The past two years have affected us all in the cannabis business in unusual ways, from being on lockdown, to being declared an “essential business.” And now we’re fighting for survival in a difficult market.
Those who have survived were out in full force for the Hall of Flowers cannabis B2B show at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, Sept. 22-23. Perhaps the most overheard comment during both the days of the event was, “What a joy it is to be together again.” At last, after such a long break, dedicated cannabis business entrepreneurs were given a chance to gather, laugh, hug and share stories.
Of course, the players are the same. The last Hall of Flowers event took place in 2019, where many of the original companies, distributors, retailers and farms were clearly not present at this week’s gathering. Instead, there were several new interesting (and sometimes flashy) businesses. For the old-timers it was a bittersweet reunion, recognizing the loss of compatriots who have recently quit while also feeling thrilled to see dear old friends who have shared the pathway to legality all these years.
Outdoor Activations Go All Out
Three large halls were filled with various booths. Outdoors, there were sprinklings of large, elaborate installations – some were two levels high, offering fantastic views over the open chill spaces on the lawn below. Ispire, one of the world’s largest vape manufacturers, built a fantastic area with a second-floor lounge space, complete with fan and mister to keep you truly chilled while smoking through one of their outrageous new dabbing device designs.
Meanwhile, CannaCraft blasted non-stop music from their 2nd story outdoor area, punctuated every half hour or so by reminders to keep your mask on at all times while inside the main halls. In light of the coronavirus, many precautions were taken: All guests were required to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test within 48 hours of entry. Testing kits were available on site for anyone who did not meet these requirements. While some participants complained, the extra security did afford everyone there the comfort to share careful hugs, fist-bumps and even some joints.
Finding Success Together
The Hall of Flowers is a unique B2B cannabis event. Participating brands paid well for their booth spaces, and curious guests (who were allowed entry on the second day only) also had a hefty entrance fee. Retailers and distributors, who wandered about making new connections, did not have a cover charge.
At each booth, vouchers were passed to interested visitors who wanted samples. Vouchers could then then be turned in at the “Dispensary Hall” where several salespeople efficiently redeemed them for their chosen samples. The customers paid only $3 for each sample, plus taxes, which was actually a good deal. Samples included pre-rolls, hash, topicals, edibles, carts and more. Guests mostly left the show with large bags bursting with $3 goodies.
Almost everyone agreed this was a very successful gathering, as many deals were made, which is the main objective. Wendy Baker, owner and founder of Space Gems edibles since 2013, is one of the old-timers in the biz at this point. In her opinion, Hall of Flowers is one of the very best cannabis events, affording her the opportunity to close deals and meet buyers from all parts of the U.S.
Baker shared her large booth space with Craig Nejerdley of Talking Trees, a regular winner at The Emerald Cup. Nejerdley does it all: He grows beautiful flowers and owns a distribution company and retail shop in Humboldt County. He is a community-oriented man who wants the best for his fellow cannabis companies. As he explained, “We will all only survive if we do this together.”
And isn’t that the core of cannabis philosophy? During the past few months, while the glut of mediocre cannabis grown in giant greenhouses hits the market, prices for legacy growers and brands is dropping, and the message is clear: We must join forces.
Cannabis Enterprises, Big and Small
Collaborations are the way to go for many – Radiant Distribution has a co-op brand for legacy farmers under the name Cosmic. Several of their farmers choose to donate 10 percent of each sale to the Last Prisoner’s Project, which is also a wonderful trend to see in the world of cannabis. As Peter Pietrangeli, VP of Sales at Cosmic said, “everyone on our supply chain has contributed.”
A few visitors did say the influence of “Big Business” was annoyingly evident. “You can smell more corporate cologne than weed in there,” commented one attendee upon leaving one of the large exhibit halls. But there was plenty of smoking was going on outside: At the Puffco booth, decked out with cozy white chairs and fake palm trees, Jessica Hwang from Feeling Frosty filled pipes for passersby and clearly loved seeing their contented smiles.
But there actually was perfume inside one of the halls, at the Drew Martin x Heretic booth. Martin himself offered whiffs of what he calls, “the world’s first THC-infused fragrance.” It was divine! Innovative products like this make our industry extra exciting. Some companies clearly catered to the Y and Z generations, some to an urban-slick style, and some to sophisticated elegance.
A big surprise was the guy from Talking Terps, Hope Lord, who is creatively making bank from cannabis, while never getting near the plant. Lord designs cannabis toys and clothing, and his quirky and colorful style has taken off. “I sold 300 of these Terp Crawford toys at $200 each in one hour today,” he said. Whoa. That is a good businessman who knows his demographic.
All kinds of cannabis enterprises, both big and small, were represented. Not to be missed was the Italian booth with 3 separate companies filling the space with cannabis delights: biscotti hashish and pre-rolls, authentic Italian edibles from Mammamia, and affordable concentrates from Tutti.
Even after a long day in the hot sun and warm halls, people were still ready to party. Several events took place all over Sonoma County, catering to the many facets of cannabis fans. For a group of people who have been so separate over the past 24 months, this was the perfect chance to re-learn how to socialize in public again.
Thanks, as always, to cannabis for bringing us together.