Without an in-person conference for almost two years, MJBizCon’s 10th annual event provided cannabis industry professionals with a space for community building, networking, and a return to normalcy.
It’s been two weeks since cannabis professionals from around the world convened at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the 10th annual MJBizCon, one of the industry’s largest events for making connections, building brand awareness and closing deals.
The whirlwind 3-day event undoubtedly takes some time to recover from. With approximately 27,000 people in attendance, and over 250,000 square feet of exhibit space, there was a lot of ground to cover (an average of 4.5 miles/day, according to my iPhone). And while consuming cannabis products inside the convention center is prohibited, it was easy to catch a buzz off all the positive energy at this year’s event.
“I believe there’s energy at any cannabis event,” said Darren Lampert, CEO of GrowGeneration. “You can see the passion. People are smiling, happy and learning.”
Many businesses, clients—and even remote team members—reconnected for the first time since the 2019 MJBizCon. Last year’s live event was put on hold after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March of 2020.
“It’s exciting to see lots of brands we love still in business,” said Shelby Nelson, an Account Executive with Cannabis Now. “It almost has the same excitement of 3-4 years ago. Everyone seems rejuvenated.”
Break Out Brands
Taking the spread of COVID-19 into consideration, this year’s conference featured wider lanes with booths more spaced out. This made for a less congested, more enjoyable experience. It’s not possible to visit them all, but a few exhibitors stood out: Dutchie’s cleanly designed lounge space gave off feel-good retro vibes, inviting guests to sit down inside modern diner-style booths, complete with ceiling fans, wallpaper and comfy seating. Meanwhile, flat-screen TVs displayed facts about the company tech solutions. Who said software had to be boring?
Huber also beckoned us in with their neon signs, cannabis ice sculptures and free beer. Sitting down at their bar or taking a photo in front of the giant pot leaf carved from ice afforded patrons with a nice break after hours of talking business. Not to mention, it was a clever play on the “King of Temp’s” precise temperature control solutions.
After making the rounds, we checked in with several other leading brands to see what they’ve been up to since 2019, and how MJBizCon 2021 was going for them.
The first stop was under the bright lights of Fohse. In 2019, Fohse arrived at MJBizCon to unveil their flagship product, the A3i. Now, two years later, they utilized their time at the conference to share case studies that show off how that light is helping grows improve efficiencies while seeing bigger yields. “Last time we showed up to build a reputation, this time we showed up with a reputation,” James Bradley, Fohse’s CMO, said with a smile.
Beyond showcasing product, Bradley says the show is about connections.
“These shows are always a team bonding experience. Connections this time around are even more important,” he said, adding that there seemed to be a lot of pent-up energy at the conference. “People have been waiting for this live show. As far as differences, we can really only compare it back to 2019 because that’s the last time we were all in front of each other. I’d say this time around the excitement’s a little higher. People have been cooped up for two years.”
America’s largest hydroponics supplier, GrowGeneration, is another company that has seen tremendous growth since their first appearance at MJBizCon in 2017, when they walked the floor, getting a lay of the land. The next year, in 2018, they arrived with a 10X10 booth. And this year, they boasted a 40X40 booth that offered guests a space to relax while they showed off some of their top products, including ion light fixtures and the nutrient-boosting Power SI formula.
CEO Darren Lampert echoed Bradley’s sentiment on the importance of team building at the conference. GrowGeneration employees are spread out between 63 stores in 13 states, so MJBizCon provides a way for everyone to get together.
“The show has been fabulous,” he said. “It’s about showing customers new products and the solutions that Grow Generation provides and getting the staff together. It’s also about giving back.”
Grow Generation sponsored the Oct. 21 Blues Brothers concert, hosted by MJ Unpacked, a new executive level cannabis conference connecting brands and retailers. The fundraiser raised approximately $70,000 for the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit dedicated to releasing those in incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses.
