The Cannabis Industry's Largest Conference Showcases a Maturing Industry
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The maturation of the cannabis industry is easily illustrated by the growth of its most popular conference. Just over 400 people attended the initial iteration of the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo (MJBizCon) when it debuted in Denver back in 2012
Back then, merely 16 states had legal medical marijuana, and no states were selling recreational cannabis. Fast forward to this year where 18,121 attendees filled the Las Vegas Convention Center, yielding a massive 67 percent increase from 2016. It's an international audience, too. Nearly 11 percent of all conference attendees of the show were foreign residents, a large portion of our neighboring Canada where recreational cannabis is set to be legalized in 2018.
Six-hundred and eighteen companies exhibited at the event -- a 111 percent increase from the 2016 show. One curious statistician determined to speak to each of them for five-minutes would have taken just under 57 hours, and walking the floor end-to-end would constitute an over two-mile jaunt.
Companies exhibiting at the world's largest cannabis convention aren't necessarily whom you might imagine, either. Sure there's a broad selection of consumer products like glass blowers whose art lines some of today's most elegant dispensaries, but MJBizCon exhibited far more. The modern cannabis industry spans all sectors of the industry, from banking, security, packaging and marketing firms to consultants, cultivation equipment manufacturers and infused product companies.
#mjbizcon was a success! We were excited to see all of the new products for the #cannabiscommunity and brought #greengo to a ton of big players in the #cannabis industry! Big things are being put in motion! #maryjane #gogreen #thc #fueledbythc #420 #biodegradable #hemp pic.twitter.com/uHXtNyQc4K— Greengo Distribution (@GreengoDistro) November 19, 2017
Each of these disparate sectors is integral to this quickly maturing industry. As cannabis legalization spreads, regulations tighten. An exclusively black market clandestine industry is quickly evolving into one government will only support if it can keep track of it. All this requires a focus on precision.
Need to navigate California's ever-changing licensing, hiring, zoning, and tax requirements? There are no corners to cut any longer; it's play by the rules or stay on the sidelines. Entrepreneurs need experts to do that, and MJBizCon brought hundreds of lawyers, consultants, accountants, and experts in one place, all available for hire to do so.
Cannabis product manufacturing requires precision, as well. Pot brownies and other baked edibles are notorious for leaving novice consumers feeling overindulged. Each bite of an edible or toke of a joint can contain a different amount of cannabinoids causing the "please make it stop" experience.
New consumer preferences have given rise to precise microdosing to avoid this. A hot topic at this year's convention, microdosing ensures cannabis products are manufactured and/or delivered so consumers can know exactly how much THC they are getting in each dose.
"To achieve an accurate medical cannabis dose one must know not just how much, but what they are taking into their body from a chemical compound standpoint to achieve a consistent and repeatable experience," Peter Calfee, CEO of multipatent-pending medical microdosing vaporizer, GoFire.
This type of thing is critical for the cannabis industry to shed its nonchalant reputation, and vendors are stepping up to the challenge. Pharmaceutical-grade instruments, innovative vaporizers and delivery devices, and precision measurement tools designed to meet these new consumer preferences were confidently displayed by dozens of MJBizCon exhibitors.
One for all.
Look just outside the world of cannabis and some industries see only division. "The marijuana industry and the gaming industries are two different industries and the two will not meet," Nevada Gaming Commission chairman Tony Alamo said recently. He warns of backward movement for casinos looking to embrace the nation's fastest-growing market, citing marijuana's federal Schedule one classification as being risky for already established industries to mingle with.
Look inward, and the sentiment is the opposite. An essential "us against them" sense of camaraderie has been a fundamental value in the cannabis industry and part of what's enabled it to survive to this point. So it's no accident the cannabis industry offers that same sense of inclusion.
That's what's driving this swarm of 18,000 people. If you've got the right motivation, the rules are still being made and there's an opportunity for you to participate. From the powerful women in cannabis movement, to minority representation, to perfectly timed transgender weddings, to men in pleated khakis, MJBizCon provided a welcoming environment unlike any other.
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"This is an industry that has come up from the basement where a lot of bad behavior was allowed to flourish. Getting that behavior out of the industry and being welcoming to women and minorities who can slot right in (to these new jobs) is key," said MJBiz Daily CEO Cassandra Farrington in her opening remarks to attendees of the pre-conference Marijuana Business Crash Course.
The industry is welcoming traditional trades and communities through things like extreme and experiential marketing, as well. Bringing would-be consumers and non-consumers together, Sensi Media, a leading pro-cannabis publication with regional chapters and editions, hosted a conference afterparty promoting their approach to community integration. The organization is expanding to 60 markets in 2018 with the intention of bringing refined cannabis culture directly to communities.
"We feel that we are more than a magazine for the cannabis industry," Cynthia Drey, publisher of the Southwest region told me. "Rather, we believe we are a voice and a catalyst to the cannabis and hemp industries." Communities are seeing transformative results from the media giant's events, education, and publications. "Our objective is to change the conversation about cannabis and hemp to embracing it as the new normal," Drey concluded.
All this, with the underlying commonality of "elevated living" -- living to its naturally highest -- both in personality and performance. Said one exhibitor, "The teamwork among fellow exhibitors while taking a moment to celebrate the attendance with applause, then packing away the Las Vegas C.C as a team, well into the night, helping each other out, represents the true nature and dedication of the people involved. Saw nothing but patience and smiles...the Industry is in good hands for our times ahead."
Good hands indeed.