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Ex-high-bitions: inside the marijuana expo landscape

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Antony Reeve-Crook gets his fix with Cassandra Farrington, the undisputed  queen of marijuana supply chain exhibitions

 

Cassandra Farrington is doing more than most when it comes to giving legitimacy to entrepreneurs coming out of the cannabis gray market.

The former Citigroup Projects Manager is blazing a new trail in the global exhibitions industry. Having followed a conventional path in an unconventional market, launching the niche publication Marijuana Business Daily (MJ Biz Daily), a division of Anne Holland Ventures,and moving into live events with a small conference that in the space of just a few years now packs out Las Vegas.

“We didn’t set out to grow a large tradeshow. I have a background in very niche B2B publications, and we set out to create a How-To for companies in the in the dispensary marketplace. That conference quickly grew, adapted and evolved into what the industry wanted,” says Carrington.

“To begin with we had 16 table-tops and 30 exhibitors meeting with 700 people. The exhibitors were clamouring for space immediately – that’s when we turned a corner.” It also helped that at precisely this point Las Vegas implemented a local dispensary law. The scene was set for a show that today is absolutely the gathering place for the global cannabis industry at its home at the Las Vegas Convention Centre.

With 25,000 visitors and more than 800 exhibitors dealing in cultivation, nutrients, greenhouse construction, retail and design, lawyers and consultants; the show has everything that goes into delivering a recently illegal consumer product into the marketplace. From the first seed in the ground to the product that crosses the counter.

It’s a long way in a short time for that 400-person conference with table top exhibits.

So has she moved fast enough to have captured the B2B cannabis market?

Farrington says the High Times Cannabis Cup, a festivalised consumer exhibition dedicated to marijuana use, is not a “conducive atmosphere for doing business”. “It is everything a cannabis-lover would want, end-users in this the eight billion-dollar market. We wanted to have the opportunities to build these relationships in a professional environment.

There is no product on the floor at Farrington’s exhibition.

It was all about listening to our audiences. The original concept was for a subscription website. Docucced on dispensaries, stay within regulations, stay within legality. It started out free, then moved into premium content, and when we listened to our audience we realised the market was looking for something very different. A window into the broader cannabis world.

In Denver people knew each other and created an advocacy network, but didn’t feel they knew the people in San Francisco, Portland Maine. They wanted better idea generation across the whole spectrum.

As the event picked up its global following, has sponsorship or corporate involvement been an issue? Let’s face it, this isn’t quinoa Farrington’s dealing in. However, data regulation and selective presentation has removed any problem for the objectors who don’t wish to be presented with marijuana promotional material.

“It hasn’t really been an issue for us. The people who subscribe self-select. I know for sure we have subscribers who are anti-marijuana zealots, but they will have subscribed to our media themselves.”

“And we know that the industry has come out of the basement, a ton of bad behaviour was allowed to flourish. So we have always held a tight line on professionalism.

 

 

 

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