Tens of thousands of cannabis industry executives, investors and aspirants this week will convene in Las Vegas to talk about all things THC, innovation, and reefer regulation.

The annual MJBizCon (for better and worse) is a barometer for the adolescent industry, which operates in nearly 40 states yet remains federally illegal. Grown In will be there with bells on, and will report on the news, insights and happenings throughout the week here and via our social media channels.

As we roll into all of the proceedings, here are five things we are hoping to learn during this annual Sinsemilla Soiree in the Sand.

Which canna-curious corporations will be window shopping?
Forward-thinking corporations in financial services, media and a myriad of regulated sectors understand that despite recent industry strife that there is major upside to getting involved in the ascending cannabis industry at this particular moment in time. Today’s $50 billion U.S. legal cannabis market will grow exponentially as regulations ease, consumers adapt to multiple marijuana form factors, and prices become competitive with the legacy markets.

While, at least from a corporate valuation perspective, the last 18 months have been comparatively sober times in the cannabis industry, business origination is booming. Today there are tens of thousands of new businesses at all growth-stages seeking to cultivate relationships with corporations who recognize where the proverbial puck is going while not being exposed to more risk-averse competitors positioned for better shots on goal.

To date we’ve seen a smattering of mainstream corporations quietly participating in industry functions. We anticipate that number to increase based on continued industry expansion (way to go, Ohio!), additional windows to industry normalization (see below) and the fact that cannabis is a fun, fascinating space to be in where a lot of low hanging fruit exists for the corporations who have the fortitude to get into the game today.

Where does hemp-derived THC fit in the cannabis landscape?
Startup businesses that went through all the hoops to achieve licensure in their state to sell THC products understandably resent the ascent of unregulated hemp-derived THC consumer product purveyors getting into their markets without having to jump through similar hashish hoops.

But rather than expend energy combating against their existence, many smaller operators are using the workaround from the 2023 Farm Bill as a way to add to their lines of business and develop national brands.

As friend of Grown In and Dynamic Jack co-founder Alissa Jubilier surmised last month in Rolling Stone magazine, “if you can’t beat them join ‘em.”

As more licensed THC corporations and startups enter the hemp-infused THC arena (in Dynamic Jack’s case with cookie dough that can get you high and be transferred across state lines), it will be interesting to compare the operational performance of all of the companies that have compliance and public safety baked into their business plans versus those who don’t have to incur the costs (nor pay as much attention) as to what is in the best interest of the bodies and souls of the individuals who ingest their products.

Will there be sponsorship spectacles?
A generation ago when the dot-com bubble went bust, one of the biggest indicators was the thickness of industry trade magazines like the Industry Standard and Red Herring. What were once World Book Encyclopedia-sized periodicals thinned to the point of eventual evaporation. Such is the case with MJBizCon where multimillion dollar exhibit fair installations up until last year ruled the day.

With today’s more sober atmosphere, perhaps there will be less sizzle but more substance as industry leaders converge to see what we – like the techies two decades ago – can work ourselves out of an early case of irrational exuberance.

What political pathway(s) will lead us to industry normalization?

Some companies are putting their chips on SAFE Banking and changes at the congressional level. The industry got a mini jolt last summer with the prospect of the Biden administration rescheduling cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule 3 Substance.

Attorney David Boies may ultimately make a Supreme Court case out of cannabis. And don’t forget about the accidental legalization of cannabis which was the 2018 Farm Bill (see above). While it’s unclear which stimulant may ultimately bring the cannabis industry national regulation, it is clear that there continue to be forces at the government level that recognize what the vast majority of U.S. citizens already say – legalize weed.

How do people feel?
The Benzinga conference in Chicago was the last time a critical mass of cannabis industry pioneers convened in one space at one time. Less than a month removed from the Department of Health and Human Services recommending that cannabis rescheduled and during a moment in congress when SAFE passed a key senate committee, cannabis Kool Aid was briefly in the air. Two months later, without much progress on either front and with stock prices for publicly traded cannabis companies returning to their summer lows, things are more cautious again.

The good news is that many of the opportunistic corporations and individuals that entered the space only to make a buck and over-invested when times are flush are gone.

That leaves everyone else, mostly notably those who attend MJBizCon, read Grown In and are interested in the continual and perpetual development of an industry and product they love, again driving the show. L and V. Ain’t no place this week I’d rather be.

Applications Now Open for the 2024 Cannabis Innovation Lab, Produced by 1871 and Grown In

Building on the success of its inaugural year, Grown In is partnering once again on the execution of the 2024 Cannabis Innovation Lab, with Grown In’s own CEO, Brad Spirrison, as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence.

This lab connects growth-stage startups with late-stage lab partners, corporate innovators, investors, and experts in the cannabis industry to explore the rapidly evolving field of cannatech. This year, the program includes innovation within CBD, THC, and Hemp.

“Focusing on cannabis technology and innovation isn’t just about embracing a burgeoning industry; it’s a potent catalyst for closing the wealth gap. By recognizing the potential of this sector, we not only unlock innovative solutions but also create opportunities for historically marginalized communities to thrive”, said Betsy Ziegler, CEO of 1871.

Learn more about the program curriculum, 2024 focus areas, and the significance of Cannabis in Chicago at our public information sessions on 12.05 & 12.19 or apply right away!

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.