After three jam-packed days teeming with informative panels, inspiring speakers and plenty of opportunities to virtually network, the Winter Emerge 2020 Virtual Cannabis Conference & Expo was a success.
From Dec. 15 – 17, more than 2,500 attendees navigated our online world, engaging with other cannabis enthusiasts and experiencing such an unforgettable, star-studded event that even the highest among us will remember.
Mary Jane Gibson and Mike Glazer, who host the popular podcast Weed + Grub, returned to emcee after doing such a great job at the last Emerge in September.
Gibson, who goes by MJ, shared that they were eager to reprise their emcee duties, as they’re passionate about being part of the movement towards safe and legal cannabis for all.
Gibson also acknowledged the importance of having such a virtual event, when networking face-to-face is no longer an option.
“Connection is key in cannabis. The culture thrived underground because of the network of people who loved the plant and benefited from its use. Now that it’s legal in many places, it’s essential to stay connected and remember where this all came from — the grassroots organizing and activism, the legacy growers who risked their lives, etc,” said Gibson. “Emerge is a place to gather for business knowledge and also to keep educating and spreading awareness about cannabis.”
Cannabis education was a priority this Emerge.
With cases of COVID-19 skyrocketing, panels were based around how to maneuver through these unpredictable times, with a focus rooted in health and wellness.
Tankson gave a moving speech, detailing the need for social equity when making legislative changes.
“While we move forward, we must not forget those Black and brown people, people that look like me, that have been unfairly persecuted by the War on Drugs. While there has been a lot of progress through the pandemic, there has also been a lot of suffering,” said Tankson.
On Day 3, attendees gathered in droves to watch the notorious Clio Cannabis Awards, which honored the best in cannabis marketing, including the first ever Impact speciality award given to the Last Prisoner Project for their tireless dedication to cannabis-related criminal justice reform.
Dennis Hunter, the co-founder of CannaCraft, introduced the award, saying that, “the cannabis industry and the world is better because of the Last Prisoner Project.”
Activist, actor, and Last Prisoner Project board member Jim Belushi presented the award to LPP Co-founder Steve DeAngelo and LPP Reentry Coordinator Evelyn LaChapelle, stating that the organization took him to a higher purpose.
Belushi shared that you can’t chase the money in cannabis. You have to chase the passion and that passion is about helping people.
“[LPP] just focuses me on why I’m here, to expand the word, to make people even more aware of the great benefits of cannabis, as well as the war on drugs and what it’s done to our society and what it’s done to families,” said Belushi. “At least 40,000 people who are incarcerated have families and those families have been devastated, collapsed, and it’s just so sad to me. I think we need to get these men and women out of jail now.”
When accepting the award, DeAngelo gave thanks to all their constituents, people like LaChapelle, and many other people who are in prison, who have stood up to tell their stories and have mobilized a huge wave of social change.
LaChapelle agreed with DeAngelo’s statement, saying that as a reentry coordinator and as a previous cannabis prisoner, it is validating to know that the work that they’re doing is being recognized.
“I’m really hoping that 2021 brings more awareness to the plight of the 40,000 people who are still incarcerated,” said LaChapelle. “ I think it is often that I encounter people who simply don’t know that there are still some of us still serving time for the plant and so I’m hoping that with new administration, that the message goes to the ears of people who have the opportunity to actually do something about that.”
Ending Emerge On A High Note
How Hemp Changes Lives (and Maybe Saves the World?) panel with Joy Beckerman, Morris Beegle and Ry Russell was a huge highlight for attendees.
Weed + Grub’s Gibson and Glazer even compared it to a rock concert.
“That hemp panel was lit. The energy coming off of those activists, they’re amazing people,” said Gibson. “It was just so cool and inspiring. I just feel topped up with positivity and a lot of new information.”
Cannabis & Tech Today Managing Editor Patricia Miller ended the day by having an informative and inspiring interview with the Grammy-nominated artist Julian Marley.
“Healing the body is a very important thing, keeping the body strong and knowing what’s good for your body. When it comes to herb and the benefits of the herb, these are healings that we use everyday,” said Marley. “Even before cannabis was an industry, that’s what we used to do, we used to make herb tea in Jamaica and lots of different kinds of things, and you can feel what herb does for your body. So, being an herbalist, it feels only right to be a part of this industry.”
The cannabis plant brings us closer together, sparking debate, intimacy, and connection.
In a midst of a pandemic where social distancing is crucial, the cannabis community did what it does best: evolve and create something truly special from scratch.
Cannabis & Tech Today wants to thank everyone who joined the Winter Emerge 2020 Virtual Cannabis Conference & Expo.
While we would have loved to smoke with you in person, we know we will have many more opportunities to do that in the future.
The cannabis industry is here to stay.