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5 takeaways from NCIA's Cannabis Business Summit 2018

Posted by Celia Daly on Jul 31, 2018 1:19:30 PM

Don't like to read? Check out our podcast recap of the event!

Last week, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) held their 5th annual Cannabis Business Summit in San Jose, CA. It seemed like the whole industry was there but we know some of you probably couldn’t make it. So, below we’ve pulled together our top 5 takeaways from the event for those of you who missed it so you can feel like you were there, too! Always here to help…

1. The event was bigger than ever - despite the move south
Last year, the event was held in the Marriott Hotel in Oakland, CA. This year, organizers moved the show south to San Jose in order to get more space for the growing event without having to jack up prices. To be honest, we were a bit concerned about how it would go. Moving an event for the cannabis industry farther from both growers in the Emerald Triangle and pioneer operators in San Francisco/Oakland seemed risky. What if those groups just didn’t want to make the trek? We were wrong to be worried and the move was a big win. In fact, the event’s sold-out floor hosted over 400 exhibitors and attracted more than 7,500 attendees. 

2. It wasn’t a room full of noobs
The legal cannabis industry is a new and exciting one, so it makes sense that each month that goes by sees more and more people get interested in finding their path into the industry. And while we say “hats off!” to those people for educating themselves, it can be a bit unproductive to attend shows full of newbies. The Cannabis Business Summit was not one of those shows. They clearly have the reputation and the pull to attract some of the big names in the space, meaning we got to skip the basics and dive deeper into some of the themes around the market. We saw a lot of technology, especially around extraction and consumption, as well as a wide array of business services. However, we were surprised to see so few brands and dispensaries. Maybe better luck next year!


3. Branding in cannabis is the key to competitive advantage
Canopy Managing Director, Patrick Rea, joined Mark Grindeland of CODA, Brian Sheng of Arcview and Keegan Peterson of Wurk for a panel to discuss the importance of building a brand in cannabis. High compliance costs and IRS code 280e drive down profit margins for state license operators, causing the P&Ls to be less appealing to acquirers. The panel stressed that, in this scenario, the value lies in having a compelling brand. The panel went on to stress how important it is for the company to have right team. In such a fast growing industry where a compelling brand is the one way to rise above, businesses should not be investing in potential, but rather should employ people who have been there before. When keeping up with the Jones,  brands just don’t have time to waste on figuring things out.


4. A former Deputy Attorney General thinks we should be studying marijuana 
James Cole, former Deputy Attorney General and author of the well-known Cole Memo, was the event's keynote speaker. Cole has explained in the past that the current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions’, revocation of the Cole Memo may not make much of a difference. All the revocation does is pass the right to prosecute onto each individual US attorney.; and it very well may be the case that prosecutors will continue to follow the guidance set forth in the Cole Memo despite its revocation. Cole also used his time to advocate for medical research so that we can get real science on the medical effects of the industry to inform legislation in the future. What a novel idea!

5. Cultivators in California are ready. And also, brussel sprout tacos. 
We attended the Front Range Biosciences grower reception after the show floor closed on Thursday evening. We had some great conversations on how California’s new laws are affecting cultivators in the state. For people who have spent nearly lifetimes operating in a black market, this new world has been an adjustment. However, many of the cultivators we spoke with were excited to move into the light. And while those conversations were quite informative, the real winner of the evening were the brussel sprout tacos being served. Yeah, I know, maybe it doesn’t sound like your thing but many were heard calling for the recipe!

Don’t want to miss out on the next one? Get signed up for NCIA’s next events now:

California Cannabis Business Summit | October 21-22 Anaheim, CA
Seed to Sale Show | Feb 12-13 Boston, MA

Topics: Insider, events, cannabis companies, cannabis business, marijuana