MJBizCon 2021 Rollup: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…

I mean… should we just call It Vegas Cannabis Week Now?

Marijuana Business Daily Conference (better known by insiders as MJBizCon or “The Cannabis Conference)- the biggest yearly industry gathering is officially in the books!

For those who are unfamiliar, MJBiz has been a mainstay in the industry now since 2012.

Each year, a who’s who of industry players from all sides of the game come together for a week of big speeches, panels discussions, new product launches, major announcements, and of course, the parties…

This year marks my 4th official trip to the Vegas convention as an “industry insider.”

Personally, I thought it was…

Different.

The Good: Sooooo many more people of color!!!

Long gone are the days I and a few other dots of color would spot each other from across the room, lock eyes, and nod — acknowledging we’re the only ones here; making a point of connecting amidst tryna secure a piece of this corporate bag from our all-white peers…

From the “official events” to off-strip private parties, the BIPOC community definitely had its strongest showing yet, and folks came ready to claim their spot.

A few of the MANY HIGHlights:

Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana’s DICE (Diversity In Cannabis Event) “Welcome to Vegas” Mixer set the tone Wednesday with an industry superstar power-networking experience just off the strip.

Smiles were in abundance and the DJ was top-notch, but the building’s energy was clearly focused on moving forward in a more communal fashion.

Attendees looked forward to doing their part in advancing industry BIPOC numbers across the field; recruiting allies along the way.

Industry event veterans Adelia Carrillo & Parisa Rad’s “Blunt Brunch” series isn’t as much about the product as it is about straight talk with woman executive leadership in the space while seamlessly blending in wellness by way of exemplary infused foods and mocktails.

In an attempt to be as inclusive as possible, what was originally planned to be a small gathering went semi-viral and ended up as a 3-part, multi-venue series making way for an onslaught of interested operators co-producers didn’t want to leave out!

Attendees of all three enjoyed a star-studded sit-down brunch, a bowling social, and finally a massive photo-op and info exchange facilitated by Proven Media.

My two favorite moments in the lifestyle lane were fellow State of Cannabis NewsHour correspondent, Priscilla Agoncillo winning the highly-coveted “Golden Bong” award for Influencer of the Year Thursday (followed by a KILLER PARTY at Spearmint Rhino) and Friday’s last-minute blockbuster announcement of superbad inc’s exclusive brand ambassadorship by hip-hop legend Lil Kim.

It was awesome to see so many people of color who’ve been making waves virtually across the industry in the flesh at the same location.

I can only imagine even bigger numbers as the pandemic winds down, more operators secure positions, and the social equity conversation amplifies.

The Bad: They gotta tighten some shit up…

Ahead of Mike Tyson’s scheduled appearance at their booth, a fight broke out between a patron and packaging tech company Futurola’s private security…

Packwoods co-founder, Johnny Bravo ended up taking a couple of unwarranted punches to the face while on the convention floor by an oversized bouncer.

Video of the altercation ended up all over social media leading to MJBiz PR putting out a poorly worded statement condemning the violence before “security took care of the issue”… and another revised statement later claiming they misspoke.

Futurola still hasn’t commented, but I’m sure we have not heard the last of this…

There were also alleged reports of a small monkey (animal) roaming freely on the show floor, although we didn’t get any footage of the little one as of yet…

The monkey bit can be viewed by some as funny and its owner was probably somewhere close.

But in addition to the Futurola news, it’s clear MJBiz needs to get their security game up at the very least.

If the mainstream business community views this as the benchmark for all industry conferences, it wasn’t a good look for anyone involved.

Maybe if they allowed cannabis consumption instead of having an open bar?

Jussayin…

The Ugly: “Las Vegas Cannabis Week” soon may be a better moniker for the gathering…

The yearly can’t-miss event we’ve all known and built our schedules around as “business people” has outgrown the Las Vegas Convention Center’s confines, and maybe even the Cannabis Conference itself.

The off-schedule (also off-strip) events and parties have been a mainstay for MJBiz for years.

Competition hasn’t…

The first notable direct competitor arrived by way of Jage Media’s MJ Unpacked- debuting this year at Mandalay Bay on the other end of the Las Vegas strip.

Run by George Jage…

The former president of MJBizCon.

Unpacked bills itself as “The first cannabis event of its kind that places passionate cannabis retailers and THC CPG brands at the center of it all, with unique opportunities to connect, collaborate and access capital.”

I was able to swing by for a few hours to get a quick look at the setup and get a few reactions from attendees who were overwhelmingly satisfied with the show’s offerings.

Many even preferred the new conference over MJBiz…

One might view Unpacked as a more serious, scaled-down show for veteran operators looking to close deals and elevate their positions in an increasingly crowded industry.

Brands and investor relations were more the focus here rather than MJBizCon’s penchant for big names, celebrities, and seeing the world through green-tinted lenses.

Tickets and booths were available for a fraction of Biz’s offerings and they seemed to have made a conscious effort to ensure social equity brands and smaller companies had equal access.

Could this be the first of many challenges to the throne?

If I were a betting man…

All things considered, I’d say the week was a success for many newbies and veterans alike!

The speaker panels were on point as always, and with a few exceptions, witnessing the industry’s maturation firsthand was phenomenal!

Lots of deals were made, relationships formed, money and memories lost…

There’s still no comparable week in cannabis and it’ll continue to grow in size each run.

Things will only get spicier with next year’s midterm elections only a few weeks after.

Whether MJBizCon soldiers on as the main event is definitely up for debate…

But Las Vegas Cannabis Week is here to stay.

RL


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