Bridge West CannaBlog:

The Bridge West Team Attended MJBizCon and Share Observations and Reflections ….

Jim Marty, CEO:

My big takeaway from attending  MJBizCon in Las Vegas last month was that hemp has blurred the line between it and high THC cannabis.  As a result, big business is coming into the hemp/marijuana industry.

When President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was effectively legalized because it was removed from Schedule 1 and is no longer considered a dangerous drug.  In 2019, there was a large increase in the number of acres of hemp cultivated and harvested in the U.S.  The only difference between hemp, now legal, and marijuana is the amount of THC in the plant.  It is the same plant but in the case of hemp, it is harvested before the THC reaches .3 percent.

I would like to reflect on a presentation that I made at a breakfast event at Caesar’s Palace during the conference.  I won’t mention the name of the companies, but the speakers were a large air conditioning company, a well-known thermostat company and me.  My presentation focused on my observations of the hemp industry since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill.  Bridge West has a number of hemp clients and we receive calls every week from hemp companies looking for accounting, tax, and advisory services.

Another industry observation is that big business in the U.S. has stayed on the sidelines when it comes to high THC marijuana. I believe that there are several reasons for this.  Marijuana is still federally illegal and many of these companies do business with the Federal Government.  They don’t want to jeopardize these relationships.

However, when it comes to low THC Hemp and the fact that it is no longer a Schedule 1 drug, the door has been opened for large corporations to sell their products to the hemp industry and provide them with capital.  I have had follow-up discussions with several companies and they are not only very interested in selling their products to hemp companies, but they are also interested in providing much needed capital to them.

While this does not benefit high THC cannabis companies in the short term, it does start a dialog between them and big business.  When marijuana becomes legal at the Federal level these relationships will open up.

Cory Parnell, COO:

“I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe how time seems to go by so fast these days”.  After attending my 4th MJBizCon in Las Vegas last month, it seems more like it was my 10th.  Since the 2016 convention, the number of attendees has grown about 30% a year, the number of exhibitors grew by 40% a year, and the selection of sessions and speakers was unbelievable.  The most impressive part is that the quality of the event continues to grow along with the participation.

MJBizCon is always a great event for the Bridge West team for a number of reasons. It provides opportunities for us to  meet with clients we do not see on a regular basis, connect with other industry advisors that are located throughout the U.S. and CN, and meet new individuals who are either operating in or gathering information about the industry.  The conversations begin once we land in Las Vegas and continue today as we help people navigate the challenging waters of this ever-changing industry.

The growth of the exhibitors is incredible and amazing at the same time.  Walking the expo aisles with many clients, it becomes apparent that there have been significant advancements in the industry at the same pace as the growth of the convention.  Clients can easily look at everything from cultivation and extraction equipment, human resources services, suppliers of cannabis, hemp and CBD, retail data collection, and much more.

The speakers were great as well. For me, some of the most interesting presentations focused on  the growth and interest in the International Cannabis Markets, Industry Insights, and New Cannabis Markets.  With so many great sessions, it was a challenge to hear a lot of my colleagues present and visit with them, but we look forward to continuing to work together and collaborate.

I would like to thank everyone we met and I appreciate the many connections we made over the course of the event.  Also, I look forward to continuing to serve our valued clients in this fast-paced and ever-challenging industry.

Nancy Damato, Marketing Director:

It was really wonderful to attend MJBizCon 2019 for a second year and there a few observations and take-aways that I would like to share:

  • As an exhibitor at the Bridge West booth, we had great traffic and it is always wonderful to speak with clients, industry contacts, and other colleagues who we do not have an opportunity to see on a regular basis.
  • Mackrell International, a global, legal network serving the cannabis, hemp, CBD, tobacco, and e-vapor industries also exhibited, including member law firms from North America. Attorneys from the following law firms were on-site to discuss the complex licensing, regulatory, commercial, dispute resolution and many more legal and compliance needs of the industry:
  • There were additional attendees at MJBizCon this year, and every morning many show attendees were ready and anxious to enter the expo floor. Since the expo footprint was larger this year, it was challenging (if not impossible) for attendees to visit all of the booths.  We even had booth visitors after the show closed at 3:00 pm on Friday.  It was helpful to have registration areas set-up in various locations, including the Westgate, and the app was essential to navigate the show floor.
  • Many more hemp and CBD companies and representatives attended this year, no doubt due to the industry explosion and passing of the Farm Bill since last year’s MJBizCon.
  • I particularly enjoyed attending the MJBiz Daily Women’s Networking event on Thursday evening. I attended last year as well and it is a great opportunity to meet many women (and men too!), from so many different segments of the cannabis, hemp and CBD industries.  The format is very informal and social, and attendees are excited to be there and all looking to make as many connections and meet as many people as possible in the two-hour time frame. I was pleased and excited to see Cassandra Farrington, the Co-Founder and Chair of the Board at MJBizDaily, at this event again this year and we took another picture together!
  • I also attended the National Women in Cannabis Conference # WOCC held off-site on Tuesday, December 10. This organization is designed to provide events that engage and empower women in the marijuana and hemp industry. It was a really great event and included a full day of networking, collaboration and empowerment while highlighting women entrepreneurs and addressing issues and progress in the cannabis industry.  There were a number of excellent vendors and exhibitors, speakers and presentations, and it was a pleasure meeting so many women industry leaders, especially the organization’s Founder, Stacy Thompson. I enjoyed hearing the presentations given by each Entrepreneur Contest nominee and learning about the Women in Cannabis Study.  I also had an opportunity to speak with Amy Fisher, the Founder and Curator, of the Traveling Hemp Museum.  It was fascinating to speak with Amy and she showed me many artifacts from her unique collection that illustrate the deep history of hemp and its many uses.  Artifacts include textiles, furniture, tools, rope, tincture bottles, documents, books, many clothing and linen items, dating back to the mid 1700’s!

