a year.”
That kind of physical abuse took a toll on Cote’s body, especially after being involved with competitive hockey since the age of 15. It was not uncommon to wake up with a dislocated finger, bruises and an assortment of soft tissue injuries, he says.
To cope, Cote, who grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, quietly turned to marijuana to relieve the pain and anxiety before and after games.
“It was calming to my body,” says Cote, who is an advocate for the legalization of marijuana. It fights pain and arthritis,” he says. “The information is there.”
Cote will be in Pittsburgh this week to participate in the 2018 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo from April 12 to 14 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. He will be part of a panel of former professional athletes who will discuss the use of medical cannabis.
Joining Cote in the 4 p.m. discussion on April 13 will be Eben Britton, a former NFL offensive lineman; Darren McCarty, NHL four-time Stanley Cup winner; Frank Shamrock, champion of the UFC Middleweight division; and Marvin Washington, a former NFL lineman who was on a list of plaintiffs last year who sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the legalization of marijuana.
This is the second year for the conference, which is expected to attract 6,000 people and 175 exhibitors from across the country — double the size of last year’s inaugural event.
The reason for the enthusiasm is the growth of the medical marijuana industry, with sales projected to hit $17 billion in 2017, according to a recent article in Forbes magazine. That number is expected to reach $24.5 billion by 2021, the article said. Currently, 29 states have legalized medical marijuana, including Pennsylvania, where sales began in February.
Like last year, the conference organizer is Compassionate Certification Centers, a physician-owned medical marijuana network with offices in downtown Pittsburgh and Butler. Besides the sports panel discussion and 175 vendors selling everything from bongs to hemp-based clothing, this year’s event will have the 420 Games. The purpose of these games is the promotion of healthy and responsible use of medical marijuana. That event takes place Thursday with a 4.2-mile run/walk at the North Shore Riverwalk.
The conference will have a job fair for people interested in joining the industry. According to Compassionate Care, the medical cannabis industry could employ as many as 292,000 by 2021.
In addition, there will be keynote speakers. Sue Sisley, a national medical marijuana researcher, will discuss the use of cannabis for post-traumatic stress disorder. Cyril Wecht, the former Allegheny County coroner, will discuss “Cannabis and Concussions Through the Forensic Lens.” Tim McGraw, founder of Canna-Hub, a Sacramento-based real estate development and management company for the cannabis industry, also is scheduled to talk.
There will be workshops and educational break out sessions for people who are interested in the business, tax implications and legal side of medical marijuana. And there will be tips on how to talk with doctors about cannabis.
“This business is changing on a dime,” says Melonie Kotchey, chief executive officer and co-founder of Compassionate Certification. “It made sense to us to bring everything under one roof. … We wanted to bring the best of best of the best.”
The public is invited to attend an evening riverboat cruise, a fundraiser for the Disabled American Veterans and the Make-A-Wish foundation from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. April 13. Tickets for the cruise are $75, which includes a three-course dinner, live music and entertainment.
Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at [email protected], 412-871-2346 or via Twitter @41Suzanne.