Big Apple Cannabis: CWCB Returns to New York City for Eighth Year

Big Apple Cannabis: CWCB Returns to New York City for Eighth Year

“No one seems to have gotten it right.” Mayor Eric Adams told a Friday afternoon crowd, of legal cannabis in America. “This is our chance to get it right.”

New York City’s mayor addressed attendees of the 2022 Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo (CWCBExpo) on the second day of the three-day event. Though a busy schedule didn’t allow the mayor more than five or ten minutes to speak, he made the most of it.

Mayor Adams stressed the social equity focus of New York’s cannabis program.

“This is an opportunity for those left behind to participate in this industry.” Adams said, holding out the possibility of “making whole” people impacted by the war on drugs.

Profiles in Legalization traveled to NYC to cover the eighth annual CWCBExpo at the Javits Convention Center on June 3 and 4.

Activists, Exhibitors, and Workshops

The event featured a curtained off seminar area with a stage and hundreds of chairs for workshops and roundtable discussions. Cannabis industry thought leaders served as panelists and speakers. Scores of booths representing cannabis-related businesses and organizations filled the larger part of the hall.

Blue and white draped the exhibition floor, with lanyard sponsor CCELL displaying its latest vaping technology as attendees came off the escalator. Booths stood in rows staffed by smiling –sometimes masked– faces ready to tell anyone who would listen about the companies, products and services they represented.

“Smoking cannabis is a universal language that others understood.”

Redman, National Cannabis Party

Among the attendees, jeans and a t-shirt were as common as suit and tie, but the tone set was professional.

A comfy couch that you could sink into – and that this correspondent did – sat opposite a TV playing informational videos at the National Hemp Association (NHA) booth near the front. In past years, the booth featured a flashy hemp car, but they decided to leave it at home this time.

While Les Stark isn’t formally associated with NHA, his wife, Erica, is the group’s president. He helps with events and was talking to an attendee next to a block of hemp-crete when we found him.

Les told Profiles that the NHA has enjoyed a donated booth at numerous CWCBs, including one on the west coast. He said this might be his last for a while; however, because the long-time Pennsylvania cannabis activist and hemp historian is feeling the pull of more consumer/activist-oriented events. Stark is director of a Pennsylvania cannabis advocacy group called the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.

While booths for NHA and other activist groups like NORML and Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana could be found on the expo floor, the event attracts mainly people who are– or who want to be– in the legal cannabis industry. Booths for cannabis industry associations made this point clear.

Add-on workshops available to attendees included one on Friday morning that offered real-talk about the costs of dealing with heavily regulated banking. Calvin Frye, CEO of Oklahoma dispensary Cloneville and a panelist, pointed out that credit unions have offered much better options than strict banks that close cannabis business accounts for fear of regulation. A friendlier banking environment would be welcomed by all.

When a moderator asked how many of the 35-40 attendees were planning to open dispensaries, 10-15 attendees rose their hands. Others hands were raised for those planning to go into cannabis cultivation or ancillary businesses.

Redman and the “National Cannabis Party”

A larger crowd later attended a chat between CelebStoner publisher and former High Times editor, Steve Bloom, and hip-hop artist, Redman. The rapper promoted the National Cannabis Party.

Redman showed up to CWCB wearing glasses with thick black rims, dark shirt and jeans and a black hat rolled into a skull cap. A question and answer session with Bloom stirred nostalgia from the crowd when Redman talked about how green he recalled Cypress Hill’s cannabis was compared to his own. He recalled that, for the most part, East Coast cannabis in the ‘90s tended to be more brown than green.

“This is our education moment. It won’t last forever.”

Tremaine Wright, Chair, NY Cannabis Control Board

Bloom told the audience how Redman was among early supporters of legalization in the hip hop scene. The two met in the 1990s. Among other topics, Redman criticized celebrities like Jay-Z who only lend their name to cannabis products– known as “white-labelling”– while having no involvement in the community or with the product.

Redman expressed how cannabis has bonded him with others in the same way as his music.

“Hip hip is a universal language.” Redman told Bloom. Like hip hop, “everyone around the world indulges in cannabis use.” He said that the mix of his art and his passion for cannabis resulted in advocacy and now in the National Cannabis Party. “Smoking cannabis is a universal language that others understood.”

Bloom also asked about Redman’s experience with acting in the cult stoner classic, How High? The rapper and actor shared that an announcement about a third installment would soon be coming.

The hip hop artist briefly took audience questions. However, when he had to defer to his sister– a leader in the NCP– it became clear that Redman hadn’t swapped beats for policy notes. He did what he does best, though, and educated while he entertained at a booth on the expo floor for the rest of the day.

The Cannabis Industry on the Expo Floor

The expo floor featured scores of booths in neat rows with slick setups featuring free merchandise and information. The floor even featured a booth for a company that makes those branded products, called Merch & Swag. Numerous large devices for processing cannabis and hemp could be found at manufacturers’ booths.

Education and Women Grow pavilions were two notable features of this year’s expo.

The education pavilion featured information from accredited institutions of higher learning on their cannabis programs. These included CUNY’s Medgar Evers College, Farmingdale State College and LIM College. Staff at these booths explained how attendees could gain all of the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the cannabis industry.

Snail Custom Rolling Papers and Custom Cones USA featured two impressive displays of the advances, and timelessness, of smoking accessories. A lottery wheel could be heard throughout the hall from the Weedmaps booth. The day before, the company’s CEO Chris Beals featured in conversation with Politico’s Mona Zhang.

While Women Grow isn’t new to CWCBExpo, the female cannabis industry group featured prominently with an area all their own. After the group used their booth last year to host several small cannabis businesses run by women, they built on that idea this year with over 25 women-owned businesses displaying at their pavilion.

Women Grow’s president, Gia Moron, also featured in the days events.

Cannabis Control Board Chair Addresses CWCBExpo

The most crowded session of the day featured Moron, “in conversation with…” New York State Cannabis Control Board chair Tremaine Wright. The chairwoman made a brief speech at CWCB in November shortly after being appointed, but had more to say this time. After half a year on the job, she shared how she saw the industry unfolding.

Among the talk of conditional licenses and regulations not being finalized for another 4 months, Wright drove home the importance of education. New Yorkers need education to get the most out of their cannabis industry, to keep children safe, and to promote responsible consumption.

“This is our education moment.” Wright told Moron, and the crowd. “It won’t last forever.” Wright also made clear– as the mayor had– that New York cannabis will have a social equity focus from the beginning, which was widely applauded.

The Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo is scheduled to return to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City on June 1-3, 2023. Profiles in Legalization can’t wait to see where the cannabis industry by this time next year.