Cannabis Conference 2019: Q&A With Jim Gilbride and Noelle Skodzinski
Last year's 2018 Cannabis Cultivation Conference.
Phierce Photography

Cannabis Conference 2019: Q&A With Jim Gilbride and Noelle Skodzinski

As Las Vegas prepares to host Cannabis Conference 2019, the show’s group publisher and editorial director share their plans.

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March 25, 2019

A year of planning is coming to fruition as Cannabis Conference 2019 will take place at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino April 1-3. The editorial and sales teams behind Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary have worked with an all-star conference advisory board to bring more than 90 world-class speakers to the show—and to sell out 70,000 square feet of expo floor space.

Full registration details are available here; the last day for online registration is March 31. Walk-up registration will be available on-site, beginning at 8 a.m. April 1.

Here, Group Publisher Jim Gilbride and Editorial Director Noelle Skodzinski talk about the plans that went into this year’s show—how they built on two years of success at earlier shows and how they intend to capitalize on their work in the pages of CBT and CD to bring world-class education to Las Vegas this year.

Eric Sandy: The Cannabis Conference team set its sights on Las Vegas after two years in Oakland, Calif. What was behind that decision?

 
Gilbride

Jim Gilbride: Las Vegas is the convention capital of the country. It’s easy to get to, and it’s affordable. It’s in a recreational-legalized state. It just made sense for us to move from more of an expensive, hard-to-get-to location to an easy-to-get-to convention location. Our attendees asked us to move somewhere where it’s more accessible, and we’re listening by moving the conference to Las Vegas.

ES: The Cannabis Conference keynote selections speak to several important themes: the emerging beverage market, the impact of science on cannabis sales and the globalization of the industry. What do those topics say about where the market is going?

Noelle Skodzinski: The reality of it is the cannabis industry, while seeing astronomical growth, is still in its infancy. This industry continues to touch many different industries around it, including beverages and edibles. Those are massive industries worldwide. And cannabis, in general, is becoming a global marketplace, as more companies begin to legalize medical and adult-use marijuana, and cannabis corporations expand their reach into emerging global markets. Everybody’s trying to get in, and everybody’s trying to carve out their niche in the market. Plant-touching businesses need to be informed about these industry developments as they try to grow their businesses and customer bases.

ES: You’ve also added the All-Access pass, which gets things started on Monday and provides attendees with a few bonuses. Can you describe the plan behind adding that?

JG: First, we wanted to provide more value to folks who wanted some additional education at the beginning of the conference. The trade show floor opens with a cocktail reception the evening of the first day, but we have a lot of cannabis professionals who come in that morning and they want to get the day started early. So, we honed in on some very specific topics for actual face-to-face education sessions—lessons on expanding or franchising your business [and] extraction cost analyses, among others.

 
Skodzinski

In addition, since we have supplemented our cultivation tracks with new dispensary education tracks , in addition to extraction sessions, there are far more educational sessions people can choose from this year. Last year, the biggest complaint we received was that people wanted to attend two sessions that were being held simultaneously, and were forced to choose just one. It is a testament to the strength of the program, but obviously we want to address any concerns attendees have; so, this year, we are offering video recordings of all the sessions as part of the All-Access pass, so people have the opportunity to access any sessions they aren’t able to attend on site

ES: Let’s go back to the dispensary track: Why did the team add that this year?

JG: It only made sense to educate and offer networking opportunities to plant-touching businesses as a whole. Not only do you have vertically integrated business that operate both cultivation and retail, but Cannabis Dispensary serves businesses that solely operate retail storefronts and delivery businesses. We’re working to educate the entire supply chain, and adding retail-focused sessions to our annual conference was the perfect move to better serve our audiences of cultivation and retail businesses. We’re looking forward to meeting our retail audience in Vegas.

ES: Can you speak to the overall speaker lineup, the quality of industry leaders that you’re bringing to Las Vegas?

NS: We’ve brought together 90-plus speakers—some of the brightest minds in the marketplace. It is the best educational platform we’ve brought to market to date for serious plant-touching businesses. It is a place to not only be educated in the sessions, but [to also explore] a very honed-in and specific sold-out expo floor. People can take what they learn in the session rooms and apply it to conversations they have with exhibitors, who are all there to help advance cannabis cultivation and dispensary businesses. It marries the two. It’s all serious business: how to move your plant-touching business forward and how to meet the challenges and opportunities that are coming in this burgeoning market.

JG: We’ve invested a lot in the education of the cannabis industry. The whole purpose of our business, whether it’s [the] conference or our magazines, websites, webinars, what have you, is to educate and help plant-touching businesses navigate this competitive industry. That is our mission, and we invest a whole heck of lot in that area. That shows in our education platform and it shows in a honed-in expo floor that is there, ready, to help attendees.