By Ronit Pinto
Additional reporting Jaime Lubin
This year, Marijuana Business Daily’s Marijuana Business Conference (MJBizCon) in Las Vegas is at an epic peak. The world’s largest cannabis industry trade show, MJBizCon is celebrating its eighth iteration with exponential growth – 35,000 attendees, up from 27,000 last year, representing over 75 countries. And with 1300+ exhibitors from all areas of the business, it’s no surprise that MJBizCon literally needs more room than ever; founder and outgoing CEO Cassandra Farrington says they’ve gone up 40 percent in exhibit space.
Since 2011, Farrington has “been leading that MJBiz charge,” creating and engineering not only the publication as the authoritative media voice for cannabis’s B2B sector, but also curating her brainchild convention as the can’t-miss professional event of the year. In 2018, the Mayor of Las Vegas declared the week of the conference “MJBizCon Week” for the entire city. Now, there is an official, encompassing “MJBizCon Week” of programs and events outside the expo itself, including Associations Day honoring nonprofits, the Investor Intelligence Conference (with keynote from renowned investor Danny Moses, whose life story was featured in the book and film The Big Short), and the MJBiz Awards, where industry pioneers Steve DeAngelo and Wanda James were inducted into the MJBiz Hall of Fame.
The Solar Microgrid Experience, a first for this year’s show, put the focus on connections between planetary wellness, cannabis, and tech. At the inaugural exhibit, visitors were invited to discuss timely topics like renewable energy and direct solar microgrid power for agricultural growing, and how this will shape the cannabis sector.
Tech was a huge theme overall for MJBizCon 2019; featured exhibitors such as Agrify, Colorado Extraction Systems, Hypur and more shed light on innovative advancements in technology across different areas of the industry, from growing tools, extraction equipment, seed-to-sale software and payment solutions. One of the most unique was Stash Stock, an up-and-coming Michigan-based company that uses radio-frequency identification software to streamline processes for the cannabis consumer experience. Founded by a group of young engineering professionals and tech gurus energized by Michigan’s emerging cannabis market, Stash Stock’s software can monitor each seed planted in the state, tracking it from greenhouse to cash register to secure, pinpoint and refine all preferences for consumers and employees alike. Customer history is integrated into the system so budtenders can guide their clients to make the safest decisions possible, and the security measures for transport, which include package scans and background checks, are some of the most advanced in the industry. (*Stay tuned for more from Stash Stock and CEO Michael Pavlak, coming soon!)
We also caught up with exciting figure Michael Klein CEO of cannabisMD and God’s Greenery and former Viacom and Condé Naste Executive Vice President. Klein has successfully launched multiple verticals in the canna-media space, notably cannabisMD, the only non-advocacy, consumer-education platform to independently explore the potential benefits of cannabis and CBD. God’s Greenery, is a fascinating venture, the first online community for Christians to access reliable information, research, and stories about CBD for Christians and written by medical doctors, pastors and the faith-based community.
We spoke in depth talk about these underserved, and often unrecognized niches just waiting to be addressed. We love to see the industry weave and flow in new directions. Full interview available soon.
Meanwhile, people couldn’t stop talking about Netflix CEO Marc Randolph’s address on opening day, where he advised emerging entrepreneurs to consider “pain points” in order to solve problems in their businesses. “Train yourself to see the world as an imperfect place,” he stated, noting that the path to success is paved with fear, disappointment and optimism – and you can’t be a good founder until you’ve experienced them all.
This is something on which Farrington agrees. Several weeks ago marked the bittersweet announcement that she would be stepping down as MJBiz’s CEO at the end of this year; Founding Editor in Chief Chris Walsh will assume the role.
Yet while it seems like the end of an era, Farrington enthuses, “I am so excited that the team has gotten to the experience level and the bandwidth and the numbers that we did for me to be able to make a move, shift my role, re-energize me personally. Because you can only do the same job for so long before you need to find something new. I’m at that point. I’m very excited to find different and really effective ways to help the company. I’m not going very far; MJBiz Daily is going to remain my number one priority, but at a more sustainable pace for me for awhile, and in ways that I hope are going to give me new challenges.”
As to Walsh becoming the new CEO, Farrington couldn’t be prouder. “He’s been working side by side in this business with me since we founded it… He’s been leading big parts of our operations for all of this year. And I’ve been doing much more of the strategic visioning. [Now] I’m going to move over here, and he’s going to step up and he’s got a great team behind him.”
For his part, Walsh is thrilled to keep the MJBiz evolution moving and growing. “How much bigger do you want to go?” he queried with a grin during a conversation at the Empowering Women in Cannabis reception. “It’s another year of big growth… for this event. I think people are really optimistic about where this industry’s going even when there are challenges.”
And as the conference days closed out with cocktail events and celebrations galore, that positive energy was palpable. For MJBiz, for cannabis as a whole, the future is now – and the next moves are big enough to shape the world.