Holiday Inn cancels cannabis seminar reservation in Burbank

Following a police inquiry, a $250-per-person marijuana seminar run under an opaque name saw a recent Burbank program canceled, resulting in a last-minute move from the Holiday Inn to Universal City, something its organizer decried as “un-American.”

“They were just afraid, and they had been threatened by the police,” organizer and Burbank resident Robert Calkin said about the Oct. 26 event, which he said focused on ways to enter the weed business legally. “That's totally un-American.... We won't be helping the city of Burbank make any money at all with that attitude.”

Burbank Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn said the department called the hotel for information about the seminar and discovered that Holiday Inn staff did not realize the seminar — booked under the name “CC Institute” — was a cannabis-focused event.

He said the police department found out about the seminar when officials were researching events in the city online, which they do regularly. No threat of any type occurred, said Ryburn.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are prohibited in Burbank.

Calkin, who founded the business for those looking to enter the field in 2009, said he was forced to take his event out of the Media City due to police involvement. People still showed up, however.

Peggy Wagner, 60, wants to open a hydroponic store in Anza, a community in Riverside County.

In the area where she lives and owns an RV dealership, there are several cannabis growers, Wagner said at the Universal City Hilton event. She attended the seminar to learn about the legality of opening a store.

Wagner said she is interested in offering products that contain cannabidiol, or CBD, to treat autism, seizures, bipolar disorder and other medical conditions.

“I want to do something good and give back to the community,” she said. “I want to dedicate myself to this.”

Seminars sponsored by the Cannabis Career Institute, which launched in 2009, come complete with lawyers, dispensary managers, doctors and other experts to share knowledge to budding entrepreneurs. 

Calkin said the Burbank venue was nixed after the Burbank Police Department called the hotel for information about the program.

Nicole Sickles, a sales associate at the Holiday Inn, said she didn't have any specific information about why the hotel canceled the seminar's reservation. Sickles said senior management for the hotel was unavailable to comment further.

Calkin said Burbank law enforcement officials haven't previously had any problems with his seminars, which have been held in the city the past four years.

“It's because we're teaching people to follow the law, because we're not conspiring to do anything illegal,” he said.

Calkin, the Cannabis Career Institute's president, said he got started in the marijuana business through a delivery operation he launched in 1988 — well before there was any legalized marijuana program in the state.

“That was a major hurdle that I had to overcome [when he started the seminars] … figuring out how to come out of the closet, figure out how to tell everybody what I'd been doing over the last 20 years,” he said.

California's medical marijuana program was established by Proposition 215 in 1996 and grew significantly after the passage of Senate Bill 420 in 2003, which further clarified and set down rules for the landmark initiative.

Calkin said in 2008 he became “professor of delivery” at Oakland's Oaksterdam University, but realized there were potential pot entrepreneurs all over the country who needed help navigating the legal entanglements of the medical marijuana system.

“We decided to go wherever people needed us,” he said. “We're helping to clarify in their minds what is legal.”

Saturday's seminar attracted 19 people, mostly men over the age of 30. One of the attendees, a 58-year-old man who did not wish to be identified, said he discovered marijuana after a battle with intestinal cancer.

Instead of taking a strong prescription medication like Oxycontin, he used marijuana-laced food as a pain reliever, he said.

The man works as a contractor and owns an industrial building that he hopes to transform into a marijuana-growing facility once he obtains a cannabis grower certificate.

“I just want to become a grower,” he said. “It's a perfect fit for me.”


Follow Daniel Siegal on Google+ and on Twitter: @Daniel_Siegal.

Follow Tiffany Kelly on Google+ and on Twitter: @LATiffanyKelly.


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