If you’re curious about how the tri-state area’s blossoming legal cannabis and hemp industries are developing, your first stop may well have been at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) earlier this month. After two years of virtual programming, CWCBExpo was back live, with Honeysuckle present for all three days, networking with a diverse group of cannabis/hemp-related exhibitors, small business owners, and an immeasurable group of cannabis culture connoisseurs.
New York Government Embraces Cannabis at CWCBExpo
It was not only a triumphant return for cannabis industry leaders, but also for New York’s emerging regulated market. With the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) making adult-use cannabis legal in the state as of March 2021, the rest of the nation is looking to the Empire State as a major hub for plant-based commerce. Clearly the government is ready to support it - New York’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin opened CWCBExpo’s proceedings with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and kickoff keynote.
“We’re going to do this right,” Benjamin said of creating New York’s fully legalized cannabis market. “Because you’re going to make sure this is done right. This is a public-private partnership and we’re going to work together to make sure that we have a [market] that is a model that everyone utilizes.”
Additionally, Cannabis Control Board chair Tremaine Wright spoke at CWCBExpo in her first public appearance since being named to the position. She concentrated on the social equity emphasis in the Office of Cannabis Management’s programming, and noted that New York’s responsibilities are foremost to releasing people incarcerated on cannabis charges, and in creating economic opportunities for those communities most affected by the War on Drugs. Chris Alexander, Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management, also actively toured the expo floor with many of the department’s staff.
Diversity Opportunities for Women and Minorities in Cannabis
The mixed crowd at the event billed as the “The Premier B2B Cannabis & Hemp Expo and Conference” reflected the various ways people have found their niches in both industries. The crowd also reflected diversity in race, gender, social status, and marketing strategy among the business owners. Among the technological, service, and product innovators on the exhibitor floor, several organizations stood out to increase the diversity in ownership in both the hemp and cannabis industries. One group showcasing their dedication to diversifying the space and creating equity was Minorities For Medical Marijuana, a non-profit community-based organization with offices in Orlando, Florida, dedicated to advocating for equity for minorities and serving as an educational training resource for typically marginalized communities. Members of the New York chapter of Women Grow, the largest national network for professional women in cannabis, were also present, sharing space with several local women-owned small cannabis and hemp businesses. One such business was Herbas, whose founder Miriam Aristy-Farer was recently featured in Honeysuckle and at New York’s exclusive Luxury Meets Cannabis Conference. She graciously gave us a sample of her hand-crafted CBD pain relief salve when we met her in person.
CWCBExpo was framed by the buzzing exhibitor floor and the rotating interactive educational seminars in the Thought Leadership Series hosted by Geoff Whaling, Chair of the National Hemp Association, and Matthew Anderson, Founder and CEO of Vanguard Scientific. The “Inside the Industry: Thought Leadership Series” featured a revolving schedule of hemp and cannabis experts in an interactive talk show format that was a new addition to the expo. Each of the featured guests gave their keen insight and tips on succeeding in these developing industries, both locally and on a global scale.
Some of the most anticipated industry keynotes included Christopher “CJ” Wallace and Willie Mack, Co-Founders of Think BIG and Frank White, entrepreneurs and advocates for NYC cannabis legalization. Mack and Wallace discussed their journeys into the cannabis and hemp industries and their struggles to establish culturally relevant and successful brands. At the same time, they continue to fight for social equity for Black people in this rapidly evolving set of industries. Wallace, son of the late artist The Notorious B.I.G., explained that his purpose in cannabis is to merge creativity with community healing, and that’s what he and Mack have set out to achieve with their brands.
Looking to the Future of Cannabis In New York
Other sessions in the series discussed the future after the recent passing of the MRTA, panels on cultivation techniques, marketing, sustainability, and insight into international markets. Michael Woods of Big Sun Holdings presented updates on new applications for industrial hemp, with a focus on its use for sustainable housing. Dr. Aimon Kopera, founder and CEO of Geneomics Global, flew in from Thailand to explain how hemp is being used internationally. Ben Dobson of Hudson Hemp and Hudson Carbon delved deeply into the potentials of regenerative agriculture with Chad Rosen of Victory Hemp Foods. Their respective companies are making strides to incorporate bio-based materials into every aspect of our daily lives, thereby saving the planet.
Wrapping up each day were networking mixers and packed after-parties for a full New York Cannabis Week, including Honeysuckle’s launch at Club Cumming in celebration of our newest print edition FREEDOM featuring Damian Marley! Attendees congregated at The Stone Age, NYC's first immersive cannabis exhibit, for CWCBExpo’s official after-party to pivot from business connections to dancing together through the night in a hazy, happy harbinger of things to come.