The New England Cannabis Convention: newbie recap edition

A couple weeks back I went to the NECANN (New England Cannabis Convention) in Boston to do some research and networking for my new business project smocus pocus (www.smocuspocus.com), — a digital solutions studio in the legal cannabis industry.

Having never attended a convention in this field before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought, if nothing else, the whole thing might be a good opportunity to get away for a night (big up to The Verb Hotel and Estragon Tapas), and take some entertaining instagram photos (@smocus.pocus).

What I discovered was exactly how incredibly professional, intelligent, hard working, driven and innovative this industry is. The panels were informative and funny, and I met some really interesting people doing fascinating things. The realization of how quickly this field is moving was eye opening on a number of levels, so now I’m doing my homework. My favorite thing about new projects is how they motivate you to get creative and get studious.

Here are some of my top take-aways from the NECANN convention:

In this marketplace, like any other, design and packaging plays a strong role

It’s not always evident who is working within (or transitioning from) the black market, grey market or white market, but what is clear is that people who have given careful consideration to the way to most efficiently and beautifully package, brand and market their products or services are going to get farther than someone slapping some Avery labels with Rasta colors and a pot leaf on their generic packaging. I was validated in seeing that an industry-wide shift towards modern fonts, colorways, clear messaging and well-written content would not be amiss as that is why I saw the need to step into this field in the first place.

Language matters

These days it sometimes feels like more people are divided by language, semantics and linguistic subtleties than ever before. Language matters. What you decide to call this plant matters, and if not to you, then to someone else. Choosing words carefully and being mindful of their history is crucial. And reading the mainstream media’s coverage of the convention only underscored this. There is still a need to undercut the professionalism or validity of this field with bad jokes and uninformed references. I’m guilty myself of doing the “ha ha” follow-up to describing this new project to people, and I’d like to curb that.

Because…

There are people who are motivated to see this industry succeed because they are up at 3am trying to find something to alleviate the chronic pain or medical conditions FOR THEIR CHILDREN (or loved ones or themselves)

They are less upset about outdated fonts or language that isn’t crisp and original. Their motivation is in a completely different league. They are unstoppable superheroes. I can’t necessarily understand what it’s like to have that drive, but damn do I want to help them succeed. My desire to see a cultural shift around the medical and recreational use of cannabis is strong. I feel confident that my children are going to have a completely different understanding of this plant and its significance and potential than my generation has. But many of the stories that led people to this space are painful and inspirational and deeply, deeply personal.

Do the ladies run this mothaf*****? Hell yeah

Before the convention I had the good fortune to discover Women Grow and connect with someone from the New York chapter. My fears that this would be the bro-iest, most mansplain-iest field I could possible enter were completely alleviated. Women are running this game, and they were running the convention and they are doing a really fine job of it. Just about every woman I met was generous with information, resources and encouragement and seemingly not too busy or competitive to welcome a newbie into the fold. It was a pleasure to be surrounded by savvy, insightful and determined entrepreneurs and activists who were unequivocal in their demand that the industry focus its attention on not just the female market, but on understanding what women (and mothers) need and then addressing that specifically and respectfully.

This is an agricultural industry. Or not

Cannabis is so unique in that it’s an agricultural business that is inevitably going to become significantly less agricultural. The products and services are so wide-ranging, and the regulations so varied that right now the direction that it’s going to take remains a bit unclear. Small growing operations will probably get edged out to some extent, but it doesn’t mean that small businesses are going to wind up with the short end of the stick. I feel pretty confident that people with the long view and a solid strategy are going to do well, and be sustainable in the future. It’s interesting to see how the space is replicating some traditional business models and modes, but

it was also really refreshing to be in a creative, entrepreneurial marketplace that felt original and friendly. More than one person told me that I looked familiar or that they saw think they saw me in a dream. That hasn’t happened to me in quite a while.

Now that I’m home in NY, I’m excited to dig in to my research and development, and figure out how to provide some digital solutions and high quality content to the businesses and organizations I meet along the way. There are currently a LOT of dramatic developments playing out in my home state of New York that are really fascinating and I’m sticking it out to see where it all ends up.