Cannabis conferences must evolve to draw in new crowds

Published Aug 29, 2022 09:00 a.m. ET
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Cannabis conferences and expos are an industry staple in Canada, fostering connections and meaningful relationships between businesses, farmers, experts, investors, and others in need of hard-to-find products and services. Here you’ll find the most innovative ideas, leading researchers, hot new releases, and so much more, making this platform an essential piece of the map that should lead all who partake towards success.

Low turnout

Cannabis events such as these really do play an integral role in a market nearly suffocated by advertising restrictions, and yet still, turnout is down in recent years. Vendors are harder to come by, sponsor lists are dwindling, celebrity engagement is fading, and the people just aren’t showing up in a steady stream like they used to. Most of these circuits are still going strong, even with lower attendance, but there are many factors at play here, and once combined they’re hurting these important places that serve as an integral way to network.

Other reasons

The pandemic brought the economy and world to a screeching halt, as countries began shutting down to limit the spread of the virus. Upon reopening travel restrictions made it impossible for people to attend cannabis events located too far away, ripping international participants from the picture completely, and limits on gathering sizes made it nearly impossible to recreate the same experience these wonderful productions once offered.

Some blame those lacklustre occasions for the continuation of low attendance now that travel restrictions and testing requirements have come to an end, while a few blame residual fear from spending almost two years afraid to go anywhere. The truth is that these unfortunate points both likely impact how excited (or not) people are to participate in cannabis conferences, be it as vendors, educators, or visitors, but they aren’t the only problems faced by organizers.

What cannabis professionals are saying

Excitement was once so thick it was contagious on the show floor, as people from all walks of life paid and lined up to catch a glimpse of the professional cannabis community coming together. That anticipation was however for many short-lived, as they wandered conference floors in search of things they’d never get to see or experience.

Uninfused samples, lanyards, and pens instead of live or functional products, empty lighting systems, and machine demonstrations performed without the actual product greeted them instead, and though many have held out hope that the environment might change, even the most die-hard trailblazers are growing increasingly disappointed.


It is, of course, important to note that some of this is no fault of conference organizers. A lack of live cannabis products or plans on the floor can be blamed on overseeing agencies and insurance companies, who still act like it’s dangerous to stand too close to some harmless flower. The illegal status of samples given by businesses that could benefit most from this kind of exposure is a licensing issue, that still has yet to be addressed.

Cannabis professionals more than anyone are understanding of this turbulent climate and the many issues that plague the industry, as they too have plenty on the line as they navigate the confusing maze that is the law, but other things that aren’t banned or difficult to pull off are missing too.

The biggest complaint we’ve heard about recent cannabis conferences across Ontario is that there seems to be a lack of engagement, support, and understanding of the product, lifestyle, and environment that is needed to make enthusiasts be it business or personally motivated feel at home. Very little attention at all is given to real consumers, who work all throughout the industry, as is shown by the lack of user workshops and comfortable consumption spaces offered.

This multi-layered issue is only further compounded by the sheer cost to participate in cannabis conferences, much of which is carried by those who are most integral to these grand events. Speakers aren’t often paid, booths can cost thousands of dollars, tickets easily reach into the hundreds, and it’s rare to see a single dime make it back to the cannabis community.

There is no perfect answer

Cannabis brands, professionals and consumers all need these events for enlightenment, and their success is integral to the future of the industry. There is no simple and fast solution that will change how these cannabis events are run overnight, but one thing is clear and it is that it’s time for organizers and participants to work on making it more worthwhile for those who pay so much in time and money to come together here.

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