Thousands of medical marijuana advocates, among them former NFL players, kicked off Pittsburgh’s first-ever medical pot conference Friday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

Ticket sales for the two-day conference exceeded expectations, said Melanie Kotchey, chief operating officer of conference host Compassionate Certification Centers.

“Our goal is to unite physicians, patients and investors,” Kotchey said.

Kevin Provost, CEO of co-host Greenhouse Ventures, walked the floor Friday morning in a suit and tie. His company, which is based in Philadelphia, helps spur the growth of startups serving the evolving industry.

“Outsiders may view the cannabis industry as an amateur, even underground industry and that’s not true at all,” he said. “You’re going to see investors, physicians, lawyers, accountants, athletes and insurance people who are now trying to leverage their skill sets in this industry.

“It’s exciting to see Pennsylvania positioning itself in the medical marijuana sphere.”

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a medical marijuana bill into law a year ago.

The state health department is regulating the program, which forbids smoking marijuana in dry leaf form. Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania will be available in pills, oils, tinctures or ointments.

Former NFL running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, a longtime marijuana advocate, will serve as keynote speaker.

“My personal goal is to elevate the legitimacy of cannabis as a medicine and the respect of medical professionals for cannabis users,” Williams told the Tribune-Review in January. “As a former top athlete, no one disputes that I endured injuries and serious physical pain. Medical professionals are well aware of the treatment regimen utilized by the NFL — namely opioids.”

Source: Ben Schmitt, Tribune-Review Staff Writer.
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