CHICAGO (WLS) -- People who attend the Chicago Cannabis Conference at Navy Pier can't buy pot, but can learn more about the medical marijuana business and Illinois laws about the growing industry.
"The purpose is to reach the public, reach the public in its masses and let them understand that cannabis is here, it's real and now it's time to be educated about it," said Amish Parikh, co-founder of MyCompassion.
The event, which will be the Midwest's largest, family-friendly medical cannabis public education gathering, opened Thursday and runs through Saturday.
The conference is run by MyCompassion.org and features patient success stories, cannabis doctors and business start-up experts.
Products on display include the first-ever, patented cannabis chewing gum called "canchew." It's considered a natural food, not approved by the FDA and only available online.
Brad Zerman, who is opening a medical marijuana dispensary called Seven Point in Oak Park this fall, is one of 60 businesses awarded a license by the state as part of a four-year pilot program.
"This is groundbreaking," Zeman said. "It's very exciting. It's another alluring aspect of this business. How often do you get to be part of a brand new industry?"
Twenty-six hundred people in Illinois are signed up and medically eligible to buy marijuana for treatment, but the state hasn't issued cards yet and the growing centers have just begun to raise their crop. Meanwhile, people are still learning about what the future may bring.
"I wanted to be on the cutting edge and get it first-hand from the experts in the field," said Michelle Latouche, who attended the expo.