NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A lot more is happening in the marijuana industry than you might imagine. Want proof? Go to a pot conference -- it's not all pipes, bongs and brownies.
The Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition took place from June 17 to 19 in New York, and brought together marijuana investors, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts from all over the U.S. Roughly 2,000 attendees rubbed elbows, browsed exhibits, and listened to talks by industry leaders.
"What you learn at an event like this is just how expansive the industry is," said Dan Humiston, president of the International Cannabis Association, the event's organizer. "It's so much more than dispensaries and growth facilities."
Jason Graham of Forever Flowering Greenhouses, a California-based supplier of greenhouses for the cannabis sector, regularly attends marijuana conferences all over the country.
"I see it, as it gets more legitimized, becoming a whole new agricultural industry. We have the ability to shape the industry from the beginning," he said.
The industry is spawning all sorts of related products and companies. Here are a handful of items you can happen upon at a pot conference, and more than one will probably surprise you.
Jane isn't your average ATM. Described by its makers as a "revolutionary dispensary check-in kiosk system," it is a machine designed to handle cash transactions at businesses that sell marijuana. Customers swipe their IDs, enter their names and phone numbers and insert money to pick up their orders.
The company making these kiosks says they provide security for dispensaries' cash, ease worker anxiety about handling large amounts of cash and bring accuracy to daily cash reconciliation.
Cash is a major issue in the cannabis industry. Marijuana is illegal on the federal level, so banks won't accept revenue generated by it. That means the industry is entirely cash-based, meaning the entities growing and selling the product are sitting on piles and piles of currency.
The marijuana packaging business is no joke. Not only do the containers in which products are sold need to be attractive to buyers, but they also have to be legal -- something the team behind Kush Bottles knows well. The company sells pharmaceutical-grade containers as well as a wide range of packaging products for the marijuana industry.
Around since 2010, Kush Bottles is also proof that the marijuana packaging business can be pretty profitable. The company filed for an April IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Marijuana has the same requirements as all plants to grow: water, sun and, of course, soil. Not all soil is alike (or is actually soil).
Nevada-based Wonder Soil has identified a market in the cannabis industry for its expanding planting mixes and lightweight soil-less growing medium. The substance grows up to seven times when water is added and promotes up to 50% in water savings for as long as five to seven years. So not only is Wonder Soil marijuana friendly, but it is environmentally friendly.
In 2014, nearly five million units of edible infused marijuana products were sold in the state of Colorado alone. And it's not just brownie bakers that are jumping on the food opportunity and making money.
One example is Canna Flavors, which creates oil-based, "chef-quality" flavors for cannabis product makers. Its flavors have names such as Lime Stoned, Vanilla Sky High and Cinna-A-Bong. A 2-ounce bottle of its classic flavors costs $10, while organic flavors are $15.
Oil Extraction Systems
Apeks Supercritical has been designing and manufacturing botanical oil extraction systems since 2001, and the cannabis industry has given it a major boost. The Ohio-based company's sales reached $9 million last year, 95% being for cannabis extraction in other states.
And Apeks isn't alone in making money on extracting oils from cannabis. CannaVest (CANV), which is publicly traded, develops, produces and sells raw oil and end-consumer products containing compounds based on hemp, marijuana's 100% legal cousin.
Those who ingest marijuana in pill form suffer from what Eli Elias of the Capsule Consulting Group describes as "canna-burps" -- a cannabis-caused form of indigestion. Capsule Consulting Gruop decided to devise a solution to the problem by developing flavored capsules.
The small, hard capsules are available in a variety of flavors, including strawberry, orange and grape. The Capsule Consulting Group also has vegetarian versions available, as well as capsules for pets. What's more, customers are allowed to create customized designs of their own capsules, choosing different flavors, colors and even logos.
You know those little packets that come in packages and are supposed to keep the items enclosed nice and dry? They're called Pillow Paks, made by Desiccare, and they're helpful in the marijuana business, too.
The packets can be placed in containers with marijuana to keep the product from drying out. Desiccare has trademarked the name MFRESH for its product line, which also includes humidity-indicating cards that warn consumers when their stash is getting too humid.
Vacuum storage bags can be used to suck the air out of and store anything --- including, apparently, marijuana.
AmeriVacs has found a new marekt for its vacuum bags and sealers in the cannabis industry. Its machines, which can seal up to 360 packages per hour, are priced starting at $1,995.