Tag: Events

3 Highlights from the MAPS 2017 Psychedelic Science Conference

On April 21, over 3,000 people swarmed the Marriott Hotel in Oakland to attend the third international conference held by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies), a 5-day conference beyond most imaginations. “[MAPS] is a non-profit research and educational organization that I started in 1986,” Rick Doblin, the founder of MAPS, told Leafly. “The best way to understand it is as a non-profit pharmaceutical company focused on developing psychedelics and marijuana into FDA-approved prescription medicines.”

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With over 40 countries represented by its attendants, the crowd at Psychedelic Science 2017 was a mixed bag of appearances and experiences. Clean-cut clinical types, curious dreadlocked psychonauts, and everything in between mingled in rows of chairs. Beneath the high ceilings of conference halls typically reserved for business gatherings and trade shows, presentations on LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, DMT, and cannabis projected onto enormous screens. Without the winds of cannabis legalization at our backs, this scene would look utterly surreal. In a way, it still did.

Scanning the day’s schedule, attendees found lectures with titles like Treating Alcohol-Related Disorders with Ayahuasca; Principles of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD; and Injustice, Intersectional Trauma, and Psychedelics. After hours, guests could meet up for cannabis-assisted meditation or yoga, film screenings, or relaxed networking – and for some guests, a sunset cruise in the San Francisco Bay.

Here, we gathered to explore the healing potential of plant and psychedelic medicines, whose true natures are so often barred from popular knowledge by taboo. For anyone fascinated by the inner workings of the mind, the weekend was an intellectual playground. And in case you missed it, here’s the highlight reel. You can also check out recordings of the presentations, which MAPS has generously shared on their YouTube channel.

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1. Medical Breakthroughs and Hope for PTSD

Setting the tone for the conference was a series of presentations on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with treatment-resistant PTSD. Having recently completed their Phase II pilot study, MAPS was given approval by the FDA to proceed with Phase III trials, the final step before MDMA becomes a prescription drug for use under strict medical guidance in clinical settings. Astonishingly, 83% of study participants no longer met the criteria of a PTSD diagnosis following two months of treatment, in which MDMA was administered just twice. Compare that to psychotherapy alone – about 20% – and it’s clear that we have an important breakthrough in psychiatric medicine here.

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“I love my life. The medicine’s lessons are forever tattooed on the cells of my body,” said one participant, reflecting on her healing experience during a panel presentation. Looking next to the study’s therapists sitting nearby, she finished with a cracking voice, “With all my heart, I bow to you in gratitude.”

A day later, in the same room, three researchers – Philippe Lucas, Sue Sisley, and Zach Walsh – would present on their studies of cannabis and PTSD. Though less curative and more useful as a tool for symptom control, cannabis is giving PTSD patients back their lives as well, especially as it reduces the intake of harmful and addicting prescription medications.

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2. Community, Social Justice, and Taking a Look Around the Room

“The silencing of indigenous people is happening today. It’s happening at this conference.” That’s what panelist LisaNa Redbear had said in a forum just before we all filed into a small conference room for a workshop called White Allies and Anti-Racist Practices in the Psychedelic Community.

Chairs lined the room’s perimeter. We’d be meeting for an hour to discuss with each other the role of race in research of psychedelic and plant medicines. There was an overwhelming white majority in the room, but I hadn’t really noticed – not yet, at least.

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The forum facilitators started us off with an exercise. In our hands were ten marbles, and we were asked to put one on the floor in response to various prompts: “Put a marble down if the color of your skin has never made you feel uneasy when pulled over by police. Put a marble down if you’ve never felt discriminated against in a job interview because of your skin color.”

Marbles rolled out of white hands around the room, but about five questions in, we heard a voice from the back corner of the room. “Excuse me, can we switch this up?” said one of the only black women in the room, tears in her eyes, palm full of marbles. “I understand what this exercise is meant to show people, but for me, this is torture.”

This comment accomplished what no exercise could. Thinking back to what LisaNa had said, it dawned on me that the conference’s keynote speakers were indeed overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male – perhaps not out of discrimination, but a problem running in the veins of an inherently racist drug war; of course participation by minorities in the psychedelic community and research is met with fear of repercussion and prosecution. The importance of this fact cannot be forgotten as we seek to build an industry of diversity and inclusivity.

