This March, NECANN returned to Boston after a pandemic-related hiatus with a three-day in-person show. I was fortunate enough to be asked to moderate a panel with Tina Sbrega of Lighthouse Biz Solutions and Cathy Corby Iannuzzelli of Kindtap on “Aligning Cannabis and CPG Consumer Experiences with Streamlined Payment Methods.” It was a sunny 70-degree day in Boston and spring was in the air. It was a refreshing feeling of renewal – NECANN was revitalized, as were all the attendees ready to enjoy an in-person event. Here are my favorite experiences and key takeaways from the conference:
- This was the first all-live, in-person panel I’ve spoken on since February 2020. During the pandemic, I’ve embraced virtual opportunities, but it felt fantastic to return to speaking in front of a live and engaged audience.
- I was glad to see longtime friends, colleagues, familiar industry friends, and of course our clients. Everyone had the networking bug, and the conference was buzzing with energy as attendees eagerly exchanged ideas.
- The exhibition hall was packed – both with exhibitors and attendees. It was great to see so many local businesses that had survived and thrived the past two years, despite the toll of the pandemic. Also, the return of swag! So many tchotchkes and t-shirts, so little time (in the future, NECANN will need to provide larger bags to carry so many primo items).
- Among speakers and attendees, there was a shared feeling of optimism about the prospects of the cannabis industry. Business is booming in Massachusetts. New licenses are awarded each month and M&A and joint venture deals remain extremely active. Although the Connecticut adult-use market comes online shortly and New York will not be too far behind, the industry appears to remain quite bullish about Massachusetts.
- Banking! And more banking! Massachusetts has been extremely lucky in that since the adult use market has launched, operators have been fortunate to be able to find banking led by GFA Federal Credit Union, which was the first Massachusetts financial institution to publicly accept adult-use derived cash deposits. Since that time, many new financial institutions have come into the market, including Needham Bank, which is acquiring the Century portfolio from Eastern Bank and Dedham Bank, who recently announced its entry into the field. Some of the financial institutions are offering secured loans as well. Bottom line – more banking is good for the industry.
- Many new non-plant touching companies exhibiting all sharing the same enthusiasm for the industry. This signifies further cannabis normalization as more ancillary businesses realize the enormous opportunities that the cannabis industry presents.
- Did I mention that it was great seeing old friends, colleagues, industry folks and clients? Cheers to more in-person face time on the horizon!
All in all, it was a great event – I’m looking forward to next year!