MJBizCon 2023 opens with hopes for a brighter cannabis industry future

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Image of early registrants checking in for MJBizCon 2023

Eager attendees check in Tuesday for MJBizCon 2023. (Photo by MJBizDaily/Emerald)

MJBizCon, the world’s biggest event in the cannabis sector, kicks off Wednesday in Las Vegas as industry leaders wrap up a tough year and hope for positive change in 2024 – particularly, the potential reclassification of marijuana as a less dangerous drug by the U.S. government.

As in previous years, the 12th annual MJBizCon attracts cannabis industry decision-makers: 72% of attendees in 2023 are at the vice president level or above.

Participants are traveling to the Las Vegas Convention Center from every state in the U.S. and beyond as international attendance has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels.

MJBizCon also features 135 speakers, with two-thirds of them from under-represented groups across the cannabis sector.

This year’s conference and expo come at yet another potential turning point for the $34 billion U.S. regulated marijuana industry.

The prospects of federal marijuana rescheduling and long-awaited cannabis banking reform offer hope, even as the U.S. heads into an unpredictable presidential election year in 2024.

In August, top Biden administration health officials recommended that marijuana be reclassified from a Schedule 1 substance to Schedule 3 – the same category as Tylenol with codeine.

The move – which is awaiting approval by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration – was hailed as the biggest development in marijuana policy reform in more than 50 years.

Since last year’s MJBizCon, new adult-use markets have launched in Connecticut, Maryland, Missouri, New York and Rhode Island.

And, this year, three more states paved the way for recreational legalization in the near future: Delaware, Minnesota and Ohio.

On the other hand, the cannabis industry has been beset by challenges accessing capital, slumping equity prices and global macroeconomic headwinds alongside longstanding problems such as a scarcity of banking options and the ongoing struggle to out-compete the illicit market.

‘Celebrate wins, commiserate losses’

“This year’s theme, ‘Dare to Grow,’ honors the pioneers, risk-takers and mavericks that make the cannabis industry so unique,” said Jess Tyler, MJBiz’s chief revenue and experience officer.

“After a challenging year, we are looking forward to coming together with this resilient community to celebrate wins, commiserate the losses and set ourselves up for success going into 2024,” Tyler continued.

“We are encouraged by the momentum we saw late this year with the possibility of rescheduling and SAFER Banking gaining traction – our hope is that MJBizCon 2023 is the start to a brighter year ahead for this incredible industry.”

In step with the cannabis industry’s increasing focus on fostering diversity and social equity, this year’s MJBizCon includes:

  • Wednesday’s Social Equity Content Track in partnership with Black Cannabusiness, including a town hall talk by Martin Luther King III.
  • MJBiz’s new Social Equity Scholarship Program, which awards complimentary conference and expo tickets to cannabis social equity license holders to create opportunities for networking, learning and building the marijuana business community.
  • Two evening network receptions: Achieving Equity in Cannabis and Empowering Women in Cannabis.

Other expo highlights include MJBizCon’s annual State of the Industry presentation, this year with MJBizDaily journalists Chris Casacchia, Solomon Israel and Chris Roberts.

Their presentation will include key historical events, data and perspective to help attendees process the developments of 2023 and to prepare for 2024.

Pre-show events on Tuesday included the Women in Leadership Forum and Associations Day as well as the MJBiz Finance, Marketing and Science forums, featuring dozens of presentations from cannabis industry thought leaders.

Meanwhile, the reMind Psychedelics Business Forum is back in 2023, lengthened to two days at the nearby Westgate Las Vegas.

A lot in store

For the cannabis retail sector, Thursday’s Retail Sesh will be a VIP-curated buying experience where retailers can meet product and service providers for in-person business meetings and networking.

And for select cannabis executives, regulatory expert Norman Birenbaum will offer insights into marijuana rescheduling at Thursday’s Executive Luncheon.

Conference and expo attendees can use the new MJBizCon mobile app to help navigate the conference’s enormous show floor.

The app also uses AI to offer personalized networking recommendations for participants, making it easy for MJBizCon attendees to schedule meetings and connect with other cannabis professionals.

Last year’s popular First-Timers Open House returns, giving MJBizCon newcomers a space to get acquainted before plunging into the expo floor.

MJBizCon isn’t just about business – entertainment is also on the agenda:

  • The Patio at MJBizCon returns, with food trucks, outdoor games, a DJ and more.
  • Retail partner Thrive Cannabis Marketplace will have a lounge on the show floor where shoppers can preorder cannabis products, then take shuttle buses to and from Thrive’s Las Vegas Strip location.
  • All attendees and exhibitors get free entry to the official MJBizCon opening night after-party at Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace.

Plus, industry innovators will be recognized at The Emjays International Cannabis Awards, in partnership with Farechild Events, at the Palms Casino Resort on Thursday.

MJBizCon is also taking over The Lexi, Las Vegas’ first cannabis consumption-friendly hotel, with suites for MJBizCon attendees and meeting space for off-site networking.

More details about MJBizCon 2023, including registration details and conference content, can be found here. Online registration is open all week.

Solomon Israel can be reached at solomon.israel@mjbizdaily.com.