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3. Spirituality and the Exploration of Consciousness

Inextricably tied to mind-expanding plants and sacred medicines are experiences of mysticism. This spiritual aspect of psychedelic medicines can provide a kind of existential therapy, especially for those enduring the trauma of terminal illness and end-of-life anxiety. These spiritual experiences, often referred to as “catalysts,” can be immensely powerful tools of healing.

Though these types of intense trips are most commonly associated with potent psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD, even cannabis has the power to catalyze healing in the right setting.

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I first experienced the glorious combination of cannabis and guided meditation a year ago with Daniel McQueen of Medicinal Mindfulness, so when I saw a similar opportunity on the MAPS schedule, I hurried over to the 21st floor of the Marriott where Sōtō Zen teacher Vanja Palmers would be leading a silent meditation followed by a sound bath. Outside, we gathered in the largest smoking circle I’ve ever seen and passed around joints in silence.

Back inside were singing bowls, gongs, drums, sitars, and some obscure instrument that looked like a giant tambourine. At least sixty of us laid down quietly and waited for the sound to wash over. It began with quiet tones humming from the bowls then escalated to fearful crashing of the gongs, before finally erupting into the melodious singing of sitars. Here among the sounds, the sensations, and silent friends, peace was on tap.


Want more coverage from the conference? Look forward to more on cannabis, PTSD, political hurdles, and more in upcoming Leafly features. In the meantime, don’t miss these cannabis speakers from the conference!

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7 Ways to Make Your Dispensary Event a Success

Hosting a cannabis-friendly event at a dispensary can be a bit tricky. On one hand, you want everyone to feel welcome, but on the other hand, there are strict rules and regulations on how customers may consume cannabis legally and dispensaries must maintain strict compliance.

There are currently no states that legally allow public consumption of cannabis, which can put a cramp in the plans of most cannabis parties. However, if there’s one takeaway from using marijuana, it’s the wonders of cannabis creativity being put to good use. Dispensaries should consider throwing events like customer appreciation days, launch parties, and other celebrations at their location. Not only is it a marketing win, it’s a fun way to give back to the community.

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Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning an event hosted at your dispensary.

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Let the Music Play

A key to any great event is an awesome soundtrack. Whether this means enlisting local bands or perusing the local house DJ scene, make sure that your event is rocking to spice up the party. If the band or DJ is also a hit with the cannabis crowd, all the better!

A great example of this stands out from the 420 pre-parties Leafly hosted in Southern California. DJ Francesca was on the scene to keep things grooving at Evergreen, Western Caregivers, and Airside Wellness during the days leading up to 4/20.

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Offer Great Deals

Nothing entices customers like a screaming deal, and if you’re gearing up for a big event in-store, spread the word on your upcoming sales. Send out flyers, update your Leafly deals, and let your regular customers know about the big day. Advertise in the local papers or just use word of mouth to let the market know you’ve got an event coming up and it will be worth their time to attend.

Greenworks sponsored Leafly’s 420 Comedy Show in Seattle and boosted their pre-sales with a 4/19 Stock-Up Sale where everything in the store was 50% off, causing enough buzz that on 4/19, the store was overflowing with customers.

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So Much Room for Activities!

Admittedly, this is not always a possibility if you’re working with a limited floor plan. However, making full use of the space you do have, whether indoor or outdoor, is a great way to magnify your dispensary’s appeal with a whole lot of fun and creativity.

This was perfectly displayed when Dockside SODO celebrated its one-year anniversary and went all out with fun activities–they had a bouncy castle, live glass-blowing demonstrations, several bands performing, stoned yoga, henna tattoos, and even a planetarium yurt! Not only was the event a raucous success, customers were enticed to stay long after they’d made their purchases due to the fun and creative activities available. Who doesn’t want to go jumping in a bouncy castle?

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Don’t Forget the Munchies!

If there’s anything that goes hand-in-hand with cannabis, it’s great food. Free food is even better. For those who are concerned about cost or the mess involved with onsite food services, food trucks are an easy, affordable solution.

At Dockside SODO’s one-year anniversary celebration, not only were there food trucks available, they also offered free scoops of ice cream and free cupcakes. There’s no better way to a person’s heart than through their stomach.

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Invite Influencers

Expand your event reach by inviting a top influencer to visit your dispensary. Influencers can be anyone from a celebrity in the cannabis realm to a popular Instagram or YouTube star. They often have thousands of followers and their popularity can give your event a boost.

