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News and Best Practices

Dueling Industry Conferences

June 28, 2016


Once again, the cannabis industry endured back-to-back conferences during the weeks of June 13 and 20. First came the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo in New York on June 15-17. It was followed by the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo in Oakland, Calif., on June 20-22.

The first decision facing professional growers is whether or not to attend industry conferences like these. Balancing the time and expense involved, there’s a lot to be gained in terms of networking, learning new techniques, discovering new products and services, and staying on top of industry issues that are larger than cultivation but are likely to affect cultivators. But given the industry’s proclivity to produce conferences and expos, if you decide to attend one or more each year, the second decision is which to choose.

We’ve attended most of the major industry events over the past year, and we believe both of the June events warrant consideration. The following discussion may help you determine which events to attend in the future:

Type of show—The Cannabis World Congress and the Cannabis Business Summit are both general industry events. That is, they consider all aspects of the industry, not just cultivation. And, in general, growing takes a back seat at these conferences to regulatory policy, state actions to lift prohibition, and the industry’s overall business climate. But they do cover cultivation issues in panels and presentations, particularly issues with high news value, such as pesticides. Perhaps their biggest benefit to growers is the exhibit floor. Most of the products on display are used by cultivators. Since professional cannabis cultivation is still relatively new and fast growing, you’ll find vendors and products you’ve likely never heard of alongside the few “established” companies. As a result, it’s likely you’ll find a very beneficial product you didn’t know existed, or discover that a technology you dismissed last year has improved to the point that it should be put back in consideration.

In contrast to these general industry events are cultivation events, such as CannaGrow Expo, where all the sessions and exhibitors are focused on growing cannabis. The trade-off is that you don’t get exposure to broader industry topics and people. And while it’s very valuable to do a deep dive on growing, attending just cultivation events keeps you in your information silo. The solution: We recommend that cultivation managers and leaders each year attend at least one cultivation event and one general event.

Location—If one event is in your backyard and another requires flying across the country, there’s something to be said for saving travel time and expense. But a local show that’s marginal in quality and information isn’t a good trade-off.

Producer—Some event producers have more clout than others. The June events demonstrate this: The New York event was produced by the International Cannabis Association, while the Oakland event was produced by the National Cannabis Industry Association. These are two very different groups. You can make your own call—but in our estimation, the NCIA is the most important trade group in the industry and it shows in the quality of speakers, keynoters, exhibitors and attendees. Among the general industry events, we’re also partial to those produced by Marijuana Business Daily. And among cultivation-focused events, CannaConnections’ CannaGrow Expos are the leaders, we believe.

Scope—All the events we’ve mentioned to this point are national in scope, but there are many regional events. It’s typically much less expensive to attend regional events, and they can be very valuable for building local contacts among fellow growers and local sales reps. So attend and support these if you can, but don’t lose sight of the fact that they are local in nature and perspective. If cannabis is your career and you are in a management or leadership position, it’s important to keep a national, industrywide perspective in addition to supporting your local area.

Emphasis – Even though both the Cannabis World Congress and the Cannabis Business Summit are general industry conferences, the panels, sessions, exhibitors and keynote speakers created a slightly different emphasis for each show. The Congress emphasized products for users or patients and the efforts of individual advocacy groups. The Summit tended to focus more on broad industry trends, cultivation technology and the overall political landscape. When determining whether a particular conference is worth the investment for you or your key growers, take the time to read through the agenda and list of exhibitors. For most large-scale conferences, these resources are available online.

Observations from the June Events

  • There is a growing number of interesting products for growers to use to conduct their own potency testing. Equipment runs from $20,000-$30,000. Vendors include Orange Photonics and Sage Analytics.
  • LED lighting is finally ready for primetime…or is it: LED offers so many benefits that existing players and new companies are working round the clock to break the code. They want to create an LED that can truly replace the hot burning energy hogs most of us must use to grow quality cannabis in a short period of time. So it’s not surprising that lighting companies continue to introduce new products and technologies intended to bridge the gap. Our take is that the technology is getting closer every month. The company urban-gro recently released a product that they believe represents a breakthrough, and Spectrum King LED has a couple of new products worth a serious look. But all companies in the LED space are worth keeping an eye on.
  • HOT Issues: 280E, fall elections and rescheduling cannabis dominated the presentations, panels and discussions at the June events. And for the most part, the news was good. The accountants and attorneys seem bullish that the legal challenges to the IRS’s limitations of what business expenses cannabis companies can deduct from their taxes is likely to result in the so called “280E” provision being eliminated in the not too distant future.
  • Election predictions were also generally positive. Among the eight November ballot initiatives, several are expected to pass, including recreational cannabis for California—which would more than double the size of the industry. But there are clouds on the horizon: Overall the ballot initiatives are severely underfunded, including in California; and IF California were to fail, it would be a devastating setback for the industry.


By Tom Brooksher, Executive Editor


Cannabis Cultivation Today articles are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal guidance or advice on grow practices. You should contact an attorney or a qualified cultivation consultant for specific compliance and cultivation advice.


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