4 Things We Heard At MJBizCon That Should Be On Your Radar For 2023
Didn’t make it to this year’s MJBizCon in Las Vegas? Here are four things we heard that are going to make an impact on this industry over the next year and more.
Delta 8 is a big threat, and will only get worse if unaddressed
Delta 8 is a big (and growing) problem for the regulated cannabis industry. How we counter this challenge as an industry in the coming year could determine all of our success for the next decade or more.
“Delta 8… is now in 48 states, most heavily in the prohibition states outside the regulatory system. [It’s] an existential threat. The movement has been that marijuana is safer than alcohol – what do we do as an industry if that’s not true anymore? If we don’t get ahead of it, that is a threat to all of us until we add that, talk about it, debate it and regulate it.” – Toi Hutchinson, President & CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project and former member of the Illinois Senate from 2009 to 2019.
“[There are] three possible ways to solve delta 8. Get the FDA to do what they were supposed to do when the farm bill was passed which is regulate hemp and CBD. [The] second thing is… a federal framework for legalization of cannabis including hemp and marijuana so we don’t have a system where hemp is operating outside the regulated system. [Also the] 5 year review — if we come together as an industry, we can shut down that loophole but only as long as people understand how burning of a problem this is.” – Nancy Whiteman, CEO of Wana Brands
“When we get in front of consumers, we have to take the onus as the industry of saying, “This is what Delta 8 is.” We’re talking about regulation, public safety… if an industry doesn’t have certain regulatory constraints, it can’t grow. Seatbelts in cars, bumpers on trucks. As manufacturers, we have to get back to the basics of why we’re in this industry…. If we’re in it to help people it starts with education.” – Ruben Lindo, Founder of Blak Mar Farms
Partnerships are a double-edged sword that you can’t rush — or avoid
When it comes to growing your cannabis business, partnerships can be super beneficial. But they can also be your downfall, if entered too quickly or against your/your company’s mission/purpose.
“Learn how to trust people… when you find someone you trust, value that relationship. You’ll find people with other agendas in this business, stepping all over people to get there… You take money from someone that may bring something to the table and it turns out to be a nightmare. How I find partners starts with the vibe, I pay attention to that vibe a lot more. Make sure you’re getting money from the right people, in this business especially.” – Gilbert (Berner) Milam, CEO and Co-Founder of Cookies (video).
“A business partnership is like dating — you have to go through difficult things to see who they are. Biggest mistake [for me] was rushing into a partnership too early. Part of our pivot is just being more selective about who we work with.” – Ricky Williams, President and Co-Founder of Highsman.
“We’re really selective on who we partner with. In terms of the cannabis flower we produce, our first collab was with a legacy farm. Outside of cannabis there’s the things we’ve done with G-Pen, these are all products that we would use. WE don’t want to ever put our name on something that we don’t live with, that isn’t a part of our culture. If we wouldn’t use it, if we wouldn’t consume it, we’d have nothing to do with it.” – B-Real, Founder of Dr. Greenthumb.
“As a startup, not all money is good money. We can’t be out here chasing money to start our businesses… We looked at our network to build our net worth… We’re thinking about money and the relationships with MSOs and national leaders. We need to think more in terms of collaboration. Look at how you strategize and deploy capital. My biggest expense isn’t building the business, it’s the time it takes to get access to capital especially as a Black entrepreneur. Black businesses are 75-85% underfunded compared to competitors.” – Ruben Lindo
Some businesses will make it through this unpredictable market, but not all
While the industry is in a negative period, if you manage the challenges correctly, you’ll come out the other side a winner — but not everybody is going to make it.
“Don’t get so obsessed with the negatives that you miss opportunities. Go through almost any industry and it goes through something like this. A reality that’s common in the business world. Look at your vision and strategy — is it solid? Do I have a concrete play here? Maybe you’re still structured for 2020, fueled by investment money. Well you need to buckle up, make some hard changes, find your niche and play and really focus on that… There will be a culling, and the market will right-size itself. And you want to be on the other side of that… [there is] too much supply in a lot of markets… too many companies in a lot of markets.” – Chris Walsh, CEO at MJBiz [podcast]
“Oversaturation [of the market] is natural, but I like the challenge. If you keep people coming to your store in this environment, you’re good. But if you’re having trouble, keep going. The ones who make it through will come out the other side… I don’t really get scared of anything, just gotta ride the ways, stay mellow, and stay [focused] on the customer.” – Berner
Celebrity brands aren’t all the same, and there are more of them than ever
Celebrity brands are all the rage, but they’re not all the same. Some come from real true passion, while others just want a buck. Same with brands in general in cannabis — and it can be hard to tell the difference. Focus on authenticity because that’s what really matters.
“To be an authentic celebrity brand, you have to go all in. [That] shows there’s something to it… At least on the sports side.…you hold something, smile, take a picture and move on. That doesn’t work in this space…missing the authenticity. To have a shot, you have to be real, you have to be authentic.” – Ricky Williams
“Coming from music and having that platform, we took advantage of every chance we had. [At the end of the day], the people that aren’t in it for the money are the ones who stick around.” B-Real
“From gold rush to rushing to heal, not a gateway drug but a gateway to getting off drugs. This isn’t a business, it’s a responsibility. It’s certainly not focused on money — I had a banner year last year and I broke even. This plant makes people feel good… it really is the community. Think about the ‘60s, the Summer of Love… community, dance circles all night long, everybody was feeling good. Can we bring it back for the new consumer, that curiosity? That feeling of generosity, kindness, exploration, and love? That’s where I want to be back at.” –Jim Belushi, Founder, Belushi’s Farm.
“The star of the show here is the brand. Even though I am in entertainment, by no means does that mean that I need to supersede what the brand representation means to the culture and the community…I want to be a part of the community. So I’m out here, meeting other operators, getting best practices, being able to bring that back to what we do… and also if I have any information that would help someone trying to do what we’re doing, I’ll give it freely.” – Xzibit, Founder of Napalm Cannabis Co.
Missed this year’s conference? See what it’s all about in these video recaps:
We have a lot to learn from one another as an industry, and gathering together like this is one of the best ways to facilitate that community conversation. What other ways do you find helpful when it comes to learning from those who have come before us? Anything major we missed at the conference? Let us know!