The global cannabis industry is exploding and nowhere was it more evident than at last week’s MJBizCon in fabulous Las Vegas.
The annual conference and expo, put on by Marijuana Business Daily magazine, attracted more than 27,000 people from over 70 countries to the city’s sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center and that’s just counting the people who actually went to the show. Riding high off recent wins for the industry, such as three more states approving cannabis reform and the resignation of weed’s enemy of the people Attorney General Jeff Sessions, show attendees, exhibitors and speakers were more enthusiastic about what lies ahead than ever before.
The conference itself has grown by leaps and bounds over the last seven years. It started from humble beginnings in 2011 with only a few hundred folks at a conference room in Denver and has evolved to the juggernaut it is today. This year, governing authorities at Clark County and the City of Las Vegas announced the designation of “MJBizCon Week,” will begin during the 2019 show, which is moving from mid-November to mid-December. Additionally, Trade Show Executive Magazine ranks MJBizCon the fastest-growing retail show in the United States.
Simply speaking, if you thought 2018 was a busy show, just wait until next year. And if you didn’t make it out to Vegas or you spent all of your time in the elevator lobby of the Cosmo, here’s our breakdown.
Sessions Offered Education, Biting Opinions
For those looking to learn about the budding marijuana market, there were over 30 unique topics covered over the three days of conference programming touching on business development, policy, marketing and everything in between.
“I was humbled by the amount of interest at this year’s MJBizCon, especially as it related to my presentation,” said Zachary Venegas, chairman and CEO of Helix TCS, Inc., who spoke about mergers and acquisitions to a packed room. “It was immediately evident from the turnout that consolidation is at the forefront of people’s minds. We spoke with business owners and entrepreneurs from all over the world.”
Of the myriad of speeches and panels covering such topics as compliance, investments, cultivation, data analytics and branding, none was more controversial than the presentation on Canada’s first month into adult-use sales nationwide, featuring Aurora Cannabis CEO and founder, Terry Booth. As reported by the Vancouver Sun, Booth (who appeared late to the session) spent his time on stage delivering profanity-laced diatribes, including some against several Canadian provinces who, according to him, “sh*t the bed” during the roll-out.
Other popular, albeit less explosive, sessions included “Marijuana, Hemp and the IRS: 280E & Tax Strategies with the Experts,” “Bulletproofing Your Business: The Big Boys Are Coming, Are You Ready?”, “Harnessing the Entourage Effect for Enhanced Therapeutic Effect,” and “What Are We Smoking? How Strain Name, Chemical Composition & Genetics Impact Product Marketability.”
Many people I spoke with stated that they were too busy with meetings to attend even one speaker session, a testament to how massive the event really is.
“This is the one time of year when the entire industry is in one place,” said Jamie Cooper of Cannabiz Connection, who traveled from Michigan to attend. “It’s all about the networking!”
An Epic Scene on 175,000 Square Feet of Expo Floor
With over 1,000 exhibits in a hall the length of what felt like 8,000 football fields, the expo floor was a dizzying yet robust location featuring a wide variety of plant-touching and ancillary companies thirsty for commerce. Packed for nearly the entire duration of the conference, the energy in the massive room was simply astounding. From bright LED grow lights to the latest and greatest in vaporizer technology, there were almost too many sights to see. Some of the highlights included the demonstration of a high-tech trimming robot from Bloom Automation, an innovative “weed capsule” that uses loss activation technology (think the Limitless pill) by Harvest Direct Enterprises, free personalized engraved Era devices at the PAX booth and an appearance by actor Kelsey Grammer, who at one point was spotted checking out the vape hardware at the Jupiter Research exhibit.
“The scale of this event is completely massive,” remarked David Sutton, chairman and CEO of NanoSphere Health Sciences, whose booth was buzzing for run of the show. “I’ve been here for three days and there’s no way I’ve seen every company that’s on the exhibit floor. I haven’t even probably made it from one wall to the other! There are thousands of new companies here doing great things and showing that this industry is on fire.”
“It’s like the Superbowl of cannabis because all the companies come here and congregate,” added CuraLeaf CEO Joseph Lusardi. “It’s an excellent way to not only interact with entrepreneurs from around the world but also see and stay up on the trends in the industry.”
Sam Whetsel, co-Founder and CEO of Smokus Focus, echoed that sentiment.
“I left feeling very optimistic about future business for our company,” Whetsel said. “Seeing how fast this event has grown and the industry as a whole is incredibly impressive.”
Parties, Parties, Parties
As anyone who has attended MJBizCon in the past knows, the real magic happens after-hours at any one of the dozens of networking receptions and soirees. This reporter only made it to a small handful of the extracurricular events, but as a seasoned vet I know it’s quality not quantity. Some of the highlights included the Golden Key party, an ultra-exclusive event sponsored by Trellis, NexTech and Cova, which featured master hashishin Frenchy Cannoli serving up his famous fare in a garden gazebo, and Cannabis in Wonderland, an over-the-top fete presented by Vista Prime Distribution Network that saw the entire Artisan Hotel taken over by a cast of colorful characters that would make Lewis Carroll dance with delight. And while I wish I could have made it to the infamous Golden Ticket fete presented by DOPE Magazine, a party that always makes waves, it just wasn’t in the cards (Vegas joke!).
Additionally, off-site events like the Industry Power Women awards ceremony, CannaBrunch Wake and Bake Media Showcase presented by Canna Newswire, the Entrepreneur Lounge by Direct Cannabis Network, and the first ever Women of Cannabis conference at Enclave proved that the power of MJBizCon extends far beyond the walls of the Las Vegas Convention Center and does indeed deserve the designation offered by the city itself.
“The ‘MJBizCon Week’ proclamation really is a testament that this event has not only become a cornerstone event for the cannabis industry and the place where people set themselves up for a successful year ahead, but it is also having an increasing impact on the City of Las Vegas as a whole,” Cassandra Farrington, CEO of Marijuana Business Daily, told Cannabis Now. “It’s great to have that recognition.”
TELL US, will you attend MJBizCon next year?