EDITOR’S NOTE: NJ Cannabis Insider is hosting a two-day business and networking conference March 9-10, featuring some of the state’s most prominent industry leaders. Early-bird registration is open. Tickets are limited.
A couple of hours before Gov. Phil Murphy was scheduled to make his State of the State address Tuesday, there was visible excitement among attendees for NJ Cannabis Insider’s first virtual networking event of the year.
The Tuesday morning event, which was sold out, was designed to find new and virtual ways for participants to access networking that the pandemic slowed down as a result of limited in-person interaction.
“It was really great to be able to network again,” said Marianne Bays, the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association vice president, who noted there’s been a significant drop in networking events in the wake of the pandemic.
The meetup — sponsored in part by Supreme Security Systems, which already services cannabis growers in New Jersey, the law firms Brach Eichler and Genova Burns as well as Harvest360 — saw more than 100 insiders seeking to connect with each other to exchange ideas, expertise and overall advice.
Bays and other members from NJCBA, the state’s largest cannabis trade group, and representatives from the diversity, equity and inclusion arm of the National Cannabis Industry Association were also present for roundtable discussions.
Using the new video-conferencing technology by Remo, sponsors, industry leaders and staff from NJ Advance Media were separated into virtual roundtables to answer a variety of questions. In addition, there were virtual speed-networking tables where attendees could meet each other and talk in multiple timed sessions.
Bays interacted at the conference with attendees that had questions about what was needed to get off the ground in the business.
Future events are already on the horizon for March 9 and 10, where the NJ Cannabis Insider will host the first of two annual conferences featuring local and national industry leaders. Early bird registration has already gained more than three dozen participants.
Insiders exchanging contact information included a variety of entrepreneurs, attorneys, accountants, construction, real estate, marketing, public relations professionals, and others interested in the cannabis space, citing impending legislation and the logistical hurdles for specialized parts of the business as topics of interest.
Future moves from the Legislature and staying attuned with the business requirements are going to be key things that all attendees need to understand going forward, Bays said.
“People who are just getting into it really can’t begin to guess what the timeline might be, they have to be a Jersey person who has been watching this for a while to have a clue of what they’re going to do,” she said.
Genova Burns labor attorney Jennifer Roselle said the event provided the ability to network with different professions interested in the cannabis industry.
“It gave us a great opportunity to reach across, talk to people we wouldn’t have normally met, get to know some new faces, hear some really great passion about the industry, the planning and the next steps,” she said.
The networking event gave all an opportunity to experience different perspectives, Roselle said.
“It’s a new area that’s developing on a moment by moment basis and to see so many people excited to get involved in this industry as it’s evolving from the ground up … it’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s different.”
That moment-by-moment basis is bound to stay, said Michael McQueeny, a lawyer who specializes in the cannabis industry at the Foley Hoag law firm and described the cannabis industry as one that was going to require consistent improvements.
“A cannabis marketplace is like a sports car, we constantly have to give it tune ups just to make sure that we’re evolving along with this marketplace,” he said.
With the dawn of cannabis legalization on the horizon, networking events are going to be all the more important in 2021, said Stu Zakim, president of Bridge Strategic Communications.
Zakim likened the period before legalization legislation as frontier country. And for now, the description still carries weight, due to the amount of unknown variables within a new industry, he said.
“As much as the time leading up to legalization was like covering the wild, wild, West, it’s still kind of that way, but now it’s legal,” he said.
David Serrano, Harvest 360 co-founder and chief of business development, said he found the event well-populated with knowledgeable professionals from various parts of the cannabis industry.
The cannabis industry has a plethora of moving parts that requires different teams with varied skill sets, Serrano said.
“I can’t stress enough that people need to be working on developing their teams and networking events like this make that possible,” he said.
Overall, networking events help the entire industry, Serrano said.
“These events are going to help inform and prepare these leaders to enter this industry and create their dreams and find community within them,” he said.
This story first appeared in NJ Cannabis Insider.
Jelani Gibson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @jelanigibson1.