With the legal cannabis industry estimated to have hauled in $7 billion to $9 billion in 2018—up from $1 billion in 2011—according to the Annual Marijuana Business Factbook from Marijuana Business Daily, the legal marijuana business is definitely smokin’.

And as with any major industry, a bumper crop of ancillary businesses is associated with “cannabusiness,” such as trade publications, websites and tradeshows.

And tradeshows, of course, require meeting planners to facilitate them.

Meet Jess Tyler, vice president of events for Marijuana Business Daily (MJBizDaily). Tyler was hired to lead the company’s live-event effort, which includes three anchor programs:

  • MJBizConNEXT, held June 12-15, 2019, in New Orleans, with 3,500 attendees, 42,000 square feet of exhibit space and an Executive Summit.
  • MJBizConINTL, held September 4-6, 2019, in Toronto, with 2,500 attendees.
  • MJBizCon, held December 11-13, 2019 in Las Vegas, which is expected to draw more than 34,000 attendees and include 200,000 square feet of exhibit space.

MJBizDaily also launched smaller international conferences this year, such as its European Cannabis Symposium May 6 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

​MJBizCon Speaker Presentation, Credit: MJBizDaily
MJBizCon Speaker Presentation, Credit: MJBizDaily

Are Marijuana Events Different Than Others?

According to Tyler, cannabis industry events are not that much different than other conventions.

“No two events are the same,” she said. “They all have their own personalities and quirks, opportunities and challenges, goals and objectives. Managing the growth and working in a rapidly evolving market are probably the most unique attributes of this industry.

“For example, we decided to launch our Hemp Conference at our June event before the Farm Bill was passed, which legalized commercial production of hemp,” she explained. “This completely changes how we approach this event, and hopefully will result in an even more successful launch.

“Most other markets can predict their growth within 5 percent to 10 percent year-over-year,” Tyler added. “That’s a little harder to do in a booming industry that is significantly impacted by the current political landscape. But, huge growth is a problem we love having.”

MJBizCon Attendees Walking the Tradeshow Floor, Credit: MJBizDaily
MJBizCon Attendees, Credit: MJBizDaily

[Related Content: Atypical Associations Raise Unique Planning Challenges]

Although any stigma related to the cannabis industry may be receding fast, Tyler did admit to getting ribbed a little about her new job.

“If we are being honest, those in my personal life were a little shocked when I uttered the word ‘marijuana’ amid my new job excitement,” she said. “Those in the events industry widely know the show’s reputation and have applauded me seizing this opportunity.

“Across the board, reactions have been pretty amusing—and again, they generally come with endless amounts of puns—but the core attributes of the show speak for themselves,” Tyler added. “It’s a smart and savvy business and so are our attendees."

Special Considerations for Cannabis Conference Planning

And are there any “special considerations” involved with legal cannabis shows?

“Several!” Tyler exclaimed. “First, a big nuance of this event is ensuring we are working within each state’s legal operating framework. Regardless of the event location, we maintain the professionalism and business nature of the show and, therefore, prohibit the use, display and distribution of all THC products.

"This requires an extra communication step with our attendees and exhibitors to ensure they have a successful and productive show experience while complying with surrounding regulations," she added.

MJBizCon Event Booth Interaction, Credit: MJBizDaily
MJBizCon Event Booth Interaction, Credit: MJBizDaily

“Secondly, because this market is still relatively less established than others, many of our exhibitors are largely new to tradeshows,” Tyler continued. “We are committed to educating them and making participation in our show as simple as possible so they can focus on growing their business.

“This industry is a lot harder to predict and requires you to be able to pivot quickly months, weeks or even days leading up to the show,” she said. “It certainly keeps it interesting!”

Marijuana Meetings Mean Business

As mentioned by Tyler, business is booming for the rapidly growing cannabis industry.

Here are some charts from the Marijuana Business Factbook—courtesy of Marijuana Business Daily—that highlight the marijuana industry's economic contributions.

U.S. Cannabis Retail Sales Estimates 2017-2022, Credit: MJBizDaily

U.S. Cannabis Industry Total Economic Impact 2017-2022

Number of Full-Time Workers in the Cannabis Industry

U.S. Cannabis Industry Full-Time Employment Estimates: 2017-2022

Before You Go: Check out more industry profiles on our Movers & Shakers page.