LAS VEGAS—Billed as the world's largest B2B cannabis event, MJBizCon returned for its 12th year Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, when it brought tens of thousands of cannabis professionals to the Las Vegas Convention Center. As with each year of the show, its date in late November often means it takes place after elections—so there's plenty to talk about. For example, last month, Ohio became the 24th state to legalize adult use of recreational marijuana. And back in August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended the Drug Enforcement Administration reclassify marijuana, which could make legal cannabis products more price-competitive.
"The theme for the show this year was 'dare to grow,' and that came out of knowing that this industry has been through a lot—mostly ups, but definitely some downs, especially in the past year and a half," said Jess Tyler, chief revenue and experience officer for MJBiz. "So that focus on 'dare to grow' is recognizing and honoring the risk-takers, mavericks, and pioneers that have gotten the industry to where it is and where it's going."
The conference featured 135 speakers, two-thirds of whom came from underrepresented groups in the industry. An entire content track was dedicated to social equity, in partnership with Black CannaBusiness, a B2B platform for people of color doing business in the cannabis industry. Martin Luther King III was a speaker and discussed future opportunities for people of color in cannabis.
"We bring the industry together around the issues that matter most to them," Tyler said.
This year's show also brought together many first-time exhibitors, which Tyler mentioned is a good sign for the industry. "We always like to see some of those growth areas on the show floor; for example, we're seeing a lot of growth in packaging," she said. "That translates to the industry becoming a little bit more mainstream and gaining more traction overall."
Other conference highlights included a partnership with Nevada-based dispensary brand Thrive Cannabis Marketplace, who built out a lounge on the show floor that allowed attendees to meet and mingle with some of the brands carried in their stores, with kiosks for online ordering. The show also had shuttle buses running from the convention center to Thrive's location on the Strip, where they could purchase products in person.
The conference also produced off-site events, which included buying out The Lexi Las Vegas. The hotel offers designated rooms on its fourth floor for cannabis consumption and is the city's first cannabis-friendly property. The rooms are outfitted with state-of-the-art RestorAir filtration systems to eliminate smells. "That was a big crowd-pleaser this year," Tyler said of The Lexi events.
Although one of the challenges of producing MJBizCon each year is working around a lot of regulations, Tyler said splitting up the events team for those off-site initiatives was also a hurdle, as was raising the bar.
"You have to work a little bit harder every year to have that wow factor," she explained, "or those Instagrammable moments. That was a big focus for us this year, on what types of activations we can do on and off the floor that'll draw people in."
Many of those people included first-timers. Roughly 40%-45% are first-time attendees every year, which is reflective of the nature of the industry—as legalization grows, more people enter the cannabis sector. Last year's popular First-Timers Open House returned, where first-time attendees are invited to meet with the MJBiz team and its advisory board to network and ask questions.
"It happens right before the show floor opens, and we've had great success with it," Tyler said. "And it's because we have a lot of new people every year. Sometimes they come in and their eyes are really wide: 'What do I do? Where do I go?' It can be a little overwhelming with this size of a show, so for us, when we do this open house, we get a lot of positive feedback."
Other interesting stats: 72% of attendees are at the VP level and above. And this year, the conference had representation from all U.S. states and 54 countries (pre-pandemic, it had 78 countries represented, so it's still working its way back). Generally, the show skews 11%-13% international overall.
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