New England Cannabis Convention – 2017 Recap
April 27, 2017
This year’s New England Cannabis Convention was not just the largest ever, it was also the loudest. The aisles were full of cannabis enthusiasts while packed seminars were evidence of a growing interest in the New England cannabis industry. As the potential market has increased, the tradeshow organizers have adapted and been successful in attracting a nice variety of established industry speakers, while creating an inviting space for new companies to launch and showcase their businesses.
“We were thrilled and humbled with the continued growth of the New England Cannabis Convention,” enthused David Gerth, Senior Sales Executive for Paragon Group, producer of the event for NECANN. “Attendance increased, the number and quality of the exhibitors increased, and the overall professionalism of the conference showed that this is where the New England cannabis industry does business.”
A lot has changed since our first visit almost 3 years ago. Going back to 2015, when the convention was held at The Castle at Park Plaza, the show was primarily business to consumer with the majority of exhibitors selling glass pipes and t-shirts to locals or nutrients to caregivers and home growers. The show had a very local and organic feel: in a word it was homegrown. The vendors drove in the morning of the event, finishing set up as the first visitors began funneling in having paid their $15 entrance fee. There were also organizations that laid the groundwork for today’s opportunities by gathering signatures, educating attendees, and speaking on seminars regarding patient rights and advocating cannabis efficacy.
Since then, Maine and Massachusetts have legalized adult use cannabis and Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have seen progress on the medical front. It’s no wonder the event has quintupled in size in just 2 years and now requires additional space in the Hynes Convention Center where 250 vendors displayed products ranging from sophisticated lighting systems to all natural worm castings aimed at the rapidly evolving cannabis industry.
The overall theme of the event has always been education. As the west coast experiences rapid “cann-adaption”, those of us on the east coast still experience a perception problem. For many patients, talking about using cannabis can be intimidating and they are often met with negative reactions based and judgmental eyes based on predisposed notions. During a panel consisting of representatives from the New England Veterans Alliance, attendees heard firsthand accounts of how Veterans broke the news admitting their cannabis use, and then what made them take the extra step in becoming a public advocate, despite the stigmatization of the plant.
“As an advocate or activist in a conservative environment, one cannot let the fear of judgment or scrutiny play a factor in their desire for change. People will judge what they do not know; with the limited options I had in front of me cannabis was not only the best option it was the only option that would save my life” said Sarah Stenuf, retired Army and current NEVA member “I now live a happy, healthy life illegally healed; it’s time we broke the silence and educated ourselves about the medicinal benefits of plant-based medicines.” The seminar educated and empowered the crowd, creating new and more vocal supporters, many anxious to carve out their own niche.
In prior years, most of the seminars focused on the medicinal aspects of cannabis or techniques for home cultivation, because that is what was legal and available and because most of the audience was consumers vs. business owners and interested entrepreneurs. With the advent of legalization, there were many more sessions focused on opportunities in the industry and how to get involved.
Granted, “how do I get involved?” is one of the most common questions we get, but what was different was who was asking this time. It’s a lot more college graduates full of energy, hungry entrepreneurs in business attire, and a lot fewer people looking for pipes and free stickers. It’s instead filled with keen business professionals ready to apply scalable processes that businesses will need to compete with well-funded operations as well as pharmaceutical and agricultural giants.
That’s not to say the show has lost its homegrown feel, it’s just growing up with the industry. As the industry matures, it’s becoming more acceptable for the old-school, pot-wary, business professional to get involved in the industry without risking substantial damage to their professional image. It’s a huge step in bringing legitimacy to cannabis and changing the perception of cannabis as a dangerous drug and illegal black market.
If you’re interested in reading more about getting involved in the cannabis industry, our VP of Product Management, Anthony Stevens, has 4 Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Cannabis Career to get you started!
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