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2019 Global Meeting Industry Day: Cannabis and the Events Industry

Cannabis has been legal in Canada for just under six months, but has already had a transformative effect on industries across the country. Today, MPI Toronto gathered a panel of experts from the cannabis industry to discuss the impact it will have on the events sector today and moving forward, from risks and liabilities to opportunities like cannabis experiential spaces.

This event was held in celebration of Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), an annual event that showcases the real impact meetings have on people, business, and the economy.

Speakers’ Spotlight was happy to sponsor our very own Jay Rosenthal, the co-founder and president of Business of Cannabis, Canada’s authoritative source for news and analysis of the cannabis industry. He was asked to join the panel to provide context and insight into this dynamic and fast-evolving sector, while also helping event professionals to understand how cannabis can fit into their business.

Jay was joined on the hour-long panel by Dela Kumapley from Lift & Co, Tony Priolo from the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, Matt Maurer who is a partner and vice-chair of Tokin Manes LLP’s Cannabis Law Group, and Jonathan Hiltz from Indiva, who moderated.

Here’s what we learned:

Get Informed and Be Proactive

Across the board, all panelists agreed that the one thing event planners need to do is be proactive in their understanding of the regulations and legalities surrounding cannabis consumption and purchase. These can differ depending on the city where your event is taking place.

Whether your event attendees consume cannabis or not, they are likely to be curious about it. Just as you are able to inform them about where the nearest liquor store is, you should also be aware of where the nearest cannabis store is — cannabis tourism is a budding new industry in Canada! This is also important in counteracting the cannabis black market and in ensuring your attendees don’t run into any trouble.

If you’re looking at hosting cannabis companies as exhibitors or sponsors, there are strict regulations on how these companies are able to promote themselves. So, it’s also important to get informed on the business side of cannabis because if you break the rules your event or organization could be held responsible and fined.

For Ontario-based events, Ontario.ca/cannabis is a great up-to-date resource.

2019 Will Be the Year of the “Pot-io”

In 2019, we are already seeing big events, especially if they take place on government land, creating cannabis-specific spaces. For example, the Toronto Craft Beer Festival will host a “pot-io” this year, which is a designated space within the event for people to consume cannabis.

“Every event I’ve been to, whether Cannabis-themed or not,” Jay says, “there’s always a group of people who are consuming cannabis. They always find each other. It’s already part of the conference experience, and now you can make it official.”

At this point, this is as far as event planners can go — it cannot legally be distributed at events. As legal cannabis continues to roll out across Canada though (retail stores just opened in Ontario this week!), and new products emerge, Jay says that attendees will start to expect more.

Edibles and Drinkables Will Change the Game

Next stage of legalization is edibles and drinkables, which will be legalized by October 2019 latest. The introduction of these products into the market, as well as other more discreet methods of consumption such as a vape pen, will change the cannabis landscape. These new options will likely open the market up to a whole new consumer-base.

“If a group of people are on a patio and someone offers you a joint, you’re more likely to turn it down,” Jay says. “But if you’re at an evening event and are offered a cannabis cocktail, I bet you’d be more likely to say yes.”

In the next five years, Jay says, alongside beer and wine options will be a cannabis cocktail — it won’t be a novelty, it will be an expectation. As methods of consumption mature, consumers will be able to control their dosage, so that one cannabis cocktail will give the same buzz as 1-2 beers, plus it won’t give you the nasty hangover the next day.

And in the next 5-10 years, Jay expects that edibles will be an hors d’oeuvres option!

Your Responsibility as the Event Planner

During the audience Q&A, one MPI Toronto member was concerned about the responsibilities and liabilities of an event planner when it came to cannabis consumption at their events. The panel explained that the same rules around liquor also apply to cannabis, and that event planners will have responsibilities up to a certain point just as they do with liquor.

If someone looks impaired, they said, no matter what they’ve consumed you stop serving them.

Lift & Co. also created “CanSell”, which is basically the SmartServe course for cannabis. This is currently mandatory certification for Ontario cannabis retailers, and they can see this certification applying more widely as edibles and drinkables become legalized.

As a final note, they encouraged event planners once again to stay informed about the legalities around cannabis to keep their attendees well-informed and to protect themselves when partnering with cannabis companies.

In his information-packed talks, Jay Rosenthal explains key differentiators between how Canada and the United States are regulating cannabis; the promise of medicinal cannabis; and what the future has in store for Canada as a world leader in the cannabis industry. He also looks at the impact that cannabis may have on workplaces, and the burgeoning cannabis market as it pertains to entrepreneurs, technology, finance, and trade.

As a respected expert in the cannabis sector, Jay has presented to a variety of industries from insurance to law, Fortune 500 companies to associations.

Interested in learning more about Jay and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at info@speakers.ca.