With the passing of I-502 in 2013, Bob Smart saw opportunity – an opportunity to connect growers, producers and manufacturers of cannabis. This idea eventually bloomed into CannaCon, a cannabis convention designed to assist those in the marijuana business navigate the complicated laws and practices that govern the industry.
While CannaCon has run in Seattle for the past several years, it has its roots in Tacoma. In August 2014, 6000 attendees showed up for the first ever CannaCon held at the Tacoma Dome. Despite the show taking place the same time as the ever-popular Hempfest in Seattle, the turnout encouraged Smart to try again, this time bigger.
“The event went really well – [188 exhibitors] sold product and a lot wanted to come back,” Smart said.
Since then, CannaCon has moved to Seattle with the next event taking on Feb. 18-20 at Pier 91, 2001 W. Garfield St.
Smart has made sure CannaCon is not a place where people just gather to smoke, instead establishing a reputation as the go-to place to find information about the complicated marijuana market.
“We try to set this up for the growers – they need lighting, they need all new types of equipment. Cost per gram is a huge deal for these dealers, and that trickles right through to consumers,” Smart said. “These new products are allowing cost per gram for sellers to go down. There are not too many places you can go and see that many products and services at one place, one single place where they can come and shop, come and learn, see all the new cool new stuff. They all need product and services, and there’s really no better place for that. We’re not the investor show; we’re there for growers, producers and retailers, the guys doing the work and making it all happen.”
In addition to learning about the latest technology from exhibitors, speakers at the event will give important information via Q&As.
“One thing that really sets us apart with our seminars is it’s not just people getting up there talking about what they’ve done, it’s people educating others on things they need to know,” Smart said. “We’re pretty good at picking speakers. As we’ve gotten bigger, it’s allowed us to get more well known speakers, and by getting bigger we have people that now come to us, which is nice. Our seminars have gotten way better and our organization has gotten way better.”
The changes in organization are what Smart thinks will take CannaCon to the next level. CannaCon has consistently been a bigger success than Smart and his team have anticipated. Last year, nearly 11,000 people attended the Con, and the one bus to transport people from parking to the con just wasn’t cutting it. This year, three Starliner buses will be handling the transportation, making it a smooth and comfortable experience. Last year, three food trucks were present at the con and ran out of supplies by lunchtime, so this year CannaCon is working with 12 food trucks and two coffee trucks to ensure that every attendee can get food in a timely manner, with a variety of options.
“People will be taken care of this year,” Smart said.
Another big change is the development of an app that will allow attendees to keep their schedule in check and find out what’s going on at the con.
“We’ve brought the show more into the digital age,” Smart said.
And there will be a lot to see, with 356 booths being exhibited. CannaCon is the place to go to find all kinds of unique glassware and other appliances. Rather than going to a store to purchase equipment, you can buy the products directly from the manufacturer.
“More of that product is for the retail source. But by allowing consumers in, this is their chance to come out and buy directly from the manufacturer before it hits store shelves,” Smart said.
Tickets to CannaCon and more information can be found at www.cannacon.org.