This was exemplified recently when Snoop Dogg made an appearance during the grand opening of the Jardin Cannabis Dispensary in Las Vegas. He met with fans, signed autographs, and posed for pictures while budtenders educated customers about the various medical cannabis products available.

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Educate Your Audience

Join with local industry folks and educate your staff on the best products, best practices, and latest innovations in the cannabis industry. Customers trust budtenders to help them choose the best strains and products for their needs, and these events serve as an opportunity to spread knowledge and keep your staff up to speed.

Leafly is now offering the Budtender Sesh, designed for newbies and veterans alike, aimed at bringing together the best and brightest leaders to network and learn about the latest cannabis trends. This includes vendor demonstrations, happy hour, and an exclusive Cannabis 201 Master Class from Leafly’s strain experts.

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Brand Your Customers

Swag for days! A great way to ensure that folks remember your event and your brand is to deck them out in branded merchandise. This can be a bit tricky because many states prohibit cannabis giveaways. However, branded accessories are fair game and can include sunglasses, lanyards, lighters, rolling papers, shirts, stickers–the possibilities are nigh endless, so long as there’s no cannabis product involved. Customers love freebies, and giveaways can help encourage them to return to your business.

If you’ve got the overhead available, creating your own line of branded merchandise is a great way to make an impact on your customers and nurture loyalty for returning consumers. The investment will easily be paid off in the new customers you’ll acquire and the brand affinity you’ll inspire. A little bit goes a long way!

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Have you hosted a successful event at your dispensary? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

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Register Today for the Cannabis Health Summit

This article is sponsored by Green Flower Media. Green Flower’s mission is to help you learn everything about cannabis today by working with the world’s top cannabis experts to create easy-to-understand courses, classes, videos, and more!


It can be very confusing stepping into the world of cannabis as medicine. The plant and its benefits are extremely nuanced, the experience is truly unique for every individual, and on top of that we’re learning about new applications for cannabis every day.

To help you gain a better understanding, the team at Green Flower is bringing back the Cannabis Health Summit for 2017. This virtual, live-streaming event is presented online from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST) on May 6 and 7, and gives you a chance to learn everything you want to know about cannabis and health from some of the world’s top cannabis experts.

Presented like the TEDtalks for cannabis, the Cannabis Health Summit is a free two-day event that will give you expert guidance from some of the industry’s top authorities on a variety of cannabis topics. Session themes range from discussions like “What’s Exciting About Modern Cannabis Today” with Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center to “The Incredible History of Medical Cannabis” with Dr. David Bearman MD and everything in between.

The Cannabis Health Summit is an exciting presentation designed to share knowledge. Attending the summit is as easy as registering today and tuning into the live-stream event here on Leafly. By registering you’ll gain access to a personal library of cannabis resources to access any time you want that will help you navigate the world of medicinal cannabis.

This year’s speakers include:

  • Steve DeAngelo – What’s Exciting About Modern Cannabis Today
  • Jeffrey Raber – Understanding the Chemical Compounds in Cannabis
  • Dr Allan Frankel MD – How to Legitimize Cannabis as Medicine
  • Paul Armentano – Is Cannabis Safe? Here’s What the Research Says
  • Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Bas Rutten – Why Cannabis for Athletes Is a Big Deal
  • Andy Williams – Cannabis Research: Past, Present, and Future
  • Dr. Dustin Sulak – How to Use Cannabis Without Impairment
  • Cotyln Turner – This 17-Year Old Boy Cured His Crohn’s With Cannabis
  • Muffy Montemayor – The Pluses and Minuses of Each Delivery Method
  • Dr. David Bearman MD – The Incredible History of Medical Cannabis
  • Mel Frank, Kyle Kushman, Patrick Murphey – How to Grow the Highest-Quality Clean Cannabis
  • Gay Hendricks – How This NYT Bestselling Author Creates on Cannabis
  • Gary Richter and Rob Silver – Cannabis for Pets
  • Maya Elisabeth, Dahlia Mertens, Didi Davis – Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis Topicals
  • Mara Gordon – How to Find Your Ideal Dose When Self-Medicating
  • Chris Boucher, Morris Beegle, Ari Sherman,– The Game-Changing Potential of Hemp
  • Jeff The 420 Chef – How to Make Light-Tasting Canna-Butter
  • Alison Ettel, David Hargett, Mike Clemmons – Understanding Cannabis Extraction Methods and Concentrates
  • Samantha Miller, Ben Cassiday – Terpenes: Unlock the Hidden Potential of Cannabis
  • Robyn Lawrence – How to Manage Your Dose When Cooking With Cannabis
  • Dr Malik Burnett M.D. – How Your Endocannabinoid System Interacts With Cannabis
  • Josh Wurzer – Why the Same Strain Can Impact People Differently
  • Joel Stanley, Tim Gordon – How CBD Will Change the World
  • Dr. Janice Knox MD, Dr. Jessica Knox MD, Dr. Rachel Knox MD – This Family of Cannabis MD’s Will Answer Your Cannabis Questions
  • Dr Genester Wilson King – Why Our Aging Population Is Turning to Cannabis
  • And more!

