By Vickram Singh
After a successful show in New York earlier this June, the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo (CWCBExpo) is gearing up for their next events in Los Angeles and Boston. Honeysuckle was excited to be a media sponsor of their previous event and absolutely ecstatic about continuing the partnership for the upcoming shows. CWCBExpo is a business-to-business trade show specifically for the cannabis industry. Accredited as one of the largest and longest-running cannabis business trade shows, it is known for its diverse speakers (ranging from the likes of Montel Williams and Whoopi Goldberg to industry notables such as Steve White of Harvest, Kevin Murphy of Acreage Holdings and many more), a leading forum for professionals in all positions within the space, and a recent inclusion, a day where the expo is open for people outside the industry interested in learning more. Held three times per year, the CWCBE is hailed as the pinnacle event of its kind.
Honeysuckle had the pleasure of speaking with Greg Marco, President of Leading Edge Expositions, the company that produces the CWCBE. We’d interviewed Greg about the behind-the-scenes aspects of the New York expo in a previous article, which provides a thorough explanation of CWCBE and its goals. This time, we discussed the success of the last expo, the newly realized goals of the event, interesting keynote speakers and partnerships, and what to look forward to in the near future. Greg gave us wonderful insights into the unique vision and the abundant opportunities that the CWCBExpo offers.
HONEYSUCKLE MAGAZINE: The New York show was amazing. I was astounded by how many businesses and different affiliates showed up.
GREG MARCO: It was a great show, and it was well attended. It was our record-setting attendance in the cannabis industry; what we’re trying to do is merge the trade show organization with forward thinking in the cannabis space. We found the right mix of [attractions]. When you’re promoting a cannabis event, it just can’t be one thing. It has to be a whole host of things. So, we have a 12-point program that we utilize to promote all of our events. We just deployed that for New York, and you saw the ramifications of that. We’re excited that we’re bringing that same train to LA in 43 days, 21 hours and 52 minutes; and Boston a few weeks after in October.
You’ve been at this for a while now. What were your initial hopes in shaping public opinion on cannabis, and what was the result?
The great thing about a trade show [is that] we’re a face-to-face publication and have been published three days a year in three cities. We’re an open forum where we want to hear opinions of industry leaders and professionals. We’re the arbiter of information to the public; we don’t want to steer opinions either way; we just want information to be shared with our attendees. Our conference group does a really nice job in aligning content relevant to the markets that we’re in and the speakers that can talk to those subjects. We like to educate people about cannabis, hemp and the benefits, so they can draw their own conclusions and make their own opinions.
Can you expand more on the different opinions aspect? Is there a way to facilitate voices in the industry that you wouldn’t hear normally to amplify them and help them create a platform for themselves?
We are big on diversity and inclusion, so we partner with Women Grow. We do a call for speakers as well. [On] our advisory board, we have Roz McCarthy; she’s the CEO of Minorities for Medical Marijuana. Advocacy, education, outreach; she helps us in that regard. Our advisory board members help guide us to associations that are all about inclusion. We cover the whole breadth of the industry, so we’re getting perspective on all of our topics and covering different diversities.
That was one of the main things I took away from my time at the expo in New York; this is the first time that it felt like there were a lot more diverse voices. So that was great.
Opportunity abounds in cannabis. The biggest key to successful industries is the diversity of opportunities and making sure that education is available to all walks of life. So, that’s what we do. We’re a platform for education and we’re a platform for opportunity and we’re a platform for inclusion. No one has a cornerstone on genius. [Inclusion was] one of the big initiatives we had this year when I took over as president in November. Now, we have bridged the gap by creating an experience for the business professional who wants to network and all that good stuff that goes with our business conference. We had to increase our show floor. We had to start selling bigger exhibitors. We had to create that environment. We also had to create a bigger conference program. We had to get keynote speakers that were relevant business professionals in the space. One of the main things that we were missing was partnering with publications, both mainstream and industry. We went from 12 partnerships last year in New York in 2018 to 34 in 2019. Not only that, we’re also inviting them to participate on the show floor so they can grow their readership and they get the message out there. People like content; they want to talk to the editors, talk to the publishers. We’re expanding our reach.
With the LA show coming up, what are some differences in these upcoming events? Are there any new initiatives that you didn’t consider previously?
We have a full conference program, but we also have a workshop program [that is] separated from the seminar. We have this “Cannabis Law: Present and Future” [workshop] that is supported and promoted by California NORML on Wednesday (September 25th, 2019). It’s a full day program. Thursday, we have a grow and expand your cannabis business, which is produced by Clover Leaf University; we also have cannabis investing. Friday, we have “Hemp: The Dawning of a New Day in the USA”, which was really well attended in New York. We’re bringing that to LA, and we put a bit more retail flair to things in LA because it’s a legalized state. So, you have cannabis, hemp and CBD retail outlets. “A Vision for the Future” is being sponsored by NUGL and is done by Cloneville; it’ll really be an intense experience for cannabis and hemp retailers looking for the next phase of retailing their products and services. Calvin Frye, the owner of Compassionate Care Givers of Studio City, one of the pioneers in the retail dispensary space in LA, he’s actually putting that whole program on for us. Not only do we provide good content, now we actually provide the support to promote that good content to the verticals. We have Steve White speaking; [if you] were there for the keynote from Steve White [in New York], it was packed; I think there was over a thousand people.
And there’s a couple of other things that we’ll be announcing very soon from a headliner perspective. We have the “Warrior for Wellness Program” again, and the “State of Banking for Cannabis Businesses”, which is always a hot topic. And “Designing the Smart Farm of the Future: Automation of the Cultivation Process” is very big on the West Coast. One of the events is focused on CBD research, what are the learning from the two powerhouses and CBD. We have our networking mixer on Thursday, and then we have our industry party on Friday at the Grammy Museum.
Can you talk more about the NORML FORML because it’s NORML’s 50th anniversary this year?
Well, we also have what we call Cannabis Week Guide, which is events in and around our show, with our show being the culmination. From Tuesday through Saturday, we’ll have special events in our downloadable Cannabis Week Guide, which will be online next week. And NORML FORML will be a part of that as well. What happened in New York was an overwhelming success. We raised a lot of money for charity, and everybody had a great time. There were industry leaders in attendance, and NORML was the driving force behind partnering with the CWCB Expo during Cannabis Week to draw attention to what great things they’re working on. We expect the NORML FORML to be one of the constants leading up to our shows from here on out; they’re excited to get it to the west coast, and we’re going to put on something special.
Is there anything else you’d like to add or a subject area you want to talk more about?
We’re carrying the theme of entrepreneurship in the cannabis sector continuously. Now is the time to get involved in the cannabis sector; it’s going to explode in the next 24 months. With all the legalization state by state, if you’re not in it, now’s the time to get in and get educated. If you are in it, expand your education and your knowledge of the space to help you grow your business.
Based in New Jersey, Vickram Singh is a staff editor for Honeysuckle Magazine. He is also the managing editor and staff writer for The Medium, thesatirical newspaper at Rutgers University, where he currently studies.