DENVER—Each of the three major cannabis conferences held here last week addressed different aspects and audiences. But they shared something in common, too: They recognized Colorado as the focal point of cannabis legalization’s continued progress.
With Colorado among the leading cannabis states, it made sense not only to hold these conferences in the Centennial State but to hold them back-to-back, too. Visitors could attend all three if their schedules allowed.
In addition, prospective entrepreneurs from both inside and outside the state have an advantage in Colorado. “There’s unlimited licensing in Colorado,” said Jane West, co-founder and former CEO of Women Grow, which just held its Annual Leadership Summit. “We can have as many pot businesses here as we want. Other states have it capped to just a few dozen; some only allow five or less.”
The INDO Expo (Jan. 28-29) catered to smaller and newer businesses while providing a space for companies to discover new talent. Launched in 2014, this year’s expo brought together new and established businesses. The expo was free to industry professionals who attended to buy or source the exhibitor’s products. Vendors could be found at nearly 100 booths with lighting, packaging, distribution, tracking, and other products and services tailored to the industry.
The second day’s events were open to the public, including a career fair to connect businesses with experienced and aspiring recruits. The expo also hosted talks and seminars designed to give professionals the basics of cultivation, marketing, best practices and other insider advice for running a successful cannabis operation in an incredibly competitive and fast-paced market.
While the INDO Expo brought together novices and industry veterans, the Seed to Sale Show (Jan. 31-Feb. 1) represented the biggest names of cannabis. Many of the guests were more prominent members of the cannabis industry, particularly in Colorado. Presented by the National Cannabis Industry Association—the largest cannabis trade group—Seed to Sale combined presentations from industry insiders with exhibitors spotlighting the newest, most cutting-edge technologies. The speakers addressed hot-button issues like pesticides, cultivation practices, regulatory compliance, research and, of course, marketing.
In terms of marketing, this business-to-business show differed from many other conferences. The industry is currently striving to overcome the stigma and stereotypes attached to cannabis. The aim now is to change the image of cannabis from a product that just “gets people high” to one with a number of customized benefits, such as relieving pain, enhancing creativity or helping people get quality sleep.
At the end of a whirlwind week was Women Grow’s Annual Leadership Summit (Feb. 2-3). The organization is focused on industry diversity and inclusivity, instead of maximizing profits and brand awareness. The summit combined its fast-moving “Lightning Talks” with traditional panels and presentations.
The nearly 30 Lightning Talks (each about 7-8 minutes) provided the audience with quick, concise presentations that were engaging and entertaining. They were geared toward empowering women, minorities, the LGBT community and the disabled to become part of the industry and excel. Among other topics, the talks gave insider information on the subtleties of corporate culture and mental exercises for overcoming the competitive natures of dominant personalities. Considering that anywhere from 36-50 percent of cannabis companies are owned and managed by women, Women Grow is definitely onto something, and they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
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