LOS ANGELES — It’s the Wild West in California with this year’s legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the state now driving a mad dash among businesses to nab market share in a budding industry.
Trade show veterans hailing from Agenda, Liberty Fashion & Lifestyle Fairs and Project want a piece of the pie, with next month’s launch of the inaugural Hall of Flowers trade show for the cannabis industry.
The show, set to take place Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds, is the brainchild of Agenda founder Aaron Levant, Liberty chief operating officer and former Project chief operating officer Dani Diamantstein and Rama Mayo, cofounder of Los Angeles-based cannabis branding and licensing firm Green Street.
“There are a lot of brands that are flourishing and there are a lot of people focusing on the manufacturing and cultivation, while there are also people partnering with some in the fashion industry,” Diamantstein said of the current industry landscape as he sat at the airport on his way back to Los Angeles from Santa Rosa. “This is the perfect time to do this.”
The founding group began making plans for Hall of Flowers back in December after Mayo reached out to Diamantstein and Levant for their trade show expertise. The two bit at the chance after numerous past inquiries from various people asking them to put on a cannabis-related show, but they lacked the connections Mayo and Green Street brought to the table.
Having the trade show in Los Angeles was the top choice, Diamantstein said, but the regulatory environment is such that organizers are not only required to obtain a license from the state, but also local municipal approval from the city where such a show is to be held. Having the event take place at a county fairground is another legal requirement, hence the reason for Hall of Flowers being at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds, Diamantstein said.
Serial investor and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, chief executive officer of Vayner Media, is slated to deliver a keynote during Hall of Flowers. The show has confirmed attendees from companies such as MedMen, CannaCraft, AbsoluteXtracts, Kiva Confections and Timeless Vapes, among others, with some brands touting limited-edition product made especially for the show.
Diamantstein said the goal is to draw about 1,500 people in total to the event, which is by invitation only. He said last week the company released some tickets to the broader market for auction and sold roughly 20.
The Liberty executive said many of the processes implemented at shows such as Agenda and Liberty are now being utilized for Hall of Flowers, including an emphasis on treating buyers with kid gloves and serving as the platformer for fostering connections within the industry.
For as much as the cannabis business might be new to Diamantstein and Levant, the trade show business is just as new for many of the brands showing at Hall of Flowers. He pointed to booth setup and design as an example, saying Hall of Flowers will provide features such as art for exhibitors’ trade show spaces.
“This is something totally new to this industry,” Diamantstein said. “People are excited about it. Because of the regulations, manufacturers cannot sell direct-to-consumer and so direct-to-consumer doesn’t exist. Internet sales don’t even exist, so a basic trade show is a necessity.”
As for whether well into the future Diamantstein could see integration of cannabis products onto, for example, the apparel trade show floor, that’s not something’s he’s thinking about.
“I really haven’t thought about it. I’m focusing on the first event,” he said. “We need to keep in mind it’s a highly regulated market. Unlike fashion trade shows, people are not bringing clothes in on a rolling rack and setting up [in a booth]. Product comes with a distribution license and there are different regulations even for giving a sample. All of that we have to obey.”