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2 years ago, I showed up in Vancouver in a Def Leppard hoodie slinging a backpack…..begging for media accreditation.
The folks at Lift & Co. were gracious, accommodating, and the mood of the event was full of energy and earnestness. It was the first time I met George McBride (a cannabis industry analyst from the other side of the pond. Full disclosure: I’m a fanboy). I met Cam Battley, Jon Page, Nathan Woodworth, and live blogged from the business conference and the convention floor and sushi bars – choking down 17 hour days doing it.
I was a little concerned when coming down this time – in that I might be walking into a wake – rather than a business conference. The industry has taken more than it’s share of gut punches over the past 9 months, and I was hoping the mood wouldn’t be dour.
Our opening presentation on main-stage on Industry Day couldn’t really be described as an ‘uplifting’ piece: GoBlue laid out the supply situation, I presented the value chain as a framework to identify trends in industry over the next 12 months, and Cyto sprinkled some reality over the current state of research and science around the cannabis plant (hint: there’s some areas for improvement). We’ll deliver it all to you soon here…..in full colour.
There was the typical sniping and titters from the cheap seats on Twitter (and occasionally from the ‘cool’ kids who always are at these events, despite running them down to anyone who will listen). The snickers around the state of some outfits….the gals in the bodysuits working the floor (like isn’t that sexism sooooo not cool)……whether some presenter was an idiot (or a genius), depending on who you were talking to. Standard ‘industry conference’ fare.
Norton Singhavon at GTEC caused quite the stir with his ‘BLKMKT brand‘ – and was accused of everything from misogyny to racism to disrespecting the folks who were selling weed out of their Mom’s basement while burying coffee cans filled with cash in their back yard for decades. You know…the gentle souls (like biker gangs, and myclobutanil chugging wads who don’t care about human health enough to google ‘hydrogen cyanide’)…..those nice sorts who simply had the plant and ‘patients’ first and foremost in their hearts. Unlike the evil suits and the bottomless greed of today….Nosiree. It was never about money when the unregulated were in charge of things. It was all sunshine and rainbows. Might as well paint a picture of those golden days of yesteryear as a simple misunderstanding, while showing an image of a unicorn nibbling on fresh grass in a verdant pasture….surrounded by peaceful water nymphs playing with floating hearts, joyfully living carefree and blissful….all wistfully musing on the joy of life beside trickling streams of shimmering gold.
I have many takeaways from this show.
It wasn’t a funeral. Nor a wake. While attendance was no hell for the Expo (now down to 3 days from 4, one of the ‘consumer days’ got excised), it was a full house for the business conference. Instead of multiple streams/presentations, they went to a single room downstairs….and it was popping.
The booths were smaller: not much of the splash and panash from the LP’s – but the nuts and bolts outfits that do business. BDS Analytics were there (I know them from a prior life), and man….it’s so nice to see formal commerce come into the space.
My part of our presentation was about bringing adults into the room.
About how formal commerce and serious people are going to come into this space – and do it right.
We talked about the ‘dank nugs’ and the sideways hats – and talked the same way as we talk about suits. It doesn’t matter what someone is wearing: it’s what’s filling out the clothes that count. I’ve met good and bad in both.
I am more optimistic about this space and the future than I’ve been in months.
In a podcast interview with Matei Olaru (CEO of Lift) – I asked him point blank about what are the catalysts for growth and stabilization of the industry over the next 12 months. Without hesitation he replied: “We need a bunch of it to go bankrupt”.
For all the cheap seats and boo-bears and retail investors who didn’t understand that there is risk in investing: this ‘industry’ is now coming together.
And hey, about those cheap seats and cheap shots? The triggered, the offended? The perpetual pearl clutchers?
Norton’s booth was the busiest of any I saw all weekend. The gals in the spandex were talked about endlessly (NDSupplies if you are curious. And yeah, I didn’t notice the brand either until someone put a business card in my hand and I learned they were a packaging company). I touched up with a perfect gentleman in Mike from Remo….who was doing what he’s always done: encourage folks to grow their own.
Dope is a CPG first and foremost. A guilty pleasure product, a medicine, a recreational drug….whatever. It’s an intimate experience wrapped within an agricultural service-based business model.
I am recharged, and I am smiling. And packing some seriously good legal gear home with me. Legal dope is almost there. Really. It’ll only take a few more grow cycles to finish it.
We’ll be posting our interviews over the next while, and I’ll be presenting our ‘Right Size’ thesis for subscribers over the next week or so.
As we leave adolescence behind, there are great things in store ahead for the sector. And I am happier for it than I’ve been in months.
Lift Vancouver 2020 wasn’t a funeral. It was a birth.