By Chloe Aiello
Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo kicked off in Manhattan on Thursday, bringing with it workshops, seminars, bootcamps and presentations for industry insiders and the cannabis curious. In its sixth year, 176 exhibitors and thousands of attendees flocked to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Hudson Yards.
Exhibitors at the expo approached the industry from a variety of angles in attempts to provide entrepreneurs and business owners everything they might need to enter into or succeed in the cannabis industry. There were companies offering everything from cannabidiol-infused beauty products and edibles, to security services, legal counsel, and grow technology ー there was even a tiny house made entirely from industrial hemp materials, presented by the National Hemp Association.
New York and New Jersey both failed to legalize recreational cannabis in the spring ー and the irony was not lost on the event's attendees. But rather than feeling defeated, they seemed optimistic about the Empire State's future and role in the national cannabis industry.
"In any industry, you want to provide a platform of education before something actually happens before you're prepared. I think we all got a little confused in May in New Jersey, but I think there's hope and the anticipation of it becoming legalized recreationally," said Greg Marco of CWCB.
Plus, the hold up on recreational cannabis legalization means hemp had its time to shine at the expo ー and it really was the star.
"There's this little thing that everybody recently discovered called CBD, and a whole lot of people are planning to get into that business," Steve White, CEO of Harvest Health and Recreation, said in his keynote speech on Thursday.
Especially in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo had previously been supportive of establishing a hemp-based agricultural economy, the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill kicked off a hemp boom. Since the Farm Bill de-scheduled industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act in December, New York has distributed hundreds of licenses to grow and process hemp, according to the Cornell Sun. And with the approaching Food and Drug Administration hearing on CBD on Friday, it's shaping up to be a pivotal time in the industry for the plant.
"CBD, I believe it's catching on so massively right now because it's an intermediary until legalization of cannabis. And so when you have a path that's leading you down to the path to success, every chapter you read, its getting the full effect of it," Marco added.
At an event like CWCB, it can be easy to get caught up in the promise of the cannabis industry. But cannabis criminalization still lives on in some states ー as do communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis-related convictions. Advocates in states like New York, New Jersey, and Illinois have been working toward adding to legalization measures record expungement, reparations, and reinvestment for marginalized communities hurt by cannabis criminalization.
Mary Pryor, CEO and co-founder of Cannaclusive, a company that promotes inclusion and equity in the cannabis industry through marketing and advocacy, said that she believes that "marginalized people are being erased, or are facing erasure, in this space, and we're the ones that have been most penalized and criminalized for it."
She emphasized that any legalization effort needs to include provisions like community reinvestment to get support from organizations such as hers.
"Without doing that you run the risk of having items where communities are being left out, and we're not going to support those bills and items," Pryor said. "And we're going to keep fighting for that and letting it be known."
Disclaimer: Cheddar was a media partner of CWCBExpo.