MJBizCon kicks off in Las Vegas amid economic turmoil, hopes of marijuana reform

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Image of the registration desk at MJBizCon 2022

MJBizCon attendees pick up their badges Tuesday for the 11th edition of the nation's largest cannabis industry conference. (Photo by Alicia Fresquez)

MJBizCon, the oldest and largest trade show in the cannabis industry, officially opens Wednesday amid growing economic challenges and renewed hope that federal marijuana reform will help the industry in the wake of this month’s midterm elections.

Now in its 11th year, MJBizCon runs through Friday and features more than 1,400 exhibitors, 70-plus hours of educational content and 180 speakers.

More than 380 exhibiting companies are new to the showcase this year.

The expo hall, the largest in MJBizCon history, spans nearly 280,000 square feet on two floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Hall.

It’s where tens of thousands of cannabis industry professionals will convene for networking, startup funding, strategic partnerships, insights on regulatory reform and the political landscape and other topics.

This year’s event arrives amid another critical juncture for the industry.

Cannabis companies, like others in mainstream sectors, are laying off workers and implementing other cost-cutting measures as prices for wholesale marijuana fall and recessionary concerns rise.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has set in motion a process that could lead to revolutionary changes for federal marijuana policy.

The midterm elections, which often highlight the nation’s political polarities, provided a mixed bag of results on the marijuana front.

Among the many changes this year at MJBizCon, a new design divides the exhibition floor space into four distinct pavilions to help attendees find what they need:

  • Cultivation products and services.
  • Processing, packaging and lab services.
  • Retail and dispensary.
  • Business services.

“We can’t wait for everyone to see what’s new at MJBizCon – new exhibitors, a reorganized show floor, an outdoor patio,” said Jess Tyler, MJBiz’s senior vice president for events and sales.

“We really upped the experience this year.”

In a Wednesday highlight, MJBiz CEO Chris Walsh will deliver his “State of the Industry and Predictions for 2023” in which he outlines the cannabis business environment and opportunities for future growth.

Other topics featured at the conference will include the recent elections, mature and emerging market difficulties and opportunities, strategies to overcome current headwinds and whether federal reform, particularly the passage of SAFE Banking Plus, is gaining momentum.

The main stage on Wednesday will feature in-depth discussions with cannabis industry leaders and successful mainstream executives.

Highlights include:

  • A fireside chat with Cookies co-founder and CEO Berner, an expert on branding and global expansion in the cannabis industry. The rapper, who recently sat down with MJBizDaily for a Q&A, will discuss how he and his brand have become influential.
  • Insights from Rhonda Kallman, a trailblazer in the alcoholic beverage industry with decades of business, branding and marketing expertise. Kallman, who was recently the subject of an MJBizDaily Q&A, founded the Boston Beer Co., producer of Sam Adams, and now runs Boston Harbor Distillery.
  • A “power panel” of cannabis business leaders including Wana Brands co-founder and CEO Nancy Whiteman; Ruben Lindo, founder of Blak Mar Farms; The Parent Co. CEO Troy Datcher; Toi Hutchison, president and CEO of Marijuana Policy Project; and Acreage Holdings CEO Peter Caldini.

Additional experiential exhibits include the return of the Hall of Flowers Experience at MJBizCon, First-Timers Open House, Innovations Product Showcase and the Exhibitor Spotlight Theater.

MJBizCon has also partnered with CannaVest to host the CannaVest Institutional Investment Conference for institutional and accredited industry investors.

Other notable breakout sessions off the main stage include:

MJBizCon also features a new scholarship program, pop-ups from Women Grow and Black Cannabis Magazine, and networking events focused on women and Black entrepreneurs as well as other people of color. The MJBiz app and signage help attendees find women- and BIPOC-owned businesses on the expo floor.

Attendees can convene at one of two lounges, The Joint (first floor) and Elevation (second floor), to hydrate, plug in or meet up.

They can also visit The Patio at MJBizCon, a newly added outdoor gathering space to unwind, get fresh air or check out some cool experiences, including a 360 photo booth, yard games, DJs, drink options and food trucks.

The conference has a soft kickoff Tuesday with six preshow forums at the Westgate Las Vegas hotel, next to the Convention Center:

  • MJBizFinance Forum.
  • MJBiz Hemp + CBD Forum.
  • MJBiz Marketing Forum.
  • MJBizScience Symposium.
  • reMind Psychedelics Business Forum.
  • Associations Day.

More information, including registration details, speakers and session topics, is available here. Online registration remains open all week.

Chris Casacchia can be reached at chris.casacchia@mjbizdaily.com.