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MJBizCon 2023 continued

Updated: Jan 1

To complete my recap of MJBizCon 2023, I wanted to share my experiences on the second and third days of the conference, when I listened mostly to presentations, and also give some of my final impressions.

The talks that I attended were overall good. There were a couple I was underwhelmed by but I do feel it was a good use of my time and people in the audience learned some new things. For me, it's also a good reality check. I'm new to doing what I'm doing and hearing from people in a similar space that are succeeding doing similar things is encouraging.

Anna Kaplan from SugarTop Buddery, Kendra Freeman from Yum Clouds and Heidi Fikstad from Moss Crossing sat on a panel together and talked about their brands and how to stand out. It was interesting. They talked about the right number of SKUs when you are starting a brand to create a presence but not set yourself up for failure. Rebranding was discussed and starting new brands or in new markets. Moss Crossing is a dispensary in Oregon that has created a strong brand and has some of the most loyal customers in a very crowded market. Definitely checking out Moss Crossing next time I'm in Oregon.

Buck from Native Roots talked about how they have adjusted to the changing customer. He explained how they did research where they had strains tested and qualified by how they make a person feel. They found five categories that strains fall into and they now indicate on products which of the feelings the product typically elicits. Definitely an improvement from Indica, Hybrid, Sativa! Is there something better? Terpene based?

Offenbonger closed out the day with a bang bringing tons of energy and some great tips to help boost sales. One of his key concepts is that if all your budtenders do the sales your best budtenders do, you will increase your sales immediately. It doesn't cost you anything, just teach them to do the same things that your top budtenders do. He gave so many valuable tips and ideas around loyalty, incentives and timing of marketing as well.

I concluded my day with the MJBiz Women's Networking event. I went to both this event and the Social Equity Networking event last year and found both very beneficial. I missed the Social Equity event this year due to other happy hour events I attended and wanted to make sure I didn't miss the Women's event as well. The four women that kicked the event off gave some great advice and encouraged us to network and keep it moving. I met a handful of interesting women in different markets doing different things and really enjoyed the event. Also made a few connections I'm hoping will turn into some real opportunities. Skipped the parties and called it a night because Vegas is exhausting!!

Went to one final panel discussion on Friday with some heavy hitters! A great discussion on the state of the California market and how maybe there are glimpses of it coming back but mostly still struggling. California has high taxes and lots of product which perpetuates the illicit market. In addition, despite the abundance of cannabis, California also has the hemp-based market, which brings me to my final thoughts.

One of my overall takeaways was the increased presence of the hemp-based market. From the party sponsors to the people I met, it seemed like there were far more in the hemp-based market compared to last year. I find the hemp-based market very interesting and it's something I'm exploring but so far I still have mixed feelings. People are synthesizing a variety of different cannabinoids from hemp plants (less than 0.3% THC) which is currently federally legal through a loophole created by the 2018 Farm Bill.

As Guy, the CEO of Papa and Barkley, a wellness company, said on a panel, legalizing hemp could have caused us to create more hemp-based textiles and used in other types of manufacturing but most people are just using it to get around the federal law banning cannabis. I'm paraphrasing, but that's what I took away and also agree. I get that people in states without legal cannabis would go to hemp-derived cannabis products since it's their only option. But IMO we should utilize the plant in it's whole form when possible and to manipulate the compounds to create something else isn't going to be as good as that something else au natural.

There also just isn't as much regulation and testing. The traceability isn't the same and it's much easier for operators to have lower standards. And though we have issues with potency and testing numbers in cannabis, I just firmly believe a hemp-derived product is less likely to be as accurate with amounts of various components. OK, I think I got all my 'sciencey' talk out of my system :-)

The last thing I'll point out about the hemp-derived industry is, it's a loophole! And loopholes often get closed. We are already seeing this market being regulated locally in some areas and I'm expecting more of that. Especially as cannabis operators are 'whistle blowing' on their hemp-derived competition. I feel like it's a gamble to start a hemp-derived business right now but if you are willing to pivot, move to a new state, cross-over to cannabis, maybe it's not a bad place to start.

Overall, it was a good show. I made some great new connections and learned some new things. MJBizCon is a lot but it's a great way to connect with the whole cannabis industry in one place. I had fun. Especially with all my cute earrings from High on Plants!


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