The rise of the cannabis industry has paved the way for exciting industry-specific conferences where innovations and breakthroughs are unfurled, paving the future of this emerging sector. At the forefront of these pivotal events is the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo), a nexus of knowledge and networking. This vibrant gathering, nestled in the heart of New York at the Javits Center, returns for another year to support the thriving northeastern cannabis market.
The Kickoff: NORML FORML
As the precursor to the main event, the NORML FORML set the tone for the vibrant energy that enveloped the CWCBExpo. This unique gathering, hosted by Michael O’Malley of Curved Papers and Kym B of Tribe Tokes, with special guest MC, Vlad Bautista of Happy Munkey, buzzed with anticipation. Held at The Tailor Public House, the NORML FORML was less about the tuxedos and more about early relationship building in an environment replete with a range of styles, tasty bites, and lively bar chatter.
“NORML FORML serves to continue to dissolve the boundary between industry and community.” –Michael O’Malley, Founder, Curved Papers
NORML, standing for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was founded in 1970 and has been at the forefront of efforts to reform marijuana laws in the United States ever since. It operates through a grassroots structure of state and local chapters and is staffed in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults and to serve as an advocate for consumers to ensure they have access to high-quality marijuana that is safe, convenient, and affordable.
Spotlight on the Keynote Speaker: Dasheeda Dawson
To kick off the official event, attendees gathered to hear a profound message delivered by a powerful voice in the cannabis industry: Dasheeda Dawson. Dubbed New York City’s “cannabis czar,” Founding Director of Cannabis NYC, and global cannabis advocate, Dawson commanded the stage with her wealth of knowledge and experience.
With nearly 20 years of strategic management, business development, and brand marketing excellence, Dawson has been instrumental in leading transformative organizations in both the public and private sectors. Her focus on the cannabis industry for nearly a decade has earned her an award-winning Fortune 100 business strategist title, and she is also a bestselling author on the subject.
In her keynote address, Dawson unpacked the support that the NYC Department of Small Business Services, through Cannabis NYC, is providing to help the legalized cannabis industry flourish. She emphasized the focus on education, investment, and opportunity in New York City related to the cannabis industry.
Appointed Founding Director of Cannabis NYC by Mayor Eric Adams in October 2022, Dawson now leads the city’s efforts to establish New York City as a global leader in cannabis industry excellence. As profiled by the New York Times, she returned home to oversee the interagency creation and curation of citywide resources and services to build a sustainable cannabis industry. This includes aiding entrepreneurs in applying for licenses, accessing financing opportunities, and navigating municipal regulations.
Dawson’s keynote address was not merely inspirational but also served as a guide for industry trailblazers looking to navigate the national cannabis landscape. Her insights offered actionable strategies that attendees could apply in their own cannabis enterprises, emphasizing her commitment to nurturing the cannabis industry at large.
As the first day of the CWCBExpo was set into motion, something gave the impression of a bit of a slow start. It could have been because of the great time a lot of people had at the NORML FORML, or low energy or not enough coffee, or maybe that not many people had shown up yet. Regardless, everyone seemed excited about that night’s rooftop bash afterparty and were confident the next day would have a lot more foot traffic.
Exhibitors from a spectrum of sectors such as media, insurance, construction, security, brands, cultivators, retailers, manufacturers, and processing equipment converged, each contributing their unique threads to the intricate tapestry of this burgeoning industry.
The Exhibitor Showcase
The expo became a convergence point for a spectrum of sectors – media, insurance, construction, security, brands, cultivators, retailers, manufacturers, and processing equipment. Each added their unique threads to the intricate tapestry of this burgeoning industry. Amid the diverse exhibitors, several companies, such as Torabis Group, the New Jersey Business Action Center, and WorknRoll, stood out for their distinctive offerings and commitment to the cannabis industry.
Torabis Group, spearheaded by Randall Patten, is an industry leader in cannabis consulting. They showcased their comprehensive suite of services that cater to the unique needs of cannabis enterprises. With a profound understanding of the industry’s regulatory landscape and a keen business acumen, they offer invaluable insights and strategies to help businesses thrive in this competitive market.
The New Jersey Business Action Center, a government organization committed to supporting business growth within the state, brought a wealth of knowledge and resources. Their presence underscored the increasing recognition and support of the cannabis industry at the governmental level, reflecting the shifting perceptions surrounding cannabis and its potential for economic growth. Coming soon from the NJBAC is the Cannabis Training Academy, which aims to provide no-cost technical assistance, training, and mentorship to recreational cannabis license applicants.
“The New Jersey Business Action Center is a helpful statewide resource for the entire business community. It makes sense that NJBAC is launching the Cannabis Training Academy, as the agency has been providing technical assistance and education for business owners and entrepreneurs for a long time. The CTA will be an important resource in the growing cannabis industry in our state.” –Angela Speakman, Director of Strategic Communications, NJ Business Action Center
WorknRoll, a New York-based coworking space, offers a fresh approach to the work-life balance experience for cannabis-consuming professionals. Creating a judge-free zone to allow everyone to engage with the plant during working hours seems to be a core element of their mission. They offer various membership levels, including single-day and half-day passes, and also hold events regularly there, so there are plenty of ways to check it out.
Throughout the days, conversations sparked ideas, partnerships formed, and the potential of this evolving market was palpable in every interaction. With each exhibitor, speaker, and attendee adding their unique contributions, the CWCBExpo was a testament to the strength and diversity of the cannabis industry.
Let the Good Times Roll
Besides the NORML FORML preceding the main event, there were a few other afterparties going on for CWCBExpo. They are all separately ticketed events, and if you go to both the Rooftop Bash and the Yacht Party, you’ll end up paying more for the parties than the cost for the entire 3-day expo and conference.
The Rooftop Bash, priced at $165-$195 depending on when you buy the ticket, might actually be worth the price tag. Open bar, delicious food, and open-air to puff freely, the event was a great catalyst for continued networking. I think the price tag does help keep the quality of attendees quite high compared to if it were totally open for all event attendees.
The Yacht Party this year, unfortunately, got rained on, and I did not participate in this one, so I can’t speak much to this experience other than to say it’s a Yacht Party, and that’s pretty cool and unique, all things considered, despite the prohibitive cost at $325.
Afterparties, keynotes, and exhibits weren’t the only special flair elements available at CWCBExpo, which had some other initiatives to showcase.
Special Features of the Conference
The free Expungement Clinic, presented by Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM), was part of M4MM’s Project Clean Slate, aimed at helping individuals with non-violent cannabis charges. Held on June 3rd, it offered attendees a step towards justice and new opportunities.
Another highlight was the Master Class: Adult Use Retail Dispensary Business Bootcamp. This instructive journey catered to those looking to invest in, or operate, a retail dispensary. Participants gleaned valuable insights into successful business strategies and the value of medical and adult-use marijuana licenses.
The CWCBExpo stood as a vibrant showcase of the cannabis industry’s dynamic spirit and entrepreneurial drive. Attendees connected with industry leaders discovered innovative products and services and gained invaluable insights to shape their businesses.
This gathering not only offered a glimpse into the future of the cannabis industry but also acted as a catalyst for innovation, community, and entrepreneurship. Hopefully, attendees left with new connections, knowledge, and inspiration, ready to make their mark in this flourishing field.