Marijuana Business Conference & Expo convenes with election top of mind

By Bart Schaneman

November’s landmark election will no doubt be a hot topic on the convention hall floor at this week’s Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, with recreational and medical markets newly approved in eight states amid huge questions over what a Donald Trump administration will mean for the industry.

The nation’s largest marijuana industry trade show will officially open on Wednesday, with more than 8,500 industry professionals and attendees converging at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino to talk about a wide range of topics as well as industry trends, challenges and the industry’s future following last Tuesday’s national election.

The vote could lead to $7 billion-$8 billion in additional annual retail cannabis sales, according to Marijuana Business Daily’s preliminary estimates.

California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voted to legalize recreational marijuana, while Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota approved medical cannabis initiatives. Montana, which legalized medical marijuana in 2004, also passed a measure to set up commercial cultivation operations and dispensaries.

But a Trump presidency has raised major questions about the rapidly growing industry’s future. Executives are uncertain about what the new president will mean in terms of federal regulations and enforcement, with some fearing an eventual crackdown.

It’s against this backdrop that the week’s conference, also known as MJBizCon, kicks off. The 5th annual gathering, curated by the editorial staff of Marijuana Business Daily, was recently named the fastest-growing trade show in the country. And this year’s conference will set an attendance record.

“It’s exciting to think about the millions of dollars in transactions that will happen here that fuel the industry and drive it forward,” said George Jage, president and publisher of Marijuana Business Daily.

The conference will offer three days of seminars and keynote speeches by industry experts. Topics will include the election, extraction, taxes, sales trends, cultivation, market research and financing, among others.

In addition, more than 300 exhibitors will occupy the expo hall. When the show started in 2012, exhibitors totaled 22, taking up 2,200 square feet of exhibit hall space. Today, 323 exhibitors will account for 45,060 square feet.

Coming on the heels of the vote to legalize recreational marijuana, Californians make up the lion’s share of this week’s attendees, accounting for roughly a third of the total.

Tuesday, an all-day “Crash Course” will look at the ins and out of the marijuana business for people new to the industry. A symposium focusing on cannabis science – with topics ranging from plant anatomy and cannabis compounds to clinical research – also is taking place.

The conference will officially open Wednesday with a keynote speech by Marijuana Business Daily Editorial Director Chris Walsh. He will provide an analysis on the state of the industry as well as state-by-state forecasts for the new markets created by the election.

Also taking the stage for a keynote speech will be Juliet Funt, CEO of WhiteSpace at Work, discussing strategies to maintain productivity while avoiding burnout.

Following that, a panel of industry experts will discuss what’s on the minds of everyone attending the conference: the 2016 election and what it means for the industry.

On Wednesday afternoon, magician and TV show host Penn Jillette will bring show biz to the event with his speech. Aside from his career as an entertainer, Jillette is a Libertarian and free-market capitalist with keen insights into how the marijuana industry can keep its free-wheeling spirit as it grows.

The next two days will continue with about 30 panels, presentations and workshops from industry insiders. Participants will have opportunities to sit with other like-minded individuals to discuss challenges and frustrations from a business perspective.

Bart Schaneman can be reached at