Business Event Recaps: What’s Happening in the California Cannabis Market Today

Maneuvering through some of the hottest cannabis business events around here lately, I’ve picked up on some interesting trends. Common themes at recent trade shows reflect canna companies’ priorities, their ability to attract investor interest, and their strategies for growth amid so many changes all around them.

My week started out at the California Cannabis Business Conference, an event put on by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) in Long Beach, October 8-9. In its third year, this NCIA event is the only industry trade show focusing solely on the California cannabis market, and we were proud to be a part of it (Kukuza Associates is an NCIA member). Heading up one of the many fascinating panels was our own CEO, Dave Roberson, who also serves on NCIA’s Banking & Financial Services Committee. He was joined by Roopal Patel, Principal, Lilu Financials LLC, and Casey Nye-Herrington, CEO and Co-founder, Left Coast Financial (more on this panel below).

Later in the week, I also attended the New West Summit in San Francisco, October 10-11. While the NCIA show is focused on advocacy and industry issues, the New West Summit is more focused on new products and investors. Clueless actress Alicia Silverstone was the keynote speaker. She’s one of the leading activists and creatives in the health and wellness space with her partnership of Mykind Organics, which makes vegan supplements. From her talk, she’s proven to be anything but clueless in the fast growing health and wellness market!

At both events, some interesting key themes emerged. These are the highlights:

  • The need to nail the fundamentals: Dave’s panel covered banking, capitalization, and money management issues. The overriding agreement of the panel was the need for cannabis companies to focus on grounding themselves with a solid foundation. When they have the right systems and processes in place, companies can get at reliable financial information, set themselves up for making smart decisions, and attract investors with clear, concise numbers as well as transparency. There’s a rapid move toward formalizing systems in this industry as I noticed a definite increase in pros in accounting, insurance, and compliance consulting at these events than I have in the past.
  • Industrial hemp gains traction: Based on the talks and my discussions with participants at these events, many companies are straddling the line between where they put their attention—toward CBD or THC products. There’s some uncertainty within both markets, but hemp is certainly gaining interest ever since the 2018 Farm Bill’s federal legalization of hemp.
  • Vaping crisis impacting the market: Concerns over the safety of vaping and unknowns over lung diseases tied to e-cigarettes have led to a pullback by some companies. There were hardly any companies representing vape hardware or oils at either event. The near future does not look bright in this area, and the financial impact has been significant.
  • Product lines are expanding: There was a definite increase in companies presenting a full line of products and associated effects (e.g., focus on pregnancy, women’s health, and sleep).
  • Payment systems are coming to market: This is a niche in this industry that needs filling—but progress has been slow. Payment processing providers are just now starting to crop up. They are highly focused on licensed providers and have some creative solutions hitting the market at the perfect time.
  • Pot stocks plunges: Our industry presents many financial opportunities, but some companies’ stocks are suffering at the moment, with a retreat from major Canadian cannabis stocks. With prices down, many players are focusing on making profits over growing top line revenue.

In our fast-moving industry, as we’re all working quickly to provide the best products and services possible, we also need to reflect and analyze what’s going on around us. There’s a constant need to evaluate if it’s time to switch gears. Is it time for a pivot? Does it make sense to pull back on a product line? Is an expansion in order? Finance pros who are on top of industry trends, as well as how to implement different growth strategies, can help guide the way forward.

Chris Vane is Director of Business Development at Kukuza Associates, where he connects fast-moving companies with the right finance solutions and builds our ecosystem of strategic partnerships. Chris can be reached at [email protected] or (510) 509-1454 x104.