I can only imagine what MJBizCon 2020 will offer, and I look forward to attending again!

Brandon Van Asten, Manager:

MJBizCon is an exhausting, but enjoyable mix of work and play. The trade floor opens around 10:00 a.m., which allows some time to catch up on emails and the missed sleep of the previous night. After eight hours of active networking at the booth, and meeting with clients and other industry advisors, it’s off to a nice dinner with our peers in the industry. Several hours later, it’s time to attend the after party, which is another networking event with a different scene. By midnight or so, we headed back to the hotel casino for a few quick hands of blackjack. Before you know it, it is 3:00 a.m. and you need to catch a few hours of sleep, before it is time to start another full day at MJBizCon.  I hope to see more clients and industry colleagues at MJBizCon in New Orleans this summer!

Mike O’Shea, CPA

The cannabis and CBD/hemp industry is booming with many players from large corporations to small players like single grow operators. MJBizCon 2019 was the first cannabis and hemp trade show that I  attended and I could not have more positive comments to say about the event.

First, the sheer size of the event was incredible. Prior to arriving in Las Vegas, my Bridge West colleagues informed me that it was going to be a very large event, but it was hard to imagine the type of numbers they were talking about. The event had over 35,000 attendees and the trade show floor was over three miles long. You could walk around meeting people for the entire three days and still not have the opportunity to meet with everyone.

I was also very impressed with the sense of professionalism displayed by attendees and exhibitors. The majority of people in attendance were license holders, investors, lawyers, ancillary business owners, and other business professionals. Sure, there were a few attendees that personified the ‘stigma’ that can accompany cannabis; however, in general, people were there for a purpose: to help their businesses and the industry evolve. There was a common theme of people seeking to help each other, even between competitors. I had several conversations with other CPAs and Valuation Analysts discussing the different challenges facing the industry and potential referral opportunities. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with many different attorneys, both from the U.S. and International, and we discussed the current state of legalization within their respective jurisdictions.

Some of the exhibit booths were extremely elaborate and impressive, to the point where some even had live hemp plants growing during the event. I was very impressed to see so many different manufacturers, machinery, and packaging companies on-exhibit and it was fascinating to speak with the company representatives. Overall, I thought that it was awesome to have such a wide range of companies and industry advisors at one event. This meant  that a license holder could show up to MJBizCon as an attendee, and leave with a plethora of options for cultivation, lab, and packaging equipment, as well as every advisor they would need, to truly help them go from seed to sale — from seeds to products on dispensary store shelves.

Peter Prevot, CPA, CIA

Last month, I traveled to Las Vegas to attend MJBizCon 2019. This was my 4th time attending Marijuana Business Daily’s winter conference, which is described as “the largest gathering of cannabis business professionals in the world,” with over 35,000 attendees. I had a great time learning, networking, and walking the massive expo floor.

Hands down, the biggest highlight of this year’s conference was walking the aisles of the expo hall. I was able to view equipment demonstrations, see new packaging and design concepts, and check out the industry’s latest software developments and product offerings. I even got to shake hands briefly say hello to one of my childhood heroes, Mike Tyson!

From my perspective, the newly minted High Times “Nevada Cannabis Cup” was a welcome addition at this year’s conference. This event was hosted offsite at The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe’s NuWu Cannabis Marketplace. The Paiute Tribe’s tasting room is the only legal space to publicly consume cannabis within Las Vegas city limits and is Nevada’s largest retail cannabis store, spanning nearly 16,000 square feet. Over 50 Nevada cannabis brands competed at the event across multiple product categories and their offerings did not disappoint!  A list of the Nevada Cannabis Cup winners can be found @ https://hightimes.com/news/winners-cannabis-cup-nevada/

With representation from all 50 states and over 75 countries, there were many stories to hear and industry professionals to meet in Las Vegas this year. Speaking with business leaders and owners, advocacy groups, attorneys, and other service providers about their experiences, challenges and future plans was extremely informative and really makes the trip each year worthwhile. It is always refreshing and inspiring to spend time with other professionals who are interested in the same things as you are!