Advocacy, Education, and Community. These are the three pillars on which the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) was built upon, with the mission “to promote the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry.” I cannot help but think of this over the past few days, coming off last week’s NCIA Cannabis Business Summit in San Jose, CA. After walking the exhibit hall floor, listening to numerous speakers, and interacting with participants, I got the real sense that NCIA was conscious of this event’s purpose more so than in other years. Even other conference attendees shared the sense that they felt something was different. They couldn’t quite put a finger on it, simply stating that “it’s not the same.” I think that feeling of difference was really a shift in how the cannabis industry events will look going forward.
Let’s face it, the cannabis industry has a lot of conferences right now—many lacking an overall focus or direction, regardless of their claims and titles. Walk any of their floors and you see similar exhibits, speaker topics rarely change, and the overall vibe and structure lack a clear objective. However, as the market grows, conferences will need to identify themselves with certain segments or develop a niche to differentiate themselves. I believe NCIA is starting to do just that.
Yes, this week’s conference was different. But that’s a good thing. The NCIA Cannabis Business Summit is supposed to be the association’s largest event for companies to come together under the lens of those three pillars (Advocacy, Education, and Community) to propel the industry forward in a better way. The speaker topics and culture reflected that, and the difference was noticeable. Perhaps attendees were expecting it to be like another large industry event: No, the NCIA Cannabis Business Conference is not MJBizCon in Las Vegas—nor should it be. That conference is truly a celebration of the industry growth and builds excitement for the year to come. After all, the event is in Las Vegas—where better to celebrate something, right?
NCIA proves they are taking a great approach to lead the industry in many facets, and I hope they will continue to do so. And while I believe that NCIA’s event was impactful, it doesn’t come without a feeling of shortcoming. This event is typically supposed to be their biggest meeting of the year, yet I felt like others did: something was missing … something was off. Maybe a day and a half felt short for a supposed large conference—starting at 10am probably doesn’t help with that timeline either. Perhaps the association’s other two conferences may be stealing its thunder (the California Cannabis Business Conference and the North East Cannabis Business Conference). Then again, maybe our industry prefers a more regionally segregated event structure for now, and so a national event for such focused topics lose out. Whatever the reason, I do know that I wish the NCIA Cannabis Business Summit had more. I believe the people attending this event want more. At the end of the day, I think they will figure this out in the years to come; I’m not worried. After all, if there’s anything the cannabis industry knows, it’s how to adapt and change.