Dance-offs, giveaways, inspiring content, and an immersive virtual reality world filled with friends and colleagues were just a few of the highlights from day one of the Spring Emerge 2021 Virtual Cannabis Conference & Expo.
Day one launched with a spotlight session featuring Dr. Chanda Macias, the CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare, Women Grow, and the National Holistic Healing Center. Macias helped pass legislation in Louisiana allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis as a treatment for any health issue, rather than a preset list of qualifying conditions. She shared, “It was important, when I started my career in cannabis, that I make sure all patients have safe access.”
Her groundbreaking work in developing cannabis and hemp treatments for autism patients, as well as her advocacy on behalf of cannabis medicine have played an important role in increasing access to medical marijuana throughout the nation. As CEO of one of only two licensed cannabis cultivation facilities in Louisiana, Macias shared some thoughtful insights on what it takes to gain a competitive advantage in cultivation and how companies can use that power to better serve the cannabis community. She concluded, “The attitudes and beliefs about cannabis are opening up. We’re making great headway. Still, my heart and my mind goes out to those patients who have limited access to a medicine that can truly help them.”
The Virtual Event Platform
The Emerge Conference takes place in a virtual platform called Hyperfair. Attendees register through the event website and the platform opens through their browser window. Once registered and logged in, the platform operates as any other webpage, except users can interact with the Emerge world using virtual avatars. These characters can be dressed in a variety of attire and users choose their desired gender and skin tones.
Hyperfair introduced some new features in February of 2021. Users can now perform a variety of actions, such as dancing, waving, or raising their hand. Plus, attendees can now access the virtual world via their smartphones. The smartphone feature was highly sought after in previous Emerge events, so this feature brought a whole new demographic of attendees into the platform.
Virtual Panel Key Takeaways
The Spring Emerge 2021 Conference themes were Sustainability and Cultivation. With such a broad theme, attendees were treated to a wide variety of sessions and panels. One popular session was “Building Corporate Social Responsibility in the Cannabis Industry,” hosted by Marc Ross.
He advised companies seeking to make an impact with their social work need to do more than just donate to nonprofits. “Start with a vision, get a mission statement, then establish your values,” said Ross. He believes corporate social responsibility is a powerful tool in customer retention. “Customers become evangelical about your brand when you focus on CSR.” In a resource-intensive industry like cannabis, this is an especially important concept for both customers and businesses.
In the “Top Growing Tactics for Successful Cultivation” session, panelists discussed how to improve yields while also supporting sustainable agriculture. Owner of Franny’s Farmacy Franny Tacy noted how her farm uses complimentary plants to maintain healthy hemp crops. For instance, she shared “We put peppers in, which are a natural insecticide, all around our fields.” She noted how important it is to keep inputs like chemical insecticides to a minimum.
In a similar vein, Creative Opportunity Advisor for Impello Bioscience Tim Gordon and CEO Michael Key discussed the value of microbes in the “Understanding the Cannabis Microbiome for Optimal Cultivation” session.
They shared the importance of soil health in creating robust crops. In the last fifty years, the nutritional profile of many fruits and vegetables has declined due to poor soil health. With cannabis, soil quality can also impact terpene profiles and trichome development. The duo are passionate about creating a rich ecosystem for crop development, in both traditional and hydroponic growing practices. “When you’re growing a plant in any media you need to embrace the presence of these microbes,” shared Key.
Another popular session, “Women in Cannabis Cultivation and Manufacturing,” highlighted some of the women pioneering the cannabis farming sector. COO of Flora Terra Alicia Wingard advised fellow entrepreneurs to “Hire smarter than you,” to ensure a diverse team of intelligent people who can support your vision. Moderator Karen Mayberry agreed, noting “Build a really confident, strong, smart team and you’ll do really well. It’s really all about your team.”
Marijuana Legalization and Legislation
CEO of The National Cannabis Industry Association Aaron Smith led a discussion focused on legislative changes affecting the industry in 2021.
“Cannabis deserves a seat at the table,” said Smith. He discussed New York’s looming legalization efforts, the importance of equity in any new policies, and the impact of high taxes on creating a thriving legal market.
The manufacturing and science track covered everything from infused beverages to hemp construction materials. Dr. Jonathan Thompson, CEO of extractLAB hosted the “Top 3 Factors for Profitable Sustainability in Manufacturing Facilities” session.
While he covered many important facets, one stand out takeaway encouraged attendees to consider the carbon lifecycle of their products from ideation through to sale. “The method of how products are produced plays a huge role in the carbon footprint of a product, especially when we are talking about producing on a massive scale.” Thompson continued, “There is definitely room for improvement on all fronts. That is why I love events like these, where we can share ideas, and make new friends and connections.”
Creating consistency was an enduring theme in the manufacturing and science track. Henry Baskerville said it well during his “Opportunities in the Edibles Manufacturing Space” session. He shared, “I think the packaging is key, as is consistency in terms of dosage and quality of product. What we are seeing in the rise of edibles, it’s not people who were buying eighths in high school, it’s professionals who want to know if I eat this edible, this is how I’m going to feel.”
Looking Ahead at Day Two
Ultimately, it was a day of deep insights and some surprising interactions. From spur-of-the-moment dance parties to thoughtful conversations with some of the industry’s most innovative thinkers, day one of the Spring Emerge 2021 Conference had something for everyone.
Day two is sure to inspire and inform as well, with a special session from Montel Williams, exhibitor giveaways, and more than a dozen educational sessions with top industry executives. Tickets are now available at https://emergecanna.com/get-tickets/.