The Importance of Cannabis Trade Shows: Networking, Knowledge, and Navigating the Future

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During prohibition, cannabis festivals were monumental events where like-minded folks gathered, even though they ran afoul of the law, to celebrate this most sacred plant. I look back on those times fondly, as they solidified my commitment to the cannabis movement, the cannabis plant, and eventually, this emerging yet challenging compliant market. Although cannabis has held medicinal acceptance in California since 1996, it wasn’t until the 2010s that the rest of the nation began to embrace the cannabis trend, particularly in states like California and Colorado. Cannabis events and festivals, such as the High Times festivals, have long served as gray market trade shows and precursors to the cannabis trade shows now in place across the United States.

As the industry has shifted towards compliance, many states now host their trade shows. Some of the popular ones include the Benzinga Cannabis Expo and, of course, the largest of them all, MJ BizCon, which has been a staple for the past 15 years. Trade shows are crucial for any industry, and the cannabis sector is no exception. It’s noteworthy that with the increasing legalization of recreational cannabis in 2023, these trade shows have gained even greater importance. As we look at the evolution of these events, the significance of modern cannabis trade shows becomes increasingly clear.

A Snapshot of Cannabis Trade Shows

Cannabis trade shows, while becoming increasingly formalized, remain great places for passionate cannabis advocates to come together. We connect to celebrate the victories and identify the challenges we still face in this nascent and emerging stage of our industry. I often look forward to these events because they are among the few places where we can gather and consume cannabis products without much fear of regulation and penalties. These cannabis trade shows have transformed from informal gatherings to essential industry events.

Cannabis trade shows also offer powerful opportunities for thought leadership and education. As an emerging industry, these shows often feature educational sessions and seminars, allowing attendees to constantly increase their knowledge related to various aspects of the cannabis plant, cannabis manufacturing, and related ancillary industries. Additionally, many trade shows incorporate an investment component, where entrepreneurs can connect with potential financiers looking to invest in the cannabis industry. 

In recent years, trade shows have started to offer specialized manufacturing and packaging products tailored specifically for cannabis, contributing to the industry’s growth. These events also provide insights into what a national cannabis profile might look like, as each state currently tends to have its event with a focus on state-specific compliance requirements and product trends.

Networking Opportunities Abound

Cannabis trade shows offer vital networking opportunities for entrepreneurs within the industry. These events facilitate connections that can lead to synergies, collaborations, and potential investments. Attendees also have the chance to meet innovation experts, both in technology and manufacturing apparatus. Seminars and panel discussions featuring industry experts further expand the collective knowledge base and help establish widely accepted nomenclature, business practices, and manufacturing standards.

All these aspects are enormously valuable as we continue to face challenges in our industry, not the least of which are misinformation and cannabis shame. We are stronger together and I always leave these events reminded that I don’t have to continue the uphill climb on my own. For more information on consulting services to help navigate these challenges, visit my Consulting page.

Identifying and Setting Market Trends

While cannabis trade shows are essential for the industry, they are still emerging and somewhat reactive to trends rather than setting them. Influential figures and cannabis enthusiasts attending these events often introduce concepts that later become trends in emerging states. These shows play a crucial role in bringing concepts from various states to the forefront as the industry works towards understanding what national and premium cannabis entails.

The Role of Trade Shows in Branding and Marketing

Cannabis trade shows come in different forms, including B2B (business-to-business) and BTC (business-to-consumer) shows. B2B trade shows, like MJ BizCon, focus on fostering business relationships, while BTC trade shows, such as the Emerald Cup, feature judging, competitions, and brand storytelling to consumers. These events allow brands to showcase their stories and brand promises to consumers, contributing to their branding and marketing efforts. Given the myriad obstacles we still face related to marketing restrictions, this is of paramount importance to the growth of our industry.

Overcoming Challenges: Regulatory and Compliance Updates

Cannabis trade shows serve as a valuable platform to stay updated on the ever-changing landscape of cannabis regulations. Regulations vary from state to state, and national regulation and reform are in constant flux. Attending trade shows and participating in panels related to compliance provide industry professionals with insights into current compliance issues and ongoing lobbying efforts.

Economic Benefits of Attending Cannabis Trade Shows

One of the major economic benefits of cannabis trade show attendance is the consolidation of industry players in one place. Manufacturers can evaluate various types of apparatus for scalability, while brands and manufacturers can explore different packaging styles. Additionally, trade shows feature support industries, offering a one-stop shopping experience for brands, manufacturers, and vendors to connect with potential clients. For emerging states, these events offer a glimpse into the future by networking with professionals from more advanced states, providing insights into marketplace maturation in terms of size and consumer sophistication.


Cannabis industry trade shows are of paramount importance to the cannabis sector, arguably even more so than in other industries. This significance arises from the fact that the cannabis industry is emerging while continuing to face misinformation and federal prohibition. Attending these trade shows is an excellent way for potential investors, cannabis enthusiasts, and those interested in getting into the industry, to come together and demystify what is happening, dispel misinformation, and gain a comprehensive understanding of their state’s and the nation’s cannabis landscape as it evolves in the modern age.

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