2014 has been an amazing year for those of us on the front lines of the legal cannabis movement. Thanks to the support of the now 300+ cannabis business members, dozens of sponsors and thousands of supporters, the b2b trade group I run, Marijuana Business Association (MJBA), has grown rapidly. We’ve been busy during our first full year of operations helping our young industry lay the foundation for what will be one of Washington State’s — and eventually the nation’s — major economic drivers. Here are some of the year’s highlights:
As the industry grows, so do we: MJBA business groups now meetup regularly in Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, and Spokane, WA. And in the first quarter of 2015, we’ll expand these networking events to support cannabis business communities in Denver, CO and Portland, OR.
In the past year we’ve focused most of our energies helping to build Washington’s nascent legal cannabis business community. Focusing on our core values of providing reliable business intelligence, community and opportunity, MJBA organized two major b2b Vendor Fairs this year — both at Seattle’s Magical Butter Studios. Our inaugural MJBA Vendor Fair in March 2014, came just as the first recreational marijuana licenses were being issued by the LCB. That historic event, sponsored by leading edible company Evergreen Herbal, saw more than 300 businesses participate – with 25 sponsor/vendors. Our second iteration, MJBA Vendor Fair Summer, sponsored by Blue Line Protection Group, happened just days before the opening of Washington’s first legal pot shops and saw 20 vendors and 200 attendees who made crucial contacts and business deals.
In between those two events, we launched the MJBA Women’s Alliance with an elegant power luncheon at the Columbia Tower Club, featuring a keynote speech by LEAP’s Diane Wattles Goldstein, guest appearance by Cheryl Shuman. Ah Warner, Cannabis Basics founder, and creator of Women of Weed, was presented with a lifetime achievement award.
Later in May also saw the debut of MJBA’s first Professional Education Seminar, “Canna Business and the Law.” Sponsored by Canna Law Group and emceed by CNBC’s Al Olson, the event featured VIP Keynotes by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and WSLCB Member Chris Marr.
In June the MJBA moved into its HQ in Bothell, WA. And to commemorate the occasion, we held an MJBA Women’s Alliance Held a picnic at the compound, with more than 70 cannabis ladies pitching in for “pot luck.”
In July, we launched the South Sound Tacoma MJBA meetup at Surge Tacoma. The first event was over-capacity and demonstrated that the need to support cannabis business was not just a Seattle phenomenon
For 4 days in August, MJBA was a VIP Sponsor of Cannacon V1.0 at the Tacoma Dome. Our MJNewsNetwork and Marijuana Channel One on YouTube covered the event extensively. Canna personality Radical Russ Belville interviewed key MJBA business members for his 420 Radio Network.
In August, MJBA also hosted a benefit for NORML at its Bothell HQ. The event was sponsored by Blue Line Protection Group, O.pen Vape, Evergreen Herbal and Washington Bud Company. NORML founder Keith Stroup, travel author Rick Steves, cannabis celebrity Cheryl Shuman, Washington NORML founder Kevin Oliver and High Times Editor Rick Cusick were all in attendance. The event raised $1500 for NORML.
In August, MJBA Women’s Alliance sponsored a benefit for the Pink Gene Foundation at Suite at the Hyatt in Bellevue. $1000 was raised via a silent auction of donated wares from MJBA’s generous business members and sponsors.
We held our first ever MJ Research listening summit in August, which informed our second MJBA Professional Education Seminar, “Technology & Your Cannabis Business” held at the Motif Hotel in Seattle. Sponsored by CIPS, the event featured keynote presentation by Jamen Shively and ICCCO, and featured five all-star expert panels.
In September, MJBA launched the Vancouver Meetup. The Mayor of Vancouver proclaimed the day “Cannabis Hemp Awareness & Marijuana Safe Usage Day” – Viridian Sciences was host, and Congressional candidate Bob Dingethal spoke to the group. And we’d like to thank Danille Ulvila with Life Gro for hosting our most recent Tacoma Meetup at her impressive Life Gro facility.
In September, MJBA launched MJBA Job Fair, a historic gathering of Washington Cannabis Industry’s employers and job seekers. Presented by Weedhire.com, and sponsored by Viridian Sciences, Eden Labs and Blue Line Protection Group, the event attracted more than 400 attendees, with 30 employer sponsors and more than 140 job openings. We even hosted a “Marijuana Is Safer Than Unemployment” Fashion Show!
In November, the Women’s Alliance hosted “The Power To Lead,” a day of inspiration, information and celebration, featuring Ladybud publisher Diane Fornbacher and financial guru Debbie Whitlock.
A couple of days later in November, MJBA Research published its first market research report, and held its third Professional Education Seminar: “Dollars & Sense: Risk & Financial Planning for your Cannabis Business.” Sponsored by RMMC Consulting, the daylong event included a robust vendor area, and a daylong series of panels, including an hourlong Q&A with LCB Deputy Director Randy Simmons. 7 expert panel focused on actionable advice for the more than 200 I-502 licensees and applicants on their major areas of concern: financing and money management; insurance and risk; security, distribution and transportation; merchant service; business intelligence. MJ Freeway sponsored the 4:20 happy hour.
In December 2014, the Company held its first annual “Cannabis Xmas Bazaar: Hot Pot Products for the High Holidays,” an historic showcasing of marijuana-themed products and innovations with participation by over 20 independent vendors and 150 members. And, to top it all off, we were honored to be nominated as “Best Cannabis Association of 2014” in the Dope Industry Awards. All in all, I’d say it was a fantastic first year in the life of a Green Rush startup.
Can’t wait to share what next year brings. Hope you’ll stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s wishing everyone a safe, happy, hempy holiday season.