On June 5th and 6th, the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo (CWCBExpo) returns to New York City’s Javits Center for its milestone 10th year. As one of the nation’s longest-running and largest cannabis trade shows, CWCBExpo is a pioneering event, having set many standards for the burgeoning industry over its decade of life. For the 2024 season, the expo will celebrate the achievements of those in the cannabis space, as well as answering attendees’ most burning questions. And in a special treat, the show will present a keynote from cannabis legend Josh Kesselman, the visionary founder of RAW Papers, at 11AM on Wednesday, June 5th.

CWCBExpo Show Director Christine Ianuzzi (C) CWCBExpo

CWCBExpo Show Director On Big Questions In New York Cannabis And Celebrating 10 Years At The Javits Center

CWCBExpo Show Director Christine Ianuzzi agrees that this year aims to provide industry stakeholders with vital information. With New York continuously evolving as more applicants receive their licenses, and the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) working to adapt to new directives from Governor Kathy Hochul, many are wondering what will come next. On the national front, the looming proposition of cannabis being moved from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act has put all advocates on high alert. (The public has from now through July 22, 2024 to send comments to the Department of Justice on the idea of rescheduling. Don’t forget to make yours!)

Ahead of the show, Ianuzzi shared her thoughts with Honeysuckle on what the landmark anniversary season of CWCBExpo has in store. Remarking about the show’s founding in 2014, and its first year with the Javits Center in 2015, she said, “We planted that flag at a time when cannabis was extremely young as an industry, and the industry was very small and stigmatized. There was not a lot of “Let’s talk openly about this and tell our kids and our parents, proliferate information and education, and try to make all the wrongs right.” It was just beginning, and it was in the closet, so to speak… Cannabis coming out of the closet has [tread] very similar trails that [LBTQIA+] people had coming out in a big way. What opened my eyes was when I spoke with [veteran activist] Steve DeAngelo in 2017; he brought up that commonality of cannabis having stigma the same as the gay community, that it was just being accepted and talked about more freely. And I’m part of both communities, so it was humbling and eye-opening to hear that.”

Thrilled for what she calls “a green-letter year,” Ianuzzi continued, “Our tenth year is very festive for us. We were one of the first shows back at the Javits after they were a hospital and vaccination site [during the Covid-19 lockdowns]. We’re here, happy to still be here in 2024, and looking forward to the next ten years.”

CNBC's Tim Seymour will interview RAW Papers founder Josh Kesselman (C) CWCBExpo

What Highlights Can The Cannabis Industry Expect At CWCBExpo 2024?

So what highlights can cannabis stakeholders expect from the CWCBExpo? Read on – especially if you want to see familiar faces on the media panel! *Note: Not all expo sessions are listed; please visit the conference schedule page for the full agenda.

Want to go to the show? Use code HSM24 for discounts on access to the expo floor and conference - register here!

Tuesday, June 4th will feature a pre-education and workshop day.

“We have a dispensary operations and ownership workshop, and a cultivation workshop, back-to-back,” Ianuzzi stated. “If somebody wants to attend both, they could. During that process, we have dispensary owners, growers, cultivators, legal eagles, who have all been front and center on legislation, who have clients that have been helped and hurt by regulation and licensing. All of this is going to be brought up, and in this set atmosphere and timeframe, that’s very good. People always come away with a sense of welcome. This is not a sparring session, but an information. Let’s get the answers.”

As she pointed out different speakers during the workshops such as Arana Hankin-Biggers of The Travel Agency, Kristin Jordan of Park Jordan Real Estate, and Sheri Tarr of ’68 Partners, the Show Director reiterated, “You want credibility, you want quality, in a program like this. And we’ve got it.”

Wednesday, June 5th

11AM: RAW Papers founder Josh Kesselman presents a fireside chat, interviewed by Tim Seymour, co-host of CNBC’s Fast Money

As Ianuzzi described the innovator, “He's an advocate, a do-gooder, a humanitarian, an inventor. He's the guy that you always want as your friend. And he's just a sweetheart. He's done so much with his success he's given back, and we’re going to talk about that.”

