“Are you going to SXSW?” is a question uttered by many the media player, entertainment operative and technology guru. The Austin, Texas festival is an event long considered mandatory for anyone who’s anyone in a number of fields — and for the first time ever, cannabis can count itself among the industries whose coolest kids strive to snag a coveted spot at the festival.
And in an unprecedented first, Cannabis Now’s very own HEMP TODAY, our two-day CBD activation and hemp educational experience, will be counting itself among this new clique of plant-friendly programming. This SXSW official special event will take place from March 12 and 13 at The Venue on 6th Street and is open to the general public 21+ and SXSW badge holders. Featuring a range of offerings, from live music and film screenings to moderated panels and branded activations, this event will be THC-free, instead focusing on the emergence of hemp-based CBD and other hemp-related developments in the cannabis industry at large.
Tuesday, March 12
A number of activations and experiential events will begin at 1 p.m. on March 12 including a meet-and-greet with Austin’s most popular pooches sponsored by the elite CBD purveyors Select Oil, massage sessions courtesy of the leading CBD product curators over at Eaze Wellness, and a hemp lounge sponsored by CBD industry leaders CBD Lion and Dab Nation, where attendees can relax and learn about the CBD and hemp-focused products the brands offers.
The VIP area of HEMP TODAY will also open at 1 p.m., allowing special guests to enjoy a selection of complimentary food and custom cocktails from 4-7 p.m., along with a private space to make connections and enjoy the vibes throughout the day until the event closes at midnight.
At 2 p.m., Cannabis Now publisher and CEO Eugenio Garcia will moderate the first panel, “Recovery and Relief: CBD for Athletes,” where speakers will discuss the access to CBD and THC afforded to professional athletes, given the rise in awareness of opioid abuse and addiction, which means clarity around the benefits and restrictions to alternative medicine is more important now than ever.
Featured speakers will include: retired NBA player Matt Barnes, who helped lead the Golden State Warriors to their 2017 championship; NFL free agent Nick Moody, who has been outspoken about the potential benefits cannabis could bring to football players and professional athletes at large; NFL coach and consultant Terrell Jones, now the vice president of business development for Champ Energy Drinks, a line of full-spectrum CBD-charged products designed to enhance performance in a healthful manner, and Dr. Alex Capano, chief science officer of Ananda Hemp, where she acts as principal investigator on clinical research and trials, focused on hemp-based CBD therapies.
Following the panel at 3 p.m., an episode from Cannabis Now’s groundbreaking docuseries exploring the state of the global cannabis industry will be screened. This episode will focus on Israel, home of groundbreaking cannabis research and market-shifting cannabis legislation.
“In today’s post-prohibition space, there’s an increased demand for education and smart entertainment,” Garcia said. “But there is a severe lack of authentic storytelling. Most of the media surrounding the cannabis space today is inundated with either sponsored content or the antiquated ‘stoner’ expression. Our goal is to bring an enlightened, authentic, real-life point of view to this emerging community and industry in the form of film, which is one of the most intimate ways of observing change.”
At 4 p.m., True Terpenes co-founder Ben Cassiday will host an educational presentation where participants will have the chance to delve into the science behind terpenes, the chemical components that give different strains of marijuana (and more!) their unique flavors and learn how to use terpenes to better inform their consumption choices. True Terpenes will activate their Terp Wall throughout the entire two-day event, a display that allows viewers to experience different terpenes firsthand in an interactive and aesthetically pleasurable fashion.
Live performances from SXSW’s lineup of artists will begin on the HEMP TODAY stage at 6 p.m. each evening. Tuesday’s performances will feature Leaf, Rich Espy, Trae The Truth, Food For Cougars, DJ Jacoby, SUPERMCN4STY, OMB Bloodbath, Black Fortune, DJ OG Ron C & The Chop Stars and will be headlined by rapper Curren$y.
Wednesday, March 13
On March 13, doors to HEMP TODAY will open at 12 p.m., leading into a pair of panels moderated by Cannabis Now editors. “The Potentials & Pitfalls of Hemp & CBD,” moderated by Associate Editor Julia Clark-Riddell, will begin at 1 p.m. and will dissect the unprecedented growth, investment and hype surrounding the newly legal hemp industry, as well as a new wave of confusion over how exactly the plant and its derivatives are now regulated. In this panel, attendees will learn from leading hemp and cannabis industry experts about the best strategies for navigating complex state and federal rules, the emerging global marketplace and where they see the most potential for the future of hemp.
