Doug Porter's cannabis-motif shirt is a dead giveaway, as are the terms he uses in his business lecture, such as weed and buzz.
On Saturday, Porter helped lead a how-to session for launching a marijuana business. The California-based Cannabis Career Institute offered the daylong seminar at a BWI Marshall Airport hotel less than a week after D.C. residents voted to legalize marijuana.
Maryland lawmakers earlier this year decriminalized possessing small amounts of marijuana and previously approved its medical use.
CCI officials say the measures mean that an industry growing nationwide could mushroom in the Baltimore-Washington area in years to come. Porter, 52, implored the class of a dozen people to use a model not unlike that of any other small business.
Offering a blueprint that included a business plan, an action team and a demographic analysis, Porter demonstrated how to launch a medical marijuana dispensary, marijuana plantation and delivery services.
Over and over again Porter stressed that though some municipalities have approved legalization, marijuana possession, use and distribution remain a federal offense. And he said that as in any business venture, an entrepreneur's most important partners are a lawyer and an accountant.
"This business is coming out of the dark and into the light," said Porter, who organizes CCI's nationwide seminars. "It is really an opportunity for anybody from all walks of life. Besides what we know about dispensary owners, the delivery service drivers and the growers, there are a lot of ancillary jobs that come as a result of this."
CCI's website says it has offered instruction to more than 3,000 students since its launch five years ago. Its seminars cost $299; patrons can return for additional sessions without additional charge. Each seminar uses up to five instructors — including an attorney, a grower and a marijuana chef with slides and text.
The seminar also includes a 255-page, coil bound book that includes different marijuana types and their medicinal uses.
Among the more popular and potent plants: O.G Kush, short for "Ocean Grown," Porter says. He said other varieties have been used for chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety and appetite stimulation, some of the ailments that have helped convince lawmakers to approve its medical use.
The book also includes recipes for such marijuana-laced dishes as Friday's Pot Pesto, Hummin' Hommous and Ganja Rice Krispy Treats.
"It's not just for hippies anymore; in fact, seniors are the ones that benefit most from this," Porter said. "It is by far better for a senior citizen that is suffering from arthritis or carpal tunnel issue to ingest a cannabis-edible product than it is to ingest an opiate."
Missy Nolan, 46, a massage therapist from Kensington, said she decided to take the seminar as public perception and state laws are steadily shifting. "I am interested in the medical side of it and helping people who do benefit from it."
Verdova Bishop, 64, an entrepreneur from Adelphi, said he's seeking another venture after not having worked full time in five years. "I'm looking to retire pretty soon … I'm definitely interested in learning about how we can run a business in this particular industry."
Porter said the classes nationwide have drawn a largely favorable reaction, except for some conservative locales in the South. "That's where you still have the "reefer madness" mentality," said Porter, alluding to a 1930s film about the effects of marijuana use.
"We try to educate the people as much as possible to the benefits and the big picture," Porter said. "I've had various different encounters with law enforcement, and 90 percent of the time they thank me for enlightening them, that this is nothing like what they were taught in the academy."