The inaugural BC Cannabis Summit, organized by BCCFC and ACCRES, has just ended and has already thrilled and inspired attendees enough for them to declare it as “the” Canadian cannabis industry event worth an annual pilgrimage.
Entrepreneurs rendezvoused around various event spaces on the Eldorado resort property for two days in Kelowna, BC. The gathering was as much a weekend getaway as a business conference and participants were happy to discuss ventures, trade business cards, smoke jays or give kudos to their peers and inspired up-and-comers, alike.
Roxanne Lindley, Former Chief of Westbank First Nation, delivered Friday morning’s keynote address. During her presentation, she gently reminded summit attendees about the importance of maintaining respect for the cannabis plant as a medicine, one that healed her indigenous ancestors for thousands of years. She also chose to sternly warn the government to allow cannabis farmers more autonomy.
BC Cannabis Summit Panel (photo by Haley Boulanger)
The day’s opening panel, "De-stigmatizing Cannabis to Create Jobs, Economic Growth and Tourism Opportunities," was well-received and featured some of the most diversified speakers from different industries. Krista Mallory from the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission heralded cannabis entrepreneurs as the real creators of jobs and agreed that the government continues to hover over the industry too much.
Lisanne Ballantyne, President and CEO of Tourism Kelowna, took a data-driven approach to the panel and shared data about pre-COVID American cannabis, which boded well for the continued growth of the industry. “Eighteen percent of all American adults are motivated to make their travel decisions based on their ability to access a cannabis-related experience,” she said. Data Ballantyne gathered from MMGY Travel furthered her case: “Twenty-five percent of leisure vacationers have already traveled to a destination specifically to have a cannabis experience,” she said, suggesting that these people can be considered return customers.
HiBnb asked Ballantyne how the City of Kelowna plans to promote cannabis tourism, considering the serious lack of private and public consumption spaces and other obstacles like age-gated marketing regulations. She responded optimistically by advising the cannabis community to actively engage more in their local municipalities and added that the "cross-pollination of industries” will promote the continued growth of cannabis-related tourism.
That’s great news for tourism and hospitality businesses that are now considering promoting their company as 420-friendly.
“Are cannabis and wine really competing industries?” asked Ballantyne. While it’s too early to know for sure, the panel discussion strengthened the case that canna-tourism is a welcome addition to the Okanagan region, which already has a solid tourism infrastructure in place.
Nathan Mison from the Canadian Cannabis Tourism Alliance came to the conference stocked with stats and factoids about the economics of cannabis and the strength of the pre-and-post COVID landscape for cannabis tourism.
"The economic contribution to the Canadian cannabis market between 20 March 2020 was $11 billion. Between the illicit market, and the cultivation market in the retail market, [that comes out to] $90 billion. Eight billion dollars worth of that growth [was] happening during COVID, which now makes the Canadian cannabis sector a larger economic contributor than dairy, forestry, and potash mining. All entertainment production compared to that is [at] an incredible loss."
Overall, panelists and participants agreed that all the accumulated data suggest that unless unforeseen circumstances force people back into quarantine mode, the future of cannabis tourism is brighter than the tip of a lit joint.
Even so, banks still consider cannabis businesses as shady and almost criminal enterprises, stated Ian Dawkins, Founder & Principal Consultant of Althing Consulting. However, Community Savings Credit Union CEO Mike Schilling said not everyone in banking is anti-cannabis, stating that he manages about 80 cannabis accounts and helps them break the negative stigma of the cannabis industry and start gaining a fair market share.
Multiple panels spanned the rest of Thursday and Friday. Discussions addressed BC Buds' imminent rise to global notoriety, business-to-customer relationships, and the overarching need to relax current regulations in all areas of the cannabis industry. Overall, participants from all corners of the weed world agreed that solutions can be found through the cross-pollination of the cannabis and tourism sectors.
Friday morning's panel on The Future of Craft Cannabis Farming and Processing included Jeff Thorn, Master Grower and Cultivation Manager at Green Mountain. Thorn stated that the future landscape for craft cannabis farming involves normalizing consumption through tourism, closely mimicking how the wine industry achieved success.
The rest of Friday’s schedule brought top-notch networking opportunities with vetted experts who were ready and eager to discuss the various challenges and opportunities in the cannabis space today and in the future.
About the Writer
Now sharing her blunt views on cannabis with the written word, Haley first flowered into the cannabis space through cultivation. Legalization has motivated her to write, grow and talk about cannabis even more. Her science degree in geography and environmental studies brings clarity to her interest in the wonders of the world. Look for Haley Boulanger on LinkedIn and Instagram.