Looking ahead, Lampert says the future will bring tremendous product innovation, incorporating energy conservation and creating a product that is more consistent because, “that’s what people want.”
Giving the people what they want is something Boveda’s Program Manager Claire Erickson also touched on, noting an overall shift in how companies are approaching their products more thoughtfully.
“The focus this year is all about making the cannabis experience better for the consumer,” explained Erickson. She also discussed how expanding legalization is impacting Boveda’s product development and continual push for innovation.
“Shelf life is huge heading toward legalization,” she said, explaining that as shipping cannabis between states becomes a reality, preserving product authenticity, from the time it’s packaged to the time it reaches the consumer, will become even more paramount.
Roots Sciences is a one-stop shop for all end-to-end solutions for the cannabis industry’s processing labs. Formed in 2015, Root Sciences started with distillation equipment and has migrated into extraction and end-to-end equipment solutions for the industry, explained the company’s CEO Forrest Didier.
“We’ve been here since the early days,” Didier said, adding that this year’s show has been better for them than the 2019 MJBiz Conference.
“2019 was kind of unique. The cannabis stocks in Canada—the big guys, the aurora and canopy stocks— had already started crashing in 2019, so we had already started seeing some capital drying up in the industry before the show. But it’s been better this year, it’s good to be back live, face-to-face with our clients…You can only explain so much online and digital marketing. You can’t beat the in-person experience of a show like this.”
And we must agree with Didier. Whether we were learning about new products and services or just catching up and sharing stories with new and familiar faces, nothing compares to being together.
After Hours Connections
Half of the networking at MJBizCon happens outside of the convention doors. Pre- and post-show get-togethers give companies creative ways to show off their brands while getting to know the people behind the business.
On Thursday morning, we visited Pacific Stone’s 70s style “Hangover” suite inside Caesar’s Palace, featuring a complimentary oxygen bar and an IV hydration lounge. Fast forward to 4:20 p.m., after a day of networking and expo floor interviews, and Bhang’s CEO Jamie Pearson was welcoming us inside their Cosmopolitan suite for an infused happy hour. Cannabis chef and educator Travis Peterson, perhaps better known as “The Nomad Cook,” was serving up bite-sized portions of gazpacho; sesame wonton cones filled with vegetables; cordon blue cheese balls; and special Bhang cannoli blunts for dessert, featuring matcha ricotta, crushed pistachios and an infused Bhang chocolate sauce. The food was all nonmedicated, but guests could opt for 2.5mg infused garnishes if desired.
DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill even made an appearance, showing his support for the Bhang brand, which he has helped give a sense of “street culture,” he said, adding that “you have to live it and breathe it—you can’t buy it.”
Looking at the Past, Present & Future
Whether in line for a taxi, riding up the elevator, sitting at the hotel bar or any one of Sin City’s restaurants, odds are you were in the company of a fellow cannabis industry professional.
Both inside and outside the expo, excitement and optimism for the growing industry permeated Las Vegas.
Themes of opportunity and responsibility were also evident over the course of the conference. While people were clearly optimistic about the future of cannabis, we were also reminded how we got here and how the history of the plant should not be lost in the pursuit of profit.
Hawthorne is one company taking corporate responsibility and setting the stage for other brands through their partnerships with social justice nonprofits in the cannabis space. Apart from their regular booth where they showed off product and met with current and potential clients, Hawthorne also hosted a social equity panel inside of a separate convention center room they called “Hawthorne House.” Fab 5 Freddy and Steve DeAngelo, along with other key advocates, discussed the importance of repairing the harms of the War on Drugs. They talked about what companies can do to take meaningful action and ensure that resources are spent on this important industry pillar.
“What Hawthorne’s doing needs to be replicated—giving back on the local and national level,” DeAngelo said.
Looking ahead to 2022, we are excited to see what comes out of this year’s conference and what kind of change these important conversations bring about. MJBizCon 2022 is slated for Nov. 15-18 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. We hope to see you there.