Since its inception, the Hall of Flowers cannabis industry conference has been all about the business of weed. Taking place at California’s Sonoma County fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, Hall of Flowers has become the cannabis equivalent of the tech sector’s Dreamforce, uniting cultivators, dispensaries, brand representatives, press, and more in a sprawling, two-day affair that can feel like equal parts boardroom meeting and a chance to smoke out with friends.
Naturally, last year’s festivities — slated to be the conference’s third installment — were postponed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to doing away with the Sonoma-set event, organizers were also forced to postpone a planned expansion into Palm Springs. With the SoCal edition now scheduled to take place on Dec. 8 & 9, the festivities began with the return of its NorCal predecessor on Sept. 22 & 23.
Spread across the fairgrounds, this year’s Hall of Flowers filled three exhibition halls to accommodate the nearly 300 cannabis-affiliated companies with exhibitions. Among them were everyone from popular topical makers Papa & Barkley to representatives from Planet 13, who currently oversee California’s largest cannabis dispensary in Orange County.
Notable sights from this year’s effort included a Raw Gardens’ themed vintage pick-up truck, a lawn packed with bean bag chairs to enhance outdoor consumption enjoyment, and even one attendee who arrived dressed as “Terp Man” in a nod to Duffman from The Simpsons. The fun and merriment were matched by a never-ending stream of deals being done, industry news being debated between engaged groups of peers, and the requisite sharing of coveted free samples.
Beyond a staggering array of booths and on-site activations, the event also featured a Core Conversations series that welcomed the likes of Cannaclusive founder Mary Pryor and MJBiz CEO Chris Walsh, who shared their individual expertise with audiences in special sessions that occurred throughout the two-day event. In addition, a sprinkling of celebrity sightings — which this year included Jim Belushi of Belushi’s Farms and former UFC world champion Chuck Liddell — only further added to the upbeat vibes.
Overall, the mood was fairly laid back, possible as a result of notably warm weather but more likely due to the fact that most attendees were simply happy to be back after a forced and frightening hiatus.
While virtual gatherings, combined with legal cannabis being declared “essential” in California and elsewhere at the pandemic’s onset, ensured the industry stayed plenty busy during lockdown, it was clear from the smiling faces and heartfelt hugs that nothing can replace the magic of physically gathering together, talking shop, and, of course, getting high.
“It’s almost like a high school reunion,” Rick Fisher, chief revenue officer for Santa Barbara’s Canndescent, told MJBizDaily during the event.
Speaking with Forbes prior to his appearance, Jim Belushi gave his own take on what makes events like Hall of Flowers so special to those who attend. While this year marked Belushi’s first Hall of Flowers experience, he’s become a fixture at industry events thanks to his 93-acre Southern Oregon farm and a new Discovery Channel reality series, “Growing Belushi,” which documents his foray into the legal cannabis industry.
“Yes, I’ve been hearing about Hall of Flowers for a while now,” he said. “I get excited to attend any cannabis event because the community is enlightened. And if they aren’t enlightened the plant will drag them there, and I want to be there when it happens.”
Prior to the Palm Springs edition of Hall of Flowers in December, organizers will team with MJBiz for the latter’s MJBizCon, to be held in Las Vegas from Oct. 19-21. As the largest cannabis industry show in the game, the opportunity to partner with MJBizCon will only further cement Hall of Flowers’ status as a major player in the cannabis conference world.
For now, many attendees will be resting up before another journey north to attend Meadowlands, a cannabis industry retreat set to take place from September 30 to Oct 3. Another annual event which was forced to postponed last year’s edition due to the pandemic, the intimate camping and networking opportunity will return this weekend to Camp Navarro, located 11 miles outside of Mendocino.
Slowly but surely, the good stuff is returning.