The music industry has SXSW, tech has CES, the comics industry has Comicon and weed has MJBizCon.
Held every November in Las Vegas, MJBizCon is the most-dominant cannabis business-to-business conference. But what began as a trade show for cultivators and manufacturers to connect with machinery, packaging and other ancillary companies has turned into a full-blown party for the industry. With the green rush sweeping the nation and cannabis now recreationally legal in Sin City, MJBizCon has become the place to be for anyone who’s anyone in the cannabis business as well as everyone who’s trying to break in. Cannabis professionals are now joined by entrepreneurs, investors, influencers and enthusiasts from all over the world who fly in to network, to shop equipment and brands and now, more than ever, to party.
While the expo broke record attendance, with 27,000 in attendance, numerous people flew in just for parties and meetings and didn’t even step foot on the conference floor. The show is so big that if you’re flying from a cannabiz haven like the Bay Area, you’re guaranteed to bump into multiple colleagues on your flight and find yourself trading cards with new connections before the plane lands.
From that first flight to the last event of three-day show, the vibe at MJBizCon is reminiscent of when the Grateful Dead plays a town for three days and it feels like there is nothing but Deadheads everywhere you turn. In the old days, the crowds even looked similar, but not today. One of the biggest complaints you’ll overhear from any cannabis OG is how there are “so many suits now.” And if there’s one thing those in flannels and flat brims don’t trust, it’s suits. Don’t blame them. The facade of the green rush, and yes, the green rush is a facade right now, has men hailing from Canada to Wall Street out in Vegas looking to wheel, deal, acquire companies and in some opinions, steal ideas. The division was palatable at the MJBizCon in an “us versus them” vibe. The good news is it seems the cannabis industry is stronger and more united than ever. This report is from “us.”
I ran into Bloom Farms in the Cosmo lobby and learned they just pledged commitment to working with a minimum of 50 percent female cultivators, yay!
(Pro Tip: Always stay at the Cosmo, because you’ll run into cannabis legends in the lobby, but even more so for the balconies where you can smoke.)
Hitting the conference floor, I reconnected with influencers like Alice Moon and industry bad*ss Luna Stower, leading ladies of cannabis for years, both recently settling into new professional roles. Another common theme I noticed this year was learning where everyone is working now. The first year of legalization in California has shaken up the industry, with many companies going out of businesses and talented people bouncing from one brand to another.
As a branding and marketing professional, there wasn’t much for me to see on the expo floor aside from the occasional packaging or hardware company. This massive conference floor is for true B2B with cultivators and manufacturers on clear missions — find the best extraction technology, a new preroll machine or latest grow enhancements.
(Pro Tip: If you’re new to cannabiz, you can find everything you need to start your business at MJBizCon.)
On the contrary to the corporate vibe of the convention center were the over-the-top parties. It seems that marketing budgets are finally bountiful as every night were multiple overlapping events hosted by brands, media companies, PR agencies, even testing labs. Willie’s Reserve hosted guests in a giant mansion complete with food and drinks as well as a flower bar bud-tended by weed celebs like Jane West. Also included was a vintage denim shop with live patch sewing all night and even a tattoo artist, all 100 percent free. Shout out for my new tattoo!
(Pro Tip: Never miss a Willie’s Reserve Party.)
From there I hit the event that featured Snoop Dogg as D.J. and partied bottle-service-style with DOPE magazine. While the party was very heavily male-dominated, dancing on tables with weed fashion icons Ladies of Paradise smoking joints like we owned the place, with Snoop spinning all my favorite anthems had me feeling like the night belonged to the women of weed.
(Pro Tip: Don’t let your bosses make you feel like you can’t dance on a table, with integrity and class.)
Anywhere else but Vegas, one may call it night at 2 a.m., but instead I hopped into a pink stretch Hummer limo with pals from Guild Extracts and Humboldt Brothers. And thus the first strip club of the trip was hit. MJBizCon can have a very Burning Man or Jazzfest vibe, as in “just ride the wave” and go with the flow.
(Pro Tip: Stretch limos are great for vapes, only. Pro Tip #2: Always party with Guild Extracts, they go hard.)
Thursday morning, Cannabis Now and Tress Capital hosted a private screening of Cannabis Now TV for Steve DeAngelo in a suite at the Cosmo. Naturally, we all smoked various types of cannabis on the balcony before previewing the never-before-seen footage of Publisher Eugenio Garcia experiencing CannaTech with DeAngelo in Israel. I thought the episode was brilliant and eye-opening, a perfect reminder of while MJBizCon feels big, our cannabis movement is far larger than most are aware.
(Pro Tip: Never miss a moment with Steve DeAngelo. Priceless knowledge and inspiration are abundant in his words and presence.)
Back at the Convention Center, just in time for 4:20 p.m., I ran into pals from Meadow, Doc Green’s and High Times. Harry Resin had his Puffco Peak and we were dabbing diamonds in no time, right outside the main entrance on the concrete, with pride. What a beautiful time to be alive!
(Pro Tip: Puffco Peaks are truly the best dab rig for on-the-go.)
Ready to roll out, I realized that was going to take some maneuvering as the roads and parking lots were over congested by everyone trying to get their ubers to the next event. So I teamed up with hash legend Frenchy Cannoli to share a Lyft out. Another magical MJBizCon moment.
Arriving at yet another giant mansion, this time for High Times, I was greeted by an epic food spread, multiple bars with booze and one bar serving pre-packaged cannabis beverages — finally, yay! Again, this party felt overly male-dominated, so I posted up by the pool with my own dabs and vapes.
(Pro Tip: Always bring your own weed everywhere. Or is that just a NorCal thing?)
After a trip back to the Cosmo and quick change, I was on a limo headed to Brooklyn Bowl for the High Times party. I bowled, ate, drank and danced to 2 Chainz, but security was not having any smoking inside that club. Receiving the death stare after firing up with Wolfie, I don’t think I’ve ever put out and hid a blunt so fast in my life. However, the balconies of Brooklyn Bowl seemed to have a more relaxed vibe. Trying to do it all, I was headed to the DOPE Magazine Golden Ticket party when I was intercepted by Colorado comrades and redirected to Cannabis in Wonderland.
After another suite rage with Ladies of Paradise and Zoe Wilder, I was ready to call it a night. I took myself back to the Cosmo, packed my bags and hit my bed with a swell of gratitude, joy and accomplishment. How lucky are we to get to blaze this trail alongside one another. How incredible is it to be alive right now as the revolution is just getting started. I am already excited for next year.
TELL US, did you attend MJBizCon?