Like what you are reading? Share with a friend or colleague.

If you were in San Francisco on February 7, you may have been lucky enough to attend the International Cannabis Business Conference. It’s one of several such conferences held around the globe. More than that, it’s a great opportunity for anyone on the business-to-business side of the cannabis industry to meet and network. 

The Mary Jane Marketer crew was in attendance at the San Francisco event, and we can’t recommend it enough for B2B cannabis professionals. We rounded up some of the highlights from our conference, which illustrate just how useful an opportunity ICBC and events like it are for the industry.

It’s All about Connections

Anyone who has ever served the business-to-business side of an industry knows just how important networking can be. The same is true in the cannabis industry. In fact, networking might be even more important for those in the cannabis industry.

Why is it so important to make connections?

The cannabis industry is both transformative and challenging. There are plenty of technological advancements—like seed-to-sale tracking technology, biotechnologies, and nanotechnologies—that are changing the way the industry operates. By attending a conference, a representative from a cannabis producer can meet up with those who are developing the next generation of software serving the industry or the engineers designing new growing technologies.

Of course, connecting across the industry isn’t the only important networking that goes on at an event like this. Conferences like the ICBC also provide a way to connect with representatives of companies similar to yours. These connections offer opportunity to discuss the common challenges facing others in your niche. Whether its addressing funding, marketing, or technological change, you can find plenty of fresh ideas.

The Whova App

Highlighting how important networking can be for cannabis professionals is the Whova app.

Even before the conference began, people who had downloaded the app could use it connect. This allowed people to preview what was on deck at the conference, as well as plan meetings and their schedule during the conference.

Organizer announcements through the app kept attendees on the straight and narrow, but meet-ups and ice-breakers offered opportunities to start making connections. Some discussions, such as the local network in San Francisco and women in cannabis, allowed smaller groups with a shared connection to organize, connect, and discuss topics important to them.

Some of the discussions took a look at issues that cut across the industry, such as cannabis marketing or finding funding. People from different parts of the industry were able to share their challenges, as well as fresh perspectives, tips, and new solutions. People were able to both pose questions and reach out to offer services.

We fielded discussion about the toughest parts of marketing for those in the industry. We heard back from people in a wide variety of positions at companies serving vastly different parts of industry. Many people were struggling with the same issues: Facebook and Google, and even traditional ad spaces.

Others pointed to specific problems in their own niches, like getting the word out in a crowded market or talking about innovations. Some people even pointed to issues around communicating knowledge or benefits, and the legalities around discussing cannabis.

In short, if you had questions, the Whova app allowed you to connect to other people with similar questions and discover answers.

It also had an attendee list, with the names of attendees, their job titles, and their company. Creating meaningful connections was easier than ever with the app. Attendees could message each other privately to carry on conversations and arrange in-person meetings too, as well as exchanging contact details to keep the conversation going after the conference.

A Report on Industry Employment

Some attendees made use of the Whova app to post job openings. It’s no secret that the cannabis industry has been growing by leaps and bounds. In many places, it can be challenging for cannabis companies to find talented people to work for them.

That’s something that was highlighted in the Leafly Cannabis Jobs Report, which was given to each attendee as part of their conference materials. Leafly’s research showed plenty of growth for the industry, especially in terms of the creation of new jobs. In fact, it showed that the industry has created more than 200,000 new jobs, nearly doubling between 2017 and 2019. And that’s just for direct, full-time positions in the legal industry.

When you add in part-time and casual jobs, as well as those employed indirectly in adjacent industries, the number of jobs cannabis has spurred climbs even higher. There are nearly 300,000 people employed by the cannabis sector in some capacity.

That’s more than the number of people employed in breweries, and certainly more than the 50,000 or so coal miners in the United States today.

Most cannabis companies aren’t hiring on the cheap, either. Many companies offer a full suite of benefits, including paid maternity leave, health insurance, and more. And they pay, too: in the Leafly brochure, one California company stated none of their 92 employees was paid under $15 per hour—more than double the state minimum wage.

If there are any problems for the cannabis industry, it’s more about finding the right people with the right skills.

In almost any industry, finding highly talented professionals can be a trick. It may also be difficult to see how the skills someone has built in another job or industry can translate to the cannabis industry. This dynamic industry faces plenty of red tape and regulation, which may mean tactics that worked in another industry won’t translate. In turn, what professionals “know” from their experience may not be applicable. They may find themselves learning all over again.

What is clear is that the industry is booming, and demand for talented individuals is going to remain high for the foreseeable future.

A Global Perspective

As we mentioned, ICBC San Francisco is just one conference. There are actually several ICBC events held throughout the year and around the world. The biggest one is held in Berlin, Germany.

This gives the conferences a more global flavor than they might otherwise have. The Berlin conference capitalizes on a growing push in Germany for legalizing recreational cannabis. Germany is one of the largest markets for medical marijuana in Europe currently, and the nascent German cannabis industry is looking to innovate.

Germany also works closely with Canada, the only G8 nation to have legalized recreational cannabis nationwide. Canada’s cannabis industry currently supplies much of German’s medical market, although there have been plenty of supply chain issues along the way. Canadian companies also see plenty of American investment, which demonstrates just how integrated the cannabis industry already is on a global scale.

The ICBC events capitalize on this interconnectedness, allowing cannabis professionals around the world to connect. As legalization pushes forward and the industry develops, these global networks will become even more important.

The ICBC does have a slightly higher price point than other conferences, but B2B cannabis professionals can see this as a good thing. The higher price means those who choose to attend are serious about the cannabis industry and its development. As a result, the ICBC is probably one of the better events for anyone who serves the cannabis industry in any capacity. The attendees are ready and willing to talk shop.

A Little Bit of Play

Finally, the ICBC does host a few more “fun” events for attendees. It can’t all be work and no play, after all. On Thursday, February 6, there was a VIP reception for some of the attendees. When the conference wrapped, everyone was invited to an afterparty as well.

The next events will see the ICBC tour across Europe in the spring, before returning to North American shores in the fall:

  • Barcelona, Spain March 12
  • Berlin, Germany, April 1-3
  • Bern, Switzerland, May 13-14
  • Vancouver, Canada, September 10-11

Whether you can make it to one or all of these events, the ICBC represents an excellent opportunity to connect and develop long-lasting partnerships.

If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, there’s the Emerald Conference in San Diego. San Jose is playing hosting the American CBD Expo a little later in February, and there are plenty of events cropping up all the time.

Some events represent better opportunities for B2B professionals than others, so always do a bit of research before you plan to attend an event. With the right information, you can discover great events to help you connect to the wider cannabis industry.

Like what you are reading? Share with a friend or colleague.
Mary Jane Marketers