Thousands of cannabis business leaders from around the world gathered together on March 9, 2023, for the International Cannabis Business Conference in Barcelona, Europe’s premiere business-to-business cannabis event.
Despite the Spanish city’s tendency to keep people out until the wee hours of the morning, the bustling L’Auditori de Cornellà was packed with people from the very beginning of the day. Two floors of exhibitors kept attendees moving, hoping to connect with everyone from hardware manufacturers to seed banks and everyone in between before the day was done.
International Cannabis Business Conference—also known as ICBC— originated in the US nearly a decade ago and has made its mark on several countries, including Canada, Switzerland, and Croatia, with its flagship shows occurring annually in Barcelona and Berlin. Focusing on high-impact education and strictly business-to-business networking, ICB creates a professional landscape perfect for deal flow.
“The cool thing about what we do here at ICBC Barcelona is we create the b2b element,” said Alex Rogers, founder and CEO of ICBC. “We’re getting everybody coming together to talk and do business—we’ve become the b2b meeting point here in Barcelona for Spannabis week.”
The professional environment ICBC provides is crucial for many cannabis industry entrepreneurs and thought leaders who come to Barcelona every year to celebrate Spannabis. Having a day solely focused on building relationships and advancing the global conversation around the plant ensures movement for the space, something that is not lost on the attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors.
“Our team always finds ICBC of the highest caliber in terms of all of the opportunities to connect with professionals that are truly doing amazing work and are excited about the future of the space,” said speaker Luna Stower, chief impact officer at Ispire. “It’s the premier networking space for those looking to do good business with good people—everything from the main conference to the after-party was well organized and run like a well-oiled machine.”
Popular Panels Include Conversations on Hemp, Innovation
The ICBC Barcelona 2023 agenda was jam-packed, with programming in Spanish and English covering topics such as comparing medical marijuana regulations across Europe, media and marketing, advances in cannabis technology, and the state of the international cannabis landscape, all featuring heavy hitters representing every side of the vertical—and every corner of the globe.
One of the most talked about panels was “Squaring the Circle of Industrial Hemp in Spain.” While it mainly focused on the country’s domestic hemp space, it raised important questions about the potential industrial hemp has around the globe. At a time when climate change is ravaging the planet, the myriad uses for hemp as an energy source, building material, and plastic alternative cannot be ignored any longer.
“Jack Herer used to tell me hemp can save the planet,” Rogers said when asked about the popularity of the panel. “I wasn’t sure if I believed him back then. But now I am a believer.”
All Eyes Are on Germany
While many of the conversations at ICBC Barcelona 2023 centered on Spain, the real buzz centered on Germany. German officials, who legalized medical cannabis in 2017, have been working diligently to introduce adult-use legalization—a first for the European Union. The plans are expected to be announced any day and were recently given the thumbs up from EU officials—a precedent that signals a significant shift for the region.
“This is the biggest news in cannabis right now—Germany is the big dog in the EU,” Rogers remarked. “Once Germany (legalizes), it basically gives permission for other countries in Europe to do it also.”
Ngaio Bealum, comedian, writer, and longtime master of ceremonies for ICBC, also predicted big things for Deutschland.
“I think Germany is really going to blow up. And it will also open it up for everybody else in Europe to see how it’s done; we can generally trust the Germans to be relatively efficient.”
Despite turmoil facing mature markets in the US, the booming international market led to a renewed sense of vigor among event participants.
“The ICBC Barcelona 2023 event was one of the best we have been to in the past couple of years; we felt we got a lot out of our main sponsor role,” Stower said of Ispire’s engagement. “Considering the news that just dropped in Germany and all the excitement around Europe in general, the energy was electric.”
Rogers echoed Stower’s sentiments, encouraging everyone to stay tuned for a very busy ICBC Berlin on June 27—and to think beyond the current market excitement, reminding us all that this is a global movement.
“Europe is the place right now,” Rogers quipped. “But the great thing about ICBC is all the people that come from all around the world, so it’s become a meeting point for the Eastern hemisphere and part of the Western hemisphere. So it is the most internationally diverse meeting point for cannabis in the world.”