The next “for sure” bull market in the U.S. will be the development of the legal cannabis industry. Those who smoke already know this. Those who don’t are living in denial, and that’s not the river in Egypt. The real question for those interested in this sector is where to put money to work or what kind of cannabis job fits their background. There will be great fortunes made and lost in what is sure to be a wild ride. New opportunities exist, but so do bad deals, the latter rarely talked about in cannabis news.
Mecca for Cannabis
There are many cannabis conferences sprouting nationwide, but nothing comes close to the magnitude of the Las Vegas show put on last week by the folks at Marijuana Business Daily. This fifth annual edition was held once again at the Rio Las Vegas and had 10,000 attendees and 350 exhibitors. If you are not at this show you are not in the biz. Attendees gladly shell out over $900 for tickets, which actually sold out before the event started. Company booths also sold out, even at the $5,000 price tag for a 10x10-foot booth.
I have attended many similarly large trade shows, and this was the busiest by far. It’s outgrown the Rio, and the word is that next year’s event will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This is quite a step up in stature for the whole industry, and no doubt aided by legalization in both California and Nevada.
The crowd was not that much different from any other trade show for music, clothing, or even high tech. To be sure there were some memorable characters. Perhaps none more so than the six-foot-tall, redheaded, super slim former model Alexis D’Angelo, who paraded in high heels through the show with her well-behaved dog. D’Angelo works on strategic partnerships for Precise Cannabis, a leading public relations firm.
Many of the attendees were casually dressed businessmen looking for their “in.” Such was the case with Scott Liebman, cofounder of Fort Systems located in Larkspur, California. His firm offers fulfillment management, order management, and compliance systems to the wine industry. “I see a parallel between wine and cannabis as the industry matures,” said Liebman, who has 25 years of industry experience.
Not surprisingly, in Nevada, industry executives smelling a bonanza are way ahead of the curve, according to Liebman. “Licensed Nevada alcohol wholesalers actually have a preferred right to obtain a cannabis wholesale license. Other states have strictly prohibited companies from handling both,” he said. Liebman has impressive academic credentials to back up his experience, with degrees from both Columbia University and Dartmouth College.
Of course, with such a large crowd of weed enthusiasts, there was consumption going on in the exhibit hall, albeit very discretely. Every couple of hours or so, an announcement reminded that such actions were prohibited, but that certain flowery smell did pervade. Vape pens seemed to be the favorite vehicle, convenient and less conspicuous.
Attendees and exhibitors did not go hungry as the event included a sumptuous buffet breakfast and lunch each day. My hat is off to the Rio for feeding 10,000 people with above-average food each day, though finding a place to sit or tabletop to share was challenging.
Curb Your Enthusiasm a Bit
On the job front, every other card that I was handed belonged to a PR person of some kind or other. What the industry is going to be in short supply of are accountants and auditors who can manage their way thru the compliance software maze. Testing labs are sure to be hiring, but be careful here. Word at the show was that some of the more aggressive labs are matching results to desired client needs.
For SoCal, however, a seasoned commercial real estate executive talked about a project that has raised all its capital for an indoor cannabis site that will not have power for five years according to the local electric utility. Do you think they will return the investor money? Not.