Jun 22, 2019

Budding branding

Rapper Wiz Khalifa performs onstage during the 'Dazed & Blazed Summer 2018 Tour' at Austin360 Amphitheater while smoking a blunt on stage

Wiz Khalifa onstage Aug. 25, 2018 in Austin, Tex. Photo: Rick Kern/WireImage

Barely a day goes by without another trade show where starry-eyed (or, perhaps, glassy-eyed) cannabis entrepreneurs gather to tout their products — with creatively named brands like Schnazzleberry, Lucky Charms and Train Wreck.

The big picture: There are hundreds of trade shows showcasing thousands of brands, and even a thriving industry of weed-specific branding consultants and marketing agencies.

  • As in any emerging industry, there is growing specialization, with some trade shows tilting more toward hemp and marijuana growers and others toward more exotic specialties like vaping technology.
  • Celebrities are riding the wave, with entertainers like Snoop Dogg (Leafs By Snoop) and Wiz Khalifa (Khalifa Kush) creating products they believe in.
  • Mike Tyson's business, Tyson Ranch, has both a diverse product line and a corporate mission, "to make cannabis universally understood and accessible."

The punch line: At some events, actual marijuana products are not allowed. At one upcoming expo in California, for instance, 125 vendors are expected but "the venue still (prohibits) cannabis possession and use at events like this one."

  • The backdrop: Before attitudes changed on cannabis, these conferences essentially served as speakeasies for activists who preached the drug's merits and pushed back against policies used to lock smokers and dealers away.

The bottom line: These days, with business booming and billions of dollars pouring in, cannabis conferences are used mostly as showcases for new products and networking opportunities — just like any other business conferences.

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