Excitement filled the air at the most anticipated and largest business-to-business cannabis trade show in the world. MJBizCon is known as the the "Comic-Con of cannabis" because it typically attracts celebrities and thought-leaders in the cannabis space. Founded in 2011, the three-day cannabis expo for all businesses in the space, just celebrated its 10th anniversary at the end of October in Las Vegas. The event was packed with over 1,000 exhibitors, buyer-brand meetings thanks to a partnership with Hall of Flowers, and prominent speakers in the industry. Dutchie sent a team of people to run our own booth and learn about the new factors in the evolving industry.
In-person cannabis events are back with more momentum than ever. Last year the event didn’t take place due to the global pandemic, which set the stage for industry people eager to mingle. “Everyone wore masks indoors and respected official protocols, but the in-person energy to be back together and connect was palpable.” Devon Herrington, our Head of Marketing, expressed.
The overall conference vibe: open, innovative, with a focus on building equity. Safety precautions were in place and the event was a perfect time to celebrate the momentum of recent legalization. Since November 2020, 9 additional US states have passed laws in the following markets: New Jersey, Vermont, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota (medical only), New York, Virginia, New Mexico, and Connecticut. While most of these markets will take time to become active, this is a huge step towards federal legalization, and it added to the progress of the cannabis movement as a whole.
While Dutchie fit into the non-plant touching category, many different businesses exhibited their innovations at this event. The huge list of exhibitors fit into 7 general categories: vertically-integrated retailers, cultivation, processing & manufacturing, dispensary & retail, finance & investing, non-plant touching (like technology), and scientific lab testing & research. The two largest exhibitor groups were cultivation and non-plant touching.
The keynote speaker gained a lot of hype as well since he founded Fubu and was on Shark Tank. Having a name like Daymond John speak this year shows the comfortability level is growing, as more businessmen and women become pro-cannabis. Some say this could be attributed to dispensaries being listed as an essential service during the COVID-19 lockdown.
And equity is high on the priority list at MJBizCon, as Empowering Women in Cannabis & Achieving Equity in Cannabis were the themes of the two main networking events. These events spoke to equality and equitable programs in various states meant to help reverse the impact of the War on Drugs. California, Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon were all mentioned for having specific policies in the works aimed at providing relief to Black and Brown communities, along with economic advancements making cannabis careers more available for BIPOC people.
As usual, compliance issues were top-of-mind at MJBizCon. As our customers know, it is important to stay compliant with state regulations at each step of the cannabis supply chain. It is especially important for retailers because going over customer sale limits can land stores in hot water. Oftentimes, issues like this result in a fine, putting a financial strain on the business owner.
Looping is still a major issue—which is a term for when customers store-hop and purchase over their daily limit in one 24-hour period. Looping is likely to happen when someone is traveling to a recreational state and wants to stock up. While some POS systems, including the Dutchie Point of Sale, account for tracking customer purchase limits, there are still times when people loop to multiple chains. It is easy to catch people going to the same chain, but not if they hit multiple retailers with different POS systems in one day. Lawmakers are looking to tighten policies to ensure looping is no longer possible and customers adhere to the purchasing rules in each state.
THC potencies are also coming up a lot with policy-makers, as they try to accommodate concentrate manufacturers that produce the highest potency extracts. Edible limits also vary by state, and there were some rumblings about creating more consistent edible potencies across state lines.
Regulations are still in the air with the sale of Delta-8 edibles, a “cousin” of Delta-9 THC that is artificially made from hemp. Oregon has new regulations about selling Delta-8, but other states have treated it like hemp-derived CBD and sold it openly in the last couple of years. Now, the grey area on Delta-8 has created bans in 19 states because of the lack of testing on this product. Expect tighter regulations on those products in Oregon if you are still carrying any in your adult-use store.
Overall, new markets are looking to established states for guidance on how to run a compliant and successful cannabis retail operation.
Consumption lounges are coming. Massachusetts had cannabis consumption lounges approved back in 2016, however, legal mandates have slowed the process and they are moving forward with caution. This may be something consumers in that state can look forward to in 2022.
Licensed social consumption lounges allow adults (21 & up) to use cannabis inside their businesses. There are 7 total states in the US that allow these kinds of establishments, but the states that were once ahead of the curve had to shut down their clubs during COVID. What we learned at MJBizCon points to a future surge in cannabis-friendly lounges.
The conference taught us about recent wholesale and product popularity. Cultivation declined during COVID, as the plant-touching businesses require in-person interactions. Some vendors took a hit due to a lack of in-store popups to create brand recognition. Cultivation is back on the upswing though and will continue to grow as customers can re-open cannabis jars and smell each flower in states that allow that. In the larger markets, customers are missing out on the chance to understand the quality of their product due to in-store safety regulations. But, higher revenue was seen overall with technological advancements like curbside pickup and ecommerce options.
As with Hall of Flowers, the popularity of THC-infused products is on the rise. When the world moved to remote work and a stay-at-home culture, the consumption of stronger, infused cannabis products went up and has continued that trend. The need to be subtle about the use of cannabis changed product sales directly. Infused products include high-potency chewing gum, lozenges, drinks, topicals, pre-rolls dipped in oil and wrapped in kief, and more.
Edibles fall under this category too—and new and more diverse edibles are on the rise. Edible brands aren’t taking the cheaper way out anymore by using distillate oils. Instead, they are focusing on food type, avoiding food allergies, researching the science of how your body metabolizes edibles based on how you ingest them, and more. As brands are maturing, single-source strains are becoming more popular to use in edibles instead of the previous method of taking terpenes from multiple strains and reintroducing them into the product. It’s all about the desired effect of a craft product for the educated consumer. Craft cannabis products are becoming more nuanced as brands look to stand out from the rest.
The positive Hotel Dutchie experience. We enjoyed meeting the many faces that visited our hotel-themed booth. Although we were mistaken for an actual cannabis hotel a few times, the overall vibes were high and the education was plentiful. And that is likely to happen when you throw a spectacular theme party! We had the opportunity to demo some big product launches with our visitors. Everyone checked out with a smile. Our team was happy to see customers in person again and learn about all the state advances and hints of what innovations may be coming next. Not only was it fun on a personal level, but the conference acted as a guide so we could learn how to help our dispensary partners continue to grow.