There was an amount of irony when Charles Vest rose to the stage at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner on Tuesday night, to present the association's award for "business of the year" to local website developer Automatic Corp.
Vest – communications director of HempMedsPX, a firm exploring the medical use of cannibal oils – saw his brief appearance at the dais at the chamber event as part of a coming-out event for the medical marijuana industry.
"We are leading the pack in a market that is predicted to grow faster than the smart phone industry," Vest said before the event. "It is extremely important for the public to know that HempMeds is actively creating new jobs for San Diegans and for businesses across the country."
Like the other sponsors of the event, which included Chevron (NYSE: CVX), San Diego Gas & Electric, Kaiser Permanente and Smart City Networks, HempMeds was also allowed a display table outside the banquet hall at the Hilton Bayfront, where it advertied its cannabis-based pills, lotions, oils, chewing gum and other products.
The dinner took place only a couple of hours after the San Diego City Council passed tight new restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries, after a long afternoon of public testimony pitting users of the drug, touting its pharmaceutical benefits, against church leaders and other community activists, worried about its potential harmful benefits on youths.
The council's action will not affect HempMeds directly, since it is not a dispensary, but it could end up closing many potential local outlets for the company's products.
Under the council's plans, most of the city's 140 or so dispensaries currently operating without permits in the county would be closed, leaving only a maximum of four dispensaries in each of the nine districts.
And the eventual number could probably be much lower than that, since the council's guidelines would leave one district without any dispensaries at all and two other districts with a maximum of three each.
Executives at HempMeds and its parent company Medical Marijuana Inc. (OTC: MJNA) hope Vest's appearance at the chamber will help change the public's perception of the industry.
"Cannabis-based businesses like ours are not only legitimate business, but we want to be an integral part of the growing business community in our home town," said Michelle Sides, chief operating officer of Medical Marijuana Inc.