1:30PM: New York Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright presents a fireside chat, interviewed by Kristin Jordan

“We’re looking forward to this session, which will cover New York licensing, regulations, the progress and opening of dispensaries, the planning, and the CAURD program. We’re also going to talk about descheduling and rescheduling.”

2PM: “Where Is Wall Street? Now You’re Funded, Now You’re Not”

A panel moderated by GVM Communications founder Gia Moron, this panel session offers an intimate discussion of the financial crunch facing cannabis businesses. Speakers include Brett Finkelstein, Managing Partner, XIVIX Partners LP; Sara Gullickson, founder and CEO, The Cannabis Business Advisors; Leah Heise, entrepreneur, attorney and pioneering cannabis industry executive; John T. Kaden; President and Managing Partner, Navy Capital; Matthew Karnes, founder, GreenWave Advisors.

“There’s a big topic,” Ianuzzi stated. “What happened to the money [in this industry]? Where is it and how is somebody going to get it? [Panelist Sara Gullickson] was the very first female licensed dispensary owner in the country; she has so much expertise to offer. She’s also moderating and guiding our dispensary workshop. But in CWCBExpo, we’ve all ‘grown up’ together and we’re learning and relearning the answers to questions. There’s always something new to talk about in cannabis.”

3PM: “Behind the Headlines: Meet the Cannabis Press and Editors Covering the Cannabis Industry”

Honeysuckle founder Ronit Pinto speaks on this panel exploring the perspectives of writers and editors who cover the cannabis space. Moderated by Kim Prince, founder and CEO of Proven Media, the speakers also include Debra Borchardt, co-founder and Executive Editor, Green Market Report; Eugenio Garcia, founder and CEO, Cannabis Now Magazine; and Mona Zhang, States Cannabis Policy Reporter, POLITICO Pro.

“’Behind the Headlines’ is a great thing,” Ianuzzi enthused. “Editors and the press who cover cannabis will really get into the weeds, pardon the pun, on how they report the good and bad news in the space. How do you report these regulations? Do you criticize, do you call people out? This is a tough business to report on, but there are top journalists in this discussion that do it. They’re going to talk about what it’s like to publish and write, and the challenges they face with what the industry is also facing. You’re going to get a perspective and understanding from people who are incredibly erudite, who are creative and never miss.

Debra Borchardt from Green Market Report is an icon; she’s fantastic. We have [a whole lineup] of icons in Eugenio Garcia from Cannabis Now, Ronit Pinto from Honeysuckle, and Mona Zhang from Politico. Kim Prince of Proven Media is a council member of the expo. She’s been fabulous and delight to work with. You can’t get any better than this.”

4PM: "Business and Culture at a Crossroads: Cannabis and Psychedelics"

Moderated by Gaetano Lardieri, co-founder of Future Entheogenic Medicines LLC (F.E.M.), Co-Founder, THCBD, this panel examines the intersecting paths of the cannabis and psychedelics industries. Speakers include Kymberly Byrnes, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, TribeTokes; Lisa Gora, attorney, Epstein Becker Green; Maurice Hinson, MD, founder, Director, MediRootz Medical Group and Hospitalist, Jamaica Hospital Medical Center; Ryan Hurley, Cannabis Practice Leader, Rose Law Group; and Joe McKay, retired FDNY firefighter, Board Member, Clusterbusters.

“Cannabis and psychedelics are at a crossroads culturally and scheduling-wise,” Ianuzzi noted. “They have a parallel path. Moderator Gaetano Lardieri is one of the preeminent leaders in the community talking about this topic. [This panel is] also about business and opportunity. When you see cannabis now emerging as a real viable [industry], almost legal federally, you see psychedelics has been trying to do that for a long time too. It’s becoming very popular, and it is itself a medical alternative for lots of things.”

