The North Jersey-based Cannabis World Congress (CWC) held its first post-COVID conference in the Javits Center last week, highlighting New York cannabis legalization.
New York’s new Lt. Governor, Brian Benjamin, cut the ribbon to open the Cannabis World Congress conference. He noted that as a State Senator from Harlem, he was a champion of cannabis reform.
“The fight to end prohibition has been a long one,” Benjamin said. He noted friends of his went to jail for possession.
Benjamin was eager to encourage the legal cannabis industry in the state.
“Marijuana is on top of the food chain,” Benjamin said. “We want to make sure we have a good environment for you.”
“We expect New York’s market to be the number one market in the country,” he added.
Benjamin was eager to have social equity applicants succeed in the market. He noted that 50 percent of their licenses are supposed to go to Social Equity applicants.
New York Cannabis Legalization Highlighted
New York’s legalization bill, the Marijuana Regulation And Taxation Act (MARTA) passed after New Jersey passed its bill. At the time, former Governor Andrew Cuomo was in dire straits for sexual harassment charges, ultimately leading to his resignation.
Benjamin wanted to ensure that those who the War on Drugs harmed received the benefits of legalization.
“I want to make sure that we don’t have a situation where we create a legal market and still incarcerating folks in the legacy market,” he said.
That is a big issue in New Jersey.
“I believe a rising tide should lift all boats,” Benjamin said.
He noted that access to capital is an issue and said they are talking with banks about their ability to help small businesses.
“Hopefully there’s some options that can be available,” he said.
Benjamin said it would be a problem if those with licenses are unable to operate.
“We are about to create the most equitable cannabis program in the country,” Cannabis Control Board (CCB) Chair Tremaine Wright said.
The CCB and the Office of Cannabis Management are the bodies in New York designed to implement cannabis reform, comparable to the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC).
“We are ready to make cannabis inclusive,” she added.
Wright noted that New York’s legalization bill MARTA included a business incubator program that needs to be established to encourage applications and provide entrepreneurs with coaching.
She also said Social Equity licenses must be sold to other Social Equity applicants.
Cannabis World Congress Provides Corporate Perspective
A business panel at the Cannabis World Congress gave their views on the cannabis industry and pathways to success. They explained that when seeking investors, preparing a deck is very important. Experts said it’s important when pitching investors to prepare a deck that is visually appealing and backed by data. In addition, you need to be passionate about what you’re pitching. They suggested that a video could be made instead of a paper report.
But not every cannabis company launched will last.
“For every Google, there’s an Alta Vista,” Sumit Mazakali of North Rock Partners said.
Mazakali treated the idea that there would only be a few large cannabis corporations that are Multi-State Operators (MSOs) operating as an oligopoly as a given.
A large number of cannabis activists and small business people do not want to see that happen.
Merida Capital Holdings Partner Mina Mishrikey praised the large-scale efficiency of Multi-State Operators (MSOs).
Mazakali said growing indoors is costly due to the electricity needed to serve as a light source. He argued there’s no reason to grow indoors now since cannabis is legal and does not need to hide. Mazakali said the Republic of Columbia is likely the best place to grow cannabis.
They discussed the issue of free versus fair trade cannabis as well.
Noting the dim prospects for action in Congress on the federal level, “Interstate commerce isn’t going to be happening any time soon,” Mishrikey said.
Kym B of Tribe Tokes served as a great Master of Ceremonies role as did Geoff Whaling of the National Hemp Association (NHA).
A lot of the action at the Cannabis World Congress really took place on the convention floor and the hallways where a variety of people made connections. There were many B2B professionals and sellers, some CBD companies, and a few unique exhibitors like Happy Munkey.