Growing up in the mid-Atlantic, Josh Crossney earned an associate’s degree in business from Anne Arundel Community College and worked as a bartender before landing a job as a talent recruiter at an analytical science staffing firm. Though his background wasn’t in the sciences, he discovered a knack for technical topics. “You almost get a ‘school of hard knocks’ PhD when you’re doing that work because you really have to study the opportunities, study the people’s credentials,” he says.
Crossney spent a lot of time working at scientific conferences such as Pittcon, an instrumentation and analytical science meeting. Starting around 2014, he noticed a handful of analytical instrument firms tiptoeing into cannabis analysis. “Some of the companies were like, ‘Oh, you’re using it to test potatoes and tomatoes, right? Wink wink,’ ” he says. At the same time, Crossney started hearing about the relief that medical marijuana brought to people with cancer and seizure conditions. He was troubled by the idea that patients, especially kids, were using cannabis as medicine without the rigorous analytical science and quality-control testing that are prices of entry for conventional pharmaceuticals.
Crossney left his staffing job in 2015 to look for opportunities in cannabis. It didn’t take him long to see where he could fit. “I wanted to take my resources and my connections and my foothold in the analytical science industry and connect it to cannabis,” he says. “I knew that was what I needed to do.” Crossney came up with the Cannabis Science Conference and started planning a 100-person event for 2016 in Portland, Oregon. He had to change venues three times as attendee and vendor registration blew past the capacity of the location he booked. “We ended up at the first show with about 800 attendees and 70 vendors. So it was at our very first show that we knew, ‘Wow, this is something special,’ ” he says. Crossney and his business partner, Andrea Peraza, added an East Coast edition of the conference in 2019.
The 2022 Baltimore show found Crossney popping between simultaneous talks on analytics, hemp, medical uses, cultivation and extraction, and psychedelics. Though the work puts him in contact with stars like Olivia Newton-John (second from right), he says that sharing the stage with rock star scientists is what really gets him excited. “Those people are the celebrities that really need to be lifted up and their voices heard,” Crossney says. In February, he sold the conference to publisher MJH Life Sciences and decided not to stay on. “It has really meant the world to me for us to work together to bridge the gaps between cannabis, psychedelics, science, and medicine,” he says.