Lorna Gaskin, Prohibition Partners
24 September 2021
‘It’s almost emotional to be back in a room with people’ said Jay Rosenthal, in his opening remarks at Business of Cannabis: New York. Last month, 300 delegates and speakers gathered in The Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center to explore the opportunities of the New York cannabis industry.
“We chose New York City for our first real world event because there’s no more important place to be in the cannabis world than to be right here, right now’’ explained Rosenthal, Managing Director of Business of Cannabis.
Yoko Miyashita, CEO of headline sponsor Leafly, delivered the opening keynote speech. Miyashita highlighted the position Leafly has built “right at the center of the cannabis community’’ and the economic benefits of cannabis legalisation. Using Leafly’s own data, she shared predictions of 60,000 new jobs being created “within the next five years of legalisation” and over “US$450 million in state taxes.”
Setting the tone for the rest of the day, Miyashita’s speech focussed heavily on social justice and social equity.
“If New York legalises in a way that’s inclusive and equitable, it will open the door for tens of thousands of people to earn a good living. For all of our lives cannabis has been wielded like a weapon, a tool to tear communities apart, but if we get this right it can become a tool to heal and it can help communities all over this country build back stronger. What a privilege it is to be a part of that story and what a profound responsibility.”
New York State Senator Liz Krueger is well aware of this profound responsibility. In her fireside talk, she explained why she sponsored the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) through the State Senate, a process which took a total of seven years, noting that “some things take a long time, but are worth doing”.
Senator Krueger spoke about how she has witnessed, first hand, the disparity between the number of arrests of people of colour and white people, and has seen the damage done to peoples’ lives by convictions for cannabis offences.
Senator Krueger shared some of the political calculations behind bringing a bill to law, how border wars helped to push legalisation, and took a surprising stand on dairy-free yoghurt, playfully claiming “it’s disgusting!”.
Cy Scott, CEO of sponsor Headset spoke with excitement about the New York market. With a “US$1.1 billion dollar market” in year one, Scott spoke of the potential, saying: “New York is going to grow to about US$3 billion plus. In just a few years time, you would be second in size only to California.”
Scott was optimistic about the growth of the consumer market expecting a “wave of further normalisation” to “drive new consumers”. He noted the opportunities of the Gen Z market. With the legal age for adult-use consumption being 21, only 21-24 year olds sit in this category yet are “a pretty compelling generation, they do about 10 to 15 percent of sales.”
Scott summarised: “Really, what’s not to like, right? It’s going to be a $3 billion plus market, paving the way, while really leveraging all these insights that they’ve learned from other states to avoid these pitfalls.”
Jay Rosenthal closed the summit by thanking the sponsors, the team, the speakers and the delegates along with announcements of more upcoming events from Business of Cannabis and Prohibition Partners.