CWCBExpo shows off New York's new cannabis-friendly attitude

CWCBExpo shows off New York’s new cannabis-friendly attitude

The Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo returned to New York City on November 4 and the state’s new cannabis-friendly attitude was on display. The state is set to be the second-largest legal cannabis economy in the U.S., after California.

The three-day event kicked off with a ribbon-cutting and opening remarks from new lieutenant governor, Brian A. Benjamin. It was a fitting choice. As he reminded the audience, Benjamin supported the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA), legalizing adult-use in New York, while he was still a state senator.

“What you’re doing is right up my alley,” Benjamin told conference attendees. “I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

The tone is a change from when Andrew Cuomo still governed and legal cannabis idled. Since his fall and the rise of Governor Kathy Hochul, the future of New York cannabis looks bright.

Benjamin played up the social equity aspects of the bill he helped pass. He also emphasized that the legacy market– meaning the “black market”– should be absorbed into the legal one, as opposed to being shut out.

“It’s about making sure that we’re getting the best and the brightest.” Benjamin said. He told the audience that a good industry takes time and careful planning. His priority is on getting it right the first time.

Business Expo showcases a lively industry

A walking survey of the more than 100 exhibitor and sponsor booths on the expo floor revealed how prepared New York is for legal cannabis.

Companies like Curved Papers, urbanXtracts and Melt to Make Gummies showed off the latest consumer products. NORML, the national lobbying group, and Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM) were among booths pushing the activist side of cannabis. And Colorado Extraction Systems, MACH Technologies, and Tom’s Tumbler’s— displaying a green cylindrical trimming machine– had booths featuring some tools of the trade.

Applied DNA Sciences‘s booth featured demonstrations of their tagging and tracking technology in action. The feature services the need for quality assurance from seed to sale.

Plenty of booths offered ancillary business services– without actually dealing with the plant– as well.

For attendees designing their cannabis business space, from cultivation facilities to retail dispensaries, firms like Anderson Porter Design had the answers. Booths for The Packaging Company and Luxleaf Packaging demonstrated new ways for brands to look sleek while complying with strict regulations. And financial companies looking to fill the need for financing and banking in a risky industry were heavily represented, with Valley Bank and Upwise Capital being only two of the many.

Another encouraging feature was the growing trend of cannabis education.

Accredited institutions of higher learning like CUNY’s Medgar Evers College and the online Excelsior College showed their eagerness to train a cannabis workforce. MEC’s brochure advertises bachelor’s degrees with cannabis minors in four business tracks: formulation and testing, health, cultivation and commercialization. Excelsior currently offers a graduate certificate in cannabis control.

New York Cannabis Control Board chair’s first public speech

The high point of CWCBExpo’s first day came shortly after 2pm.

Tremaine Wright was appointed the first chair of the New York Cannabis Control Board by Governor Kathy Hochul after Andrew Cuomo resigned. Only recently confirmed, she gave her first public address as chair at the event.

The crowd packed in to hear Wright, a former state representative from Brooklyn, talk about the future of New York cannabis. She drove home her mission of creating a cannabis industry “rooted in equity.”

“Our goal is to create the most equitable cannabis program in the country.” Wright said. She decried the horrible inequities of the industry and promised to change things for the better.

“Our mission is to enable New Yorkers to grow our market,” Wright said, “while giving newcomers the means to level the playing field.” A nod to worries about multi-state operators (MSOs) squeezing out small businesses.

Though the newly minted chair sounded a hopeful note, she confirmed that the adult-use industry likely won’t get off the ground until 2023. While getting a cannabis industry ready for action often takes a year or two, Cuomo’s inaction slowed the timeline.

Wright made it clear that the new administration feels differently.

CWCBExpo New York 2021 ended on November 6, but organizers said this was just the beginning of their return to in-person events. In an industry that makes advertising difficult, it’s clear that trade shows will continue to be key networking and advertising events.

CWCBExpo is scheduled to return to the Javits Convention Center in New York City on June 2-4, 2022.