Today is my last day in Florida. I have never been to Florida before, and for that matter had never traveled farther east than Denver (I'm from Oregon). I've been in the Orlando area all week, and have done all of the traditional things like hitting up amusement parks and eating at some local spots. Orlando is a beautiful place full of nice people, and I hope to come back and visit sometime in the near future.
The highlight of my week was attending the Spring 2016 Marijuana Business Conference and Expo (May 9-11), put on by the very talented people at Marijuana Business Daily. I have been to a handful of their events now starting all the way back to their first event in 2012, and their events are OUTSTANDING. I came into this event with high expectations, and to say that those expectations were exceeded is a huge understatement.
For starters, the geographical location of the event was a great choice. Florida is working towards legalizing medical marijuana this November via Amendment 2, which would create a very large industry in the process. I can say first hand from attending this event, the amount of interest in that potential industry is huge, and understandably so. The need to support reform is as high as ever in Florida, because after all, if there is no reform there is no industry.
That's why I was delighted to see John Morgan, the main backer of the Florida medical marijuana initiative that will be on the November ballot, listed as a keynote speaker. It's vital that people trying to get into the future Florida industry realize that supporting activism and reform is the first step. In addition to a riveting keynote speech by John Morgan, I saw several tables on the showroom floor displaying Florida Amendment 2 educational items. I also saw several people walking around talking about the initiative, and the need to get out the vote.
Another outstanding keynote speech was given by Chuck Underwood. Below is Chuck Underwood's bio, via the event's speaker page:
Generational study pioneer, author and star of the PBS miniseries "America's Generations", Chuck Underwood brings his business strategy expertise directly to the cannabis industry at the Spring 2016 Marijuana Business Conference & Expo.
Underwood will lead conference attendees through an insightful discussion outlining how the marijuana industry can use generational studies of its key demographics - Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Women - to shape its developing marketplace and culture.
Underwood helped develop and popularize the field of generational study and, with it, generational business strategies. After nearly thirty years of research, many of his original principles are now commonplace. In his role as founder of the Generational Imperative consulting firm, he has moderated, designed and managed generational research studies for retail, architecture and engineering, soft drinks, consumer packaged goods, insurance, the Navy and the healthcare industries.
One thing that Marijuana Business Daily consistently does that always impresses me is getting keynote speakers that provide a fresh perspective with solid info that hasn't really been covered previously in the cannabis world. As far as I know, Chuck Underwood has never spoke at a cannabis event before, or if he has, it has been very rarely. He provided not only a keynote speech (Day 1), titled 'Generational Engagement Strategies for the Cannabis Industry,' but Mr. Underwood also participated in two round table discussions (Day 2). One was focused on generational strategies for campaigns, and the other on generational strategies for marketing.
I felt that the information provided was something that everyone at the event needed to know, and I hope that there comes a time when Chuck Underwood speaks at more cannabis events in other areas. There is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to cannabis, which is something that I tell people until I'm blue in the face. Depending on when someone was born, and how they grew up, their perspective on cannabis is likely going to be completely different than someone who is much older or younger, and grew up in a different era. There's a reason why millennials are more likely to support cannabis reform than senior citizens. There's also a reason why one message will be better received by someone who is 40 compared to someone who is 80. If this topic interests you, which I think it should, I encourage you to check out more of Chuck Underwood's work.
The venue that the event took place at was stunning (Gaylord Palms and Convention Center). Below is a picture of the massive indoor garden area that I walked through at the convention center to get to the event:
The area was so huge that there were trails that you could walk around on, with all kinds of stuff to look at. It was absolutely beautiful. I don't know how tall the ceiling was, but it was unlike anything I had ever seen back home. I was staying off site, so I didn't see as much of it as others I'm sure, but it was awesome. As I walked around the area, I saw a lot of people talking shop with event name tags on, and couldn't help but think to myself 'what a beautiful place to network!'
The expo floor was huge as well, and very well organized. That's another thing that I really like about MJ Biz Daily events - their expo floors are easy to navigate, which makes it easy to find people and to direct people to a particular exhibitor. That sounds like a straight forward thing, but as someone who has attended many events over the years, I can assure you that's not always the case.
One thing that stood out to me was the amount of cultivation based exhibitors, which definitely had the biggest presence at the event I would say. There were many lighting companies, soil companies, nutrient companies, etc. There were also a lot of software companies, testing companies, and branding/marketing companies. I also saw some familiar faces at the ArcView booth, the National Cannabis Industry Association booth, and the NORML booth.
It was very fun to attend my first cannabis event on the East Coast, and I have to tip my hat to the event organizers. They have outdone themselves once again. They have another event coming up in November, the granddaddy of them all, the the 5th annual Marijuana Business Conference and Expo. It's going to take place at the Rio in Las Vegas November 15-18. It's the largest and oldest marijuana business conference in America, and I plan on attending and encourage you to do the same. Trust me, you will not be disappointed! You can purchase tickets at this link here. Early bird ticket discounts end August 25th, so get your tickets sooner than later. Hope to see you there!