The Cannabis Industry Descends Upon Las Vegas For MJBizCon 2021
Lindsey Bartlett Contributor Vices I cover the cannabis industry, psychedelics, culture, and innovation. Follow Listen to article minutes.
MJBizCon returns to Las Vegas for its first in-person conference in two years. The award-winning conference and largest cannabis industry trade show in the world will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center from October 19 to October 22, 2021.
“I cant wait,” says Chris Walsh, CEO of MJBizCon and the founding editor of its publication MJBizDaily. “2020 was a miserable experience for many people. It was hard not to be able to get together and foster the growth of the industry as we do at MJBizCon. It’s been great to watch the industry deemed essential in many states and continue to thrive. Now we’re coming full circle with that missing piece of in-person events. That’s how the industry is built, it’s the energy you get from being around other people, the excitement from meeting people to work and collaborate with.”
Founded in 2011, the conference has been growing over the last decade to have been officially deemed the title of “MJBizCon week” from the city of Las Vegas. Attendees can expect to see 1,000 exhibitors across over 250,000 square feet for this year’s show. MJBizCon is known for its technology, industry-focused showroom floor. It has been lovingly called the ‘Comic Con of weed’ because of its sheer scope, and also because of its draw to entrepreneurs and celebrities alike. Past year’s attendees included Kevin O’Leary, Kelsey Grammer, Kevin Smith, Gene Simmons, and more.
The show floor is joined by 80 speakers which will feature both panels and individual sessions. “I’m excited for our keynote this year,” says Walsh. “It’s Daymon John, he founded Fubu and he’s on Shark Tank. A couple of years ago, we tried to get him as keynote and he wasn’t ready to speak at a cannabis event. He didn’t want to go that route. Now, a couple years later, he’s ready for it. It shows you how much mainstream acceptance there is now. How the mainstream business world and the public have come around to cannabis in the last decade. You don’t have to be worried about attaching your name to cannabis and the stigmas around that.”MORE FOR YOUThe Making Of New York’s $150 Million ‘Cannabis Campus’Blackstone To Sell The Cosmopolitan Of Las Vegas For $5.65 BillionThe Feds Are Coming For Delta-8 THC
This year, alongside a keynote from Daymon John, expect to see sessions with Berner, founder of Cookies, Joe Bayern, CEO at Curaleaf, Joy Beckerman, Founder & Principal Hemp Ace International, Chris Ball, CEO of Ball Family Farms, Jesce Horton, founder and CEO of LOWD, Wanda James, founder of Simply Pure, and more.
The redemption song of MJBiz’s flagship event expects somewhere in between 20,000 and 30,000 attendees, with masks and social distancing in place. Before the pandemic in 2019, it reached nearly 35,000 attendees. Its CEO Chris Walsh sees a similar pace this year. “It really legitimizes the industry for people,” says Walsh. “A couple years ago, founders who came as attendees, are now running bigger, more established companies.
“As we come out of the pandemic, there are forces at play that haven’t been there before,” says Walsh. “We’re not worried how this industry is going to show up. They’re eager to be out there again. This industry thrives in-person.”
MJBizCon speaker sessions will also aim to tackle some of the new challenges that have come up for the industry since the pandemic began. Other innovations on the floor in 2021 include a Hall of Flowers partnership. “We’re looking to hook up with one of the other leading event brands in the industry, to use both our strengths,” says Walsh. “Really connecting the brands with retailers in a new way. You can get lost in the sea of people at MJBizCon. We wanted to carve out a space.”
As far as health and safety measures go, the MJBizCon team has followed along strictly with the CDC guidelines and Las Vegas guidelines. “We spaced things out this year,” says Walsh. “We expanded into the north hall with more exhibits to make sure people are spread out.” Expect lighter isles with more space to move around. Masks will be required on the showroom floor.
After parties in Las Vegas have evolved into their own draw entirely, with companies going all-out to be a part of the week. “This has been the best news of the year by far,” says Dave Tran and James Zachodni, founders of Farechild Events. “We can't tell you how ecstatic we were when we heard the news of Las Vegas MJBiz Con coming back.”
Farechild is throwing an after party called The Zodiac Party with Sensi Magazine. The party will feature a circular “calendar” reflecting the Zodiac wheel, with each sign having a different theme and sponsor. Guests can also expect musical performances from Lil Debbie, New Constellations, and DJ Kelly J. Farechild says that each guest who attends will be given a Mooselabs Mouthpeace to act as an oral barrier against germs when consuming.
“This industry in particular is built on connecting with one another,” say Tran and Zachodni. “This philosophy is rooted in the plant and how it's always been part of a communal culture. We all did our best to pivot to a virtual world last year but frankly, we all miss being together. There was definitely a void we had to get through in 2020.”
“I’ve seen first hand the huge wave of interest that across the spectrum of other industries at getting involved in cannabis,” says Walsh. “Everything from traditional retail to agriculture to packaging to technology. We’re going to welcome a lot of new people who are putting together their plans to enter the industry. It’ll be nice to see the old guard and then the next wave.”
Who is part of the next wave entering the cannabis industry? Dale Katechis, for one, an investor in Veritas Fine Cannabis and a craft beer maverick. He’s the founder of namesake craft beer Dale’s Pale Ale and brand Oskar Blues Brewery.
“A weed conference in Vegas? What’s not to look forward to about that!” says Dale Katechis. “The cannabis industry has been very intriguing to me for several years, and now that I’ve joined the Veritas Fine Cannabis team as a strategic partner, I’m very excited to attend my first MJBizCon.”
“From my point of view, most of us in the craft beer space are entrepreneurs at heart,” says Katechis. “As I began evaluating opportunities to join the cannabis industry, I found a lot of similarities between the cannabis and craft beer industry’s entrepreneurial spirit. In craft beer, many of us started as home brewers and in the cannabis industry, the same can often be said about home growers. What attracted me to the cannabis industry, especially the team at Veritas Fine Cannabis, is that shared entrepreneurial spirit. As budding entrepreneurs, we are always looking for opportunities to express ourselves in the name of having fun and making the world a better place, and the cannabis industry provides the means to do so.”
MJBizCon has offered a discount code for those who may want to attend. Forbes readers can use MJBIZVEGAS10 at checkout for 10% off registration.