(Note: Speakers and topics may be subject to change.)

Register for the Cannabis Health Summit today!

Once you are registered, come right back here at 9 a.m. (PST) on Saturday, May 6th to stream the event live, right here on Leafly.

4/20: Leafly’s Live Cannabis Coverage

Happy 420! We’ll have live rolling coverage of the world’s cannabis festival throughout the day from Leafly News staff around the globe. Be sure to check out Leafly’s event calendar for 4/20 celebrations near you.

Beyond ‘Dark Side of the Moon’

6:38am – We just found the day’s best conversation starter: Name your top five stoner albums. Rolling Stone just resurfaced a great feature from 2013, “The 40 Greatest Stoner Albums.” Dr. Dre: Check. Pink Floyd: Check. Portishead: Wait, what?

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When Will the Federal Madness End, Earl?

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenaeur, leader of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, will be celebrating 4/20 by fighting to end federal prohibition. And he’ll take time out to answer your questions. Tune in to his Reddit AMA later today at 1pm Eastern, at reddit.com/r/trees/.

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It’s an All-Week Event

Many of us celebrate 4/20. Snoop Dogg celebrates 4/20 Eve.

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Wake n Bake, Toronto

5:59am – Good morning Toronto! You’ve got three hours to get to Yonge-Dundas Square for the start of 420 Toronto. On your way, enjoy this profile of festival organizer and longtime activist Chris Goodwin, posted this morning by Leafly contributor Randi Druzin. Did you know he got his start by selling candles?

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London Coppers Wary of the 420 Day

5:52am – It’s still early in the United States, but events are well underway in London, where thousands are gathering for the annual Hyde Park cannabis rally. That makes the Metropolitan Police a bit uncomfortable, and they’re warning enthusiasts to temper their enthusiasm. And here, courtesy of the Evening Standard, is our first favorite headline of the “420 day”:

Hyde Park Don't

It’s a New Day in West Virginia

5:45am PDT – As morning breaks on 4/20, West Virginia enjoys its first full day as America’s 29th legal medical marijuana state. Yesterday, Gov. Jim Justice signed SB 386 into law, legalizing the use of cannabis (but not cannabis leaf) as medicine. It may be a while before the two million residents of the Mountaineer State enjoy the full benefits of the lawMMJ cards aren’t expected to be issued by the Bureau of Public Health until July 1, 2019–but today’s a day of celebration. Welcome to 420, West Virginians!

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The Best Things to Do in Canada for 4/20

Canada is in the throes of celebration already with the announcement of Canada’s legalization measure and this 4/20 will be a historic one. Here are some of the conventions and festivities going to celebrate the season.

April 20-23: 420 Vancouver Classic (Vancouver, BC)

World Cannabis will be hosting the biggest free 4/20 farmer’s market in Canada from 4/20 through 4/23 at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the heart of the city. There will be two stages with live music, DJs, a bakewalk, workshops, and giveaways. The 4/20 Games will take place earlier in the day, while the Weed Woman will be meeting fans, appearing on stage, and offering a $2 dab bar.

There will be a mass joint giveaway at 4:19 p.m. by the main stage for anyone 19 years of age and older with a valid photo ID, and the winners of the Vancouver 420 BudBowl will also be announced just before 4:20 p.m. live on the main stage.

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April 21-23: O’Cannabiz Conference and Expo (Toronto, Ontario)

With the recent release of Canada’s federal legalization measure, states, municipalities, and other jurisdictions are a-buzz with what the future may hold for the cannabis industry as a whole, and this conference will be an important one for the entrepreneurs and business-minded folk looking to get into the industry or expand their cannabis brand.

