Key Takeaways from ExpoCannaBiz 2021

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The energy was in the air…and so was the laughter. ExpoCannaBiz in Colombia’s beautiful Cartagena de Indias was an exciting and productive event as much of the Latin American cannabis industry came together for the first time since the pandemic struck.

People were thrilled to see each other, eager to exchange updates and do business. GPS Founder and Chairman Bob Hoban commented, “It was an opportunity to learn from great global and regional leaders, to network, and to spend time with many great friends.  As always, Julian Tobar put on a world class event.”

The on-going reality of the pandemic may have prevented the same levels of attendance as 2019, especially visitors from European countries, but representation was high from all regions of Colombia as well as Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and U.S. and Canadian companies. The opening pre-cons on Investment in Cannabis and the Cannabis Business Crash Course were well attended with focused audiences, soaking up information ranging from the benefits of impact investing to business resources in Colombia and Latin America.

It’s clear that the cannabis industry in Latin America has a strong start and a promising future. Change is a constant in this industry, and many presentations addressed new regulations as well as cultivation techniques, updates on technology, regenerative agriculture, and more.

For those unable to attend, we’ve rounded up some key themes and takeaways from ExpoCannaBiz 2021:

A critical moment in time for the cannabis industry:

  • Understanding the history of the market is critical to understanding the forces behind today’s current moment, as Bob Hoban outlined in his presentation on the history of global cannabis investing.
  • However, the industry has choices in how we collectively move forward: former Colombian senator and candidate for president Juan Manuel Galan painted a picture for the future in which Colombia can take the opportunity to write the next chapter of the country’s relationship with cannabis. He outlined his platform to boost the economy, reduce unemployment, treasure the vast biodiversity of Colombia and engage in a global conversation about the nature of drugs.
  • Several officials from the Ministry of Justice and Law, INVIMA, the Ministry of Health and other key departments weighed in on the need for more research (and funding for research) as well as broader medical access, and investment in hemp as a commodity.

Sustainability and regenerative systems:

  • Geoff Trotter from Regennabis Ventures addressed the increasing consumer demand for responsible, ethical brands. This translates to increased accountability from investors and entities like the SEC. Businesses will benefit from tracking their sustainability metrics sooner rather than later to get ahead of this market shift. His mantra was “Of the plant, by the plant, for the plant.”
  • Andres Vasquez, CEO of CannFarm, agreed, noting that one of his takeaways was “validation that our sustainable approach is one of the future global trends.”

Mitch Lowe, former CEO of Netflix, Redbox, and MoviePass delivered the keynote address. His message focused on navigating teams to disrupt industries:

  • Find the win-wins to create the most successful partnerships.
  • Expect that at some point you will have to reinvigorate sales. Understanding your customer and exactly how they use your product (not how you think they use it) is essential.
  • Lowe cited timeless advice from the classic book, The Little Prince: “If you want to build a ship, teach your team to yearn for the endless sea.” Rosa Puentes, Chief Business Officer at Mannta S.A.S, reflected, “I think this has to be a message for us not just in the industry, but also the governments, the consumers, everyone.”

Networking and relationship-building are essential:

  • CEO of Peru’s Futura Farms, Jose Escalente summed it up well, saying: “ExpoCannabiz 2021 was an extraordinary event, and a great opportunity for many players in the cannabis industry to connect to form synergies in order to expand it. Personally, I believe that the more united we are, the stronger we are. So, we need to have a united regional identity in order to bring the most success to all of us. In that regard, ExpoCannabiz 2021 was the best place to start creating this union.”

Now that the industry has endured a long period without in-person events like ExpoCannaBiz, we can appreciate again the value of bringing together industry thought-leaders and business decision makers to share information, discover new opportunities, and simply connect as individuals with a passion for the cannabis industry.