NYCRA founders Britni Tantalo, Coss Marte, and Jayson Tantalo will all be speaking on Thursday's panel "Journey to Legitimacy: The OGs and OQs of Cannabis" (C) NYCRA

Thursday, June 6th

12PM: "The Politics and Medicine of Cannabis: A Multi-State Approach"

Moderated by Nichelle Santos, founder and CEO of CannaCoverage, this session discovers what rescheduling means to medical patients. Speakers include Tosin Ajayi, Senior Research & Policy Analyst, Cannabis NYC;  William J. Caruso, Partner, Archer-Greiner; Michelle Friberg, Director of  Government Relations, National Cannabis Industry Association; Ken Weinberg, founder and CEO, Cannabis Doctors of New York.

4PM: "Journey to Legitimacy: The OGs and OQs of Cannabis"

This session, presented in two segments, shares the male and female perspectives on the legacy-to-legal pipeline in New York cannabis. Session one of the OGs is moderated by “Hawaii” Mike Salman, founder of Chef For Higher; speakers include Christopher Louie, co-founder, Made in Xiaolin; Coss Marte, founder, ConBud; Puma Robinson, entrepreneur, actor, music producer; Jayson Tantalo, co-founder and COO, Metavega Corp., Flower City Hydroponics, and Flower City Dispensary, Co-Founder and VP of Operations, New York Cannabis Retail Association. Session two features the “Original Queens,” moderated by Tanya Osborne, founder and CEO of The CannaDiva. Speakers include Kymberly Byrnes, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, TribeTokes; Saki Fenderson, speaker, educator, community activist; Jessica Naissant, owner and CEO, Wake & Bake Café; Britni Tantalo, co-founder and President, New York Cannabis Retail Association, co-founder and President of Flower City Dispensary.

“This is very exciting,” Ianuzzi affirmed. “This is going to be a packed house… The New York Cannabis Retail Association (NYCRA) is a big part of this. They’re very well rooted in the community. They have hundreds of members and they really try to serve these hardworking people and business owners. It’s very difficult to start the business, to even get licensed to initiate it. But in this conference and event, it will be a benefit for them to come here, and we are going to benefit from knowing and supporting each other and hearing their stories.”

NYCRA will also host the CWCBExpo’s official after-party at Soho’s The House of Cannabis museum, which starts not long after the show floor at the Javits closes. (Click here to learn more.)

CWCBExpo's Women In Cannabis Business Luncheon

But before the crowds can go wild at that ultra-sensory gathering, Ianuzzi also reminded Honeysuckle readers to check out one of her favorite parts of the expo, the Women in Cannabis Business Luncheon on June 5th (which requires a separate ticket).

“That has its own little mini program, where we’re expecting 100-plus women,” she explained. “It’s sponsored by Proteus 420. Founder Dawne Morris is a technologist [who built] a software company that has a seed-to-sale system for dispensaries and a lot of different businesses. She’s really a dynamo. [The Women’s Luncheon] has a panel after Dawne Morris gets introduced, and there’s a fireside chat that Kym B is going to run with her. Then a panel discussion follows called ‘Entrepreneurship While Female: Motivated, Intelligent, and Successful.’ It’s about the template and journeys that these women have put out there. We have a great lineup with Sara Gullickson, Gia Moron, Britni Tantalo, and Dr. Alyza Brevard Rodriguez from New Jersey. She’s a veteran and a PhD, and is opening a dispensary and consumption lounge. So this is a real treat; this is going to be fantastic. It’s on the show floor. It’s going to be visible and a unique addition to what we’re doing, and I think it’s very timely. We have to recognize our women.”

In all the hustle and bustle of CWCBExpo, we take Ianuzzi’s words to heart, recognizing the woman – and her devoted team – who has always powered through the obstacles to take cannabis education and opportunity to the next level. Cannabis Means Business, a decade strong and growing. To Christine Ianuzzi and CWCBExpo, we say, live long and prosper. To you readers, enjoy the show: Fun will now commence.

For tickets to the expo and its official conference programming June 5-6, 2024, visit cwcbexpo.com. Use code HSM24 to get discounts on access to the show floor and conference.

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Featured image: The CWCBExpo show floor at the Javits Center (C) CWCBExpo