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O’Cannabiz will be held at the Sheraton Centre Toronto from April 21 through April 23, and is positioned as the go-to event for anyone who is already in the cannabis industry or is interested in learning more about the opportunities it offers. There will be panels and workshops with expert advice and a business road map for prospective growers, handlers, marketers, investors, and more.

Register now!

The Best Things to Do on the East Coast for 4/20

For the first time ever, the East Coast will be getting a piece of the 4/20 action, having legalized cannabis for adult use in Maine and Massachusetts during the last election. Between those two states, plus a few other states legalizing MMJ along the Eastern Seaboard, things are finally looking up for the East Coast!

April 21-22: World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo (Pittsburgh, PA)

The World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo is an exclusive event featuring the leading medical marijuana educators, businesses, and professionals from around the globe. This event will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from April 21 to April 22. For those who purchase VIP tickets, you will be privy to red carpet treatment, a meet-and-greet with former-NFL-player-turned-cannabis-activist Ricky Williams.

The convention will be filled with panels, seminars, discussions, networking events, and business opportunities for those who are curious about the medical cannabis market.

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April 21-23: Sweetwater 420 Festival (Atlanta, GA)

The Sweetwater 420 Festival might be one of the biggest 4/20 celebrations on the East Coast and it’s happening in the most unexpected place. In the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, over the course of three days, there will be over 40 bands performing on four different stages for live music. The festival will be held in Centennial Olympic Park with three days of environmental awareness, awesome bands from around the country, SweetWater brewing company providing their brews, tons of vendors and delicious food. Get your tickets ahead of time!

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April 22-23: 2017 New England Cannabis Convention (Boston, MA)

The New England Cannabis Convention is certain to be a game-changing event for the East Coast. With 200 local and national exhibitors, more than 100 industry expert speakers, advice on careers, investing, medical marijuana education, and live demos for those who have a vested interest in joining the newly legal cannabis market, this will be the must-attend event of the year.

Held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston from April 22 through April 23, you can go for one day, all days, or even just specific events. Buy your tickets now!

At ‘The Big Lebongski’ Bowling Tournament, These Pins Will Not Stand, Man

Friday, February 10th, 2017, was a dark and rainy night in Burbank, California, making it a perfect night to be inside bowling at the local good time, Pickwick Bowl. The opening night of the inaugural “The Big Lebongski” tournament (or “TBL”), Pickwick was the first of four stops in California, which includes Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Diego. The stoner tribute bowling tournament stops in all eight recreationally legal cannabis states of California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Alaska, and Nevada, and two medical marijuana states, Michigan and Arizona.

An homage to “The Dude” and all that’s cool about the 1998 Coen Bros. cult-classic film, the tournament was founded by TBL commissioner Gary “Spacey” Lane, who loves “The Big Lebowski” movie because of, “the irreverent, cavalier, ultimate-I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude of Jeffrey Lebowski.” According to Spacey, the movie is “absolutely priceless–what all us achievers-in-training aspire to.”

Christain Ackerman reacts to a throw during The Big Lebongski Bowling Tournament. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)Christain Ackerman reacts to a throw during The Big Lebongski Bowling Tournament. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

“The Big Lebongski bowling tournament series is indeed a respectful, stoner-flavored tribute to The Big Lebowski.”

“Gary Spacey” Lane, The Big Lebongski commissioner

Like many ideas, the Big Lebongski bowling tournament was borne over a meal with friends. “The TBL concept evolved over a dinner conversation I had many moons ago with Alex Brauer, President of Cannapack Solutions,” explained Spacey. “[It] focused on answering the question, ‘What kind of fun event could be developed for the cannabis industry, as well as potheads everywhere, that could combine ‘imbibement’ with good times?’ When Alex threw out ‘bowling,’ it immediately made me think of the movie. Somehow, the pot dots instantly connected and I suggested that the championship trophy could be a bowling pin-shaped bong. And that’s when it hit me: The Big Lebongski!”

Which Cannabis Conferences Are Beneficial to Your Business?

The business of legal cannabis is booming, and as interest in the cannabis industry continues to grow, it’s no wonder that a wide range of cannabis conferences are popping up like weeds. Whether you’re a small business looking to expand your reach to more customers, an entrepreneur seeking new opportunities, or a firmly established organization making your presence known, cannabis conferences are a great way to network among like-minded individuals and find new business opportunities.