These experts include: serial entrepreneur Matt Morgan, co-founder of Reef Dispensaries, Tryke Companies, Bloom Dispensaries, Slapps Underwear, Ignite Cannabis Co and the Green Axis Capital Corp; High Hemp Wraps CEO Paola Fernandez, the world’s first hemp-only rolling papers; longtime journalist and True Terpenes marketing content creator David Heldreth and private hemp investor Michael Freelander, who created the Indica Vaporizer among his many other ventures.
As HEMP TODAY’s second day opens at 12 p.m., so will the VIP Lounge and the Hemp Lounge. The True Terpenes Terp Wall and the Eaze Wellness massage experiences will also open at this time. And at 1 p.m, Austin Pets Alive! will bring dogs who are currently up for adoption into the HEMP TODAY space for anyone looking for a furry addition to their family, with the presentation of a donation check on behalf of Select Oil to Austin Pets Alive!.
A second panel will begin on the HEMP TODAY stage at 2 p.m, with Senior Editor Ellen Holland moderating the conversation on “Marketing Marijuana: Branding Cannabis & Hemp.” Panelists will include: iconic cannabis entrepreneur Steve DeAngelo; branding guru and EVB CEO Daniel Stein, who has spearheaded numerous successful and innovative brand campaigns; Bloom Farms President of Sales and DistributionSallyann Parker Nichols, an early adopter and adapter in the realm of legal cannabis, and Wick & Mortar’s Jared Mirsky, whose award-winning cannabis marketing and branding agency has made leaps and bounds in lifting the stigma surrounding the beautiful plant.
Following the conclusions of panels at 3 p.m, Garcia will introduce the world premiere of Cannabis Now’s mini-documentary on New York City’s cannabis scene, thriving and established despite the fact that cannabis remains illegal in New York state.
“New York City has always been the epicenter for change in our country,” Garcia said of the film. “When people think cannabis, a lot of people think Mendocino and northern California, which is totally legitimate, but the other side of that coin is New York City and Sour Diesel and the stories that we were exposed to — the beginnings and current expression of the East Coast cannabis community, which was pretty phenomenal to witness.”
At 4 p.m., Texas-based cannabis marketing agency The Green Lab Group is set to debut the Bleum App on the HEMP TODAY stage, a revolutionary marketing platform that will “[utilize] augmented reality to change how brands engage with their consumers,” per a release on the launch.
“The goal is to help brands develop content that is unique and creative, provides value, builds trust, and establishes credibility,” The Green Lab co-founder Dan Earle said in the same release.
Following this debut at 6 p.m. there will be another evening of live performances from Scram Jones, DJ Jacoby, SUPERMCN4STY, Food for Cougars, Jay Worthy, Archibald Slim, Dax Impire, Earl Swavey, Ree Bout It and DJ Green Lantern concluded by a headlining set from Devin the Dude.
SXSW Cannabusiness Track
And HEMP TODAY isn’t the only opportunity for cannabis to shine at the festival — there’s also the addition of a Cannabusiness Track, sponsored by Leafly. This track will examine the cannabis industry on a broad scale and is slated to feature sessions on a range of topics, including industry diversity, the future of cannabis and incorporating cannabis into wellness.
These sessions will take place at the Hilton Austin Downtown from March 14 – 16, and featured speakers include former Speaker of the House John Boehner, CanopyBoulder CEO Patrick Rae and cannabis researcher Sue Sisley.
It’s clear that cannabis has earned its place among design, media, film and coding as a topic worthy of SXSW’s spotlight. It is, after all, a burgeoning industry with a North American market value that’s projected to hit $16 billion this year.
Traditional cannabis-based gatherings have changed in the wake of partial, state-driven legalization. The Emerald Cup, for instance, is a far different affair in adult-use California than in the bygone era of prohibition, or even medical exclusivity. But the fact that South by Southwest has given space and a platform to multiple events exploring different facets of this business is a testament to what is in store for cannabis entrepreneurs, both those already in the industry and those yet to enter.
This grand gesture of acceptance from a premiere, mainstream event bodes well for the cannabis industry’s bright future as a business taken seriously and given the weight it deserves.
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