Brownies festooned with company logos. Colorful lighters sporting corporate websites. Lightweight plastic grinders ready for imprinting with dispensary brand names. While dozens of exhibitors at the second annual Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo in New York City last week got their “open for business” message out with imaginative promotional products, there wasn’t a single marijuana seed, scent or bud in sight.
New York is expected to join 23 other states in legalizing medical marijuana by 2016. But until it does, exhibitors looking to cash in on the growing “green rush” will have to make do with pot-less brownies at conferences like the one held June 17-19 at the Jacob Javits Center.
At the show, companies like CannaVest (hemp-derived CBD products), CannaPharma RX (pharmaceutical pipeline for cannabinoid medicines) and MarijuanaDoctors.com (online medical marijuana recommendations) dispensed plenty of freebies along with business advice to budding entrepreneurs and investors. “This is pretty unique for marketing,” said a 25-year-old attendee who put a lighter, grinder, pens and tea bags into a bright yellow conference bag – another popular giveaway. Like many browsers, she wouldn’t give her name, saying, “I don’t want my company to know I’m here.”
Although the still-largely-illegal marijuana trade remains more Cheech and Chong than Goldman Sachs, that’s changing – fast. The “Cannabis Means Business” conference was sponsored by an association dedicated to pushing the burgeoning industry’s investment potential. According to Forbes magazine, “While the direct growth and sales of marijuana are heavily regulated, associated businesses have very low barriers to entry or expansion. Existing small businesses like t-shirt printers, agriculture suppliers, construction crews, and marketing firms have new businesses and customers to call on.”
About 90 companies exhibited at last week’s show, including compliance and security consultants, greenhouse manufacturers, “wonder soil” providers, grow light specialists and vape sellers, with engineers showing off shiny new technology needed for mass pot production.
In all, it’s a burgeoning market that distributors would be wise to watch and call on as it gets even bigger. “Let’s just say retirement has moved up,” said Jay Griffin, of the Denver Consulting Group, which branched out from a marijuana dispensary business in 2014. “It’s been a great ride, especially with the explosion in recreational.”