However, with an industry that is rapidly becoming saturated with cannabis conferences, all of which require significant costs to attend and participate in, it can be difficult to know where to put your priorities and which conferences will be worth a financial investment. It creates a kind of redundancy–many of these conferences feature the same brands and products, creating overlap and repetition.

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For smaller businesses on a tighter budget, it may be tempting to attend every convention, conference, or trade show in an effort to get more eyes on your brand, but it may be a better investment in the long term to choose three or four conferences per year to maximize your budget and your presence.

Kayla Cook, Director of Events for Privateer Holdings (Leafly’s parent company), lent us her expertise on the subject. “The cannabis conference space is a very saturated sector of the industry,” Cook acknowledged. “It’s difficult to decide which conference to attend and which one will give you the best bang for your buck.”

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Cannabis trade shows are often broad and unfocused, leaving much room for improvement and opportunities. For example, at each larger conference, you can find any number of investors, growers, light manufacturers, extract makers, marketing agencies, production companies, and more. With so many specializations within the industry, some companies may benefit significantly from a conference where another may see return on investment.

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“I’d suggest defining what your business goals are prior to buying your conference pass,” Cook encouraged. “Many conferences have different focuses and specialize in different topics within the industry, so doing a little research before you commit will be well worth it.”

With interest in cannabis rising in mainstream society, there are more conferences popping up in states without medical or adult-use cannabis markets, raising the question, once again, if it’s worth the investment to attend a conference, particularly one in a state where there’s no chance of expanding your business.

Gavin Newsom speaking at a cannabis conferenceLieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom speaks at a cannabis conference. (Courtesy of Matt Emrich Photography)

When asked if there’s any value to attending cannabis conferences in states without medical or adult use legalization markets, Leafly’s Event Production Assistant, Bennett Kaplan, offered some advice. “It’s good because there is brand exposure to a new audience,” Kaplan explained, “but be wary: There’s not much to be earned.”

He pointed to the recent example of Leafly as the first and only cannabis brand to officially sponsor the popular SXSW festival in Texas, a state with a limited CBD law and no access to any form of cannabis. The presence of multiple cannabis companies served to offer information about safe, legal cannabis consumption in a state that still carries major penalties for cannabis. “The culture is moving forward without the laws moving forward,” Kaplan observed.

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At the conference, Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer of SXSW, also recognized the positive impact of having a cannabis company in sponsorship. “We’ve definitely had cannabis-related panels and presentations at SXSW in previous years, but probably never as much as we have on the 2017 schedule,” he said. “I think the increase in sessions reflects the overall growth of this industry—and the fact that more and more so-called mainstream entrepreneurs are seeing the kinds of opportunities that cannabis presents.”

“The culture is moving forward without the laws moving forward.”

Bennett Kaplan, Leafly Event Production Assistant

As for the smaller, lower cost conferences, it may seem like the better choice, but that’s not always the case. Low-cost events can attract lower-quality vendors and participants, so even though it may be tempting to take part in every event, it’s important to recognize which events will be the most valuable for your business.

Here are some of the conferences that we have found to be valuable:

MJBiz Conference in Las Vegas

The MJBiz Conference is the premier B2B event in the cannabis industry. It is one of the more expensive conferences, but it has an incredibly large attendance of high-quality vendors, and many would consider it to be the forefront cannabis industry trade show. The company hosts an annual conference in November, but recently started offering a spring conference as well.

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NCIA Cannabis Business Summit

The NCIA Cannabis Business Summit is considered of the most influential cannabis shows in the United States, hosted in Oakland, California, and featuring more than 4,500 cannabis industry attendees. This one of the longest-standing B2B conferences, and aside from the annual Business Summit, the organization also hosts quarterly caucus events for industry networking.

International Cannabis Business Conference

This is one of the first and best international cannabis business conferences, and the event will be exhibiting Europe’s first B2B cannabis conference hosted in Berlin, Germany this April 2017.

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New West Summit

New West Summit is one of the first cannabis conferences to specifically focus on technology, investment, and media in the cannabis space, making it a more unique cannabis trade show experience.

DispensaryNext

DispensaryNext is a two-day conference & expo focused on the next generation of products, services, and strategies for cannabis dispensaries. It is specifically designed for cannabis dispensary owners, managers, marketing directors, and those in the process of building dispensaries in emerging markets.

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Lift Cannabis Expo

Lift is Canada’s largest and most forward-thinking event in the cannabis industry, and it’s attracted attendees from across the world for events in two major Canadian cities, Vancouver and Toronto.

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What Is Influencer Marketing and How Can It Help Cannabis Businesses?

Leafly is the first ever cannabis company to sponsor SXSW, and as we gear up for this year’s festival, we decided to take a look at one of the most crucial pieces of any successful brand: influencer marketing. With cannabis restricted by the federal government, many standard marketing platforms are off-limits. Because traditional marketing efforts off the table, cannabis brands have to be incredibly creative to ensure their campaigns are successful.

We spoke with Dominick Damico, the founder of Adspire, the world’s fastest growing influencer marketing agency dedicated to cannabis, to see how cannabis businesses can make the most of their brand by using outside influencers to boost their audience and maximize their marketing impact.

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Leafly: What is influencer marketing?

Dominick Damico: Influencer marketing is the usage of people and platforms to drive a brand’s message to a target market. The influencer can be a person, a website, or a social media page. Essentially, any person or platform that has influence over an audience can be considered an influencer.

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What are some examples of different types of influencers?

  • Niched: These influencers are typically devoted to a specific market or subject (ex. Cannabis / beauty / sports / etc.)
  • Celebrity: These influencers are traditional celebrity types (artists, athletes, entertainers)
  • Social: These influencers found their fame through social media platforms
  • Micro: These influencers have a small amount of influence, but they can be useful when brands are looking to activate many niches at once
  • Localized: These influencers and their content are typically localized (ex. “Seattle Stoners”)

Influencers can fall under more than one of the categories above. For example, there are localized-micro influencers, and there are social-niched influencers.

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What are some of the challenges of achieving impact through influencer marketing?

The number of followers does not necessarily equal impact. Bigger is not always better. Many brands make the mistake of judging the value of an influencer based on how much influence they possess. Engagement rate is the holy grail of measuring influencer value. This is because a 100k influencer with a 50% engagement rate gets five times more action than a 1 million influencer with a 1% engagement rate. I’ve seen pages with millions of followers that get less engagement than pages 1/10th their size.

Your content and ads will not do well just because they’re going out to a lot of people. There is a misconception that influencers have the magical allure of getting their fans to do what they want. Just because you post your products, content, and ads on influencer platforms in the same industry, doesn’t mean you will get results. They need to be aligned with your content style, focused on value-add, and consist of a well thought out advertisement or post. It’s no different than any other advertising methods. Bad ads and content will always perform badly.

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When do you think paid digital marketing channels may be available to cannabis brands? What about print/traditional marketing?

Hard to say. I’d imagine even if Google, Facebook, etc. does want to get on board, their legal team will give them the thumbs down due to the current federal standing of cannabis. I would guess 3-6 years for USA advertising only, or whenever cannabis is no longer a federally illicit substance in America. As for the rest of the world, I have no clue.

I do believe that print advertising at a local level is easier to access. This is because local print works within the jurisdiction of state lines, where cannabis is legal. It’s different for these digital companies that have an international presence and have much more pressure to abide by federal law compared to the local print companies complying within their jurisdictions.

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Do you have any tips to run a successful influencer marketing campaign?

  • Keep up with social rules and algorithms: Social media platforms are always changing the rules of the game. Companies that don’t stay nimble and up to date on the latest rules can miss out on changes required to maximize success.
  • Keep up with the latest marketing trends: Take some time out of each day to go through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and platforms of interest. This will help you recognize what is working well for other pages and companies. It helps you to identify successful and unsuccessful marketing strategies without having to spend your own money to find out.
  • Follow page patterns: If an account only does direct photo posts, try to format your marketing campaign so that specific influencer drives your goal with a direct photo post.
  • Be good to the influencers you work with: At the end of the day this is a relationships game. Everyone knows everyone and if you screw over an influencer, other influencers will find out about it and won’t want to work with your company. These influencers get plenty of opportunity. At the end of the day, they are going to want to work with people they like who treat them fairly.
  • If you aren’t sure how to do all of this, outsource it to Adspire: I’ve watched new companies waste thousands of dollars on influencers and campaigns that absolutely bombed due to their lack of expertise. We’ve got the knowledge and experience to make your influencer marketing campaign a success.

You can hear more about influencer marketing at the SXSW Conference. Leafly will be sponsoring a three-part track of cannabis programming, including one keynote speaker and two panels, on March 14, 2017.

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