In 2015, medical cannabis was legal in Massachusetts but dispensaries had yet to open. Simultaneously, the push for adult-use legalization was losing its momentum. The regulatory standstill frustrated the founders of NECANN, who were long-time believers in the power of cannabis medicine. Their first event in 2015 was Founder and President Marc Shepard’s response to these unfavorable conditions. Many attendees had their first cannabis business experience at those early conventions. Shepard believes that in helping lead the event space, NECANN has helped increase the pace of the cannabis industry’s development.
“We thought that having an event that educated people on the medicinal potential of cannabis and the fact that recreational cannabis was a serious, lucrative, professional industry would help regain momentum,” Shepard said.
NECANN has expanded throughout the Northeast since its inaugural event in Massachusetts. Each event draws regionally relevant presenters and exhibitors, and both the speakers and advertorial efforts focus on stimulating growth in the local cannabis community. Speaker tracks represent the multi-faceted industry, covering cultivation, extraction, ancillary businesses, and more. Rather than stacking the speaker tracks with exhibitors, speakers bring unique niche expertise.
NECANN actively works to recruit relevant, knowledgeable speakers, which creates a dynamic roster of lectures and conversations that differ from the sometimes canned cannabis convention speaking circuit. The first keynote was an impromptu speech from legendary sportscaster Bob Lobel, who walked in as an attendee. Shepard approached Lobel to see if he would be interested in speaking, and he delivered a keynote to hundreds of attendees. More recently, in 2019, Niambe McIntosh delivered the keynote on how social justice must be a guiding principle in the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry.
The insightful programming draws attendees who are equally interested in the exhibition floor. In addition, NECANN has built advertising opportunities that help exhibitors convert booth visits to sales. There are presenting and programming sponsorship opportunities that can be tailored to individual advertisers. The team, who understands that legalization efforts are often community-led, also donates 10% of the exhibit floor’s booth space to local activists and community leaders. Businesses who showcase on a NECANN floor will have the chance to meet local industry leaders, learn about the regional market and make lasting business connections.
For attendees, the draw is the proximity to education, career opportunities, and entrepreneurial ventures. NECANN ticket prices remain two to 10x lower than their competitors despite robust attendance. The affordability allows small businesses to gain a foothold through networking and education, creating a more diverse local industry.
“Cannabis is going to be a billion-dollar industry in this state — more than enough to go around. Our goal is to help make sure a fair share of it stays with local businesses & communities,” said Shepard. “Advocacy for access to affordable medicine and education for patients remain standard fixtures in the programming for all of our events, and medical-focused non-profits make up the majority of our donated booths.”
Lastly, while most states that legalize cannabis begin to prioritize the adult-use shops and producers, NECANN knows that this regulatory swing left many patients behind without their trusted products, support, and familiar dispensaries. Therefore, both the speaker and advertising content are structured around keeping the patients in mind, which will hopefully carry over into the legalized state economies. The NECANN team will focus on this positive impact as they continue expanding into newly legalized medical and adult-use states.
Since its founding, NECANN has grown alongside many U.S. cannabis businesses while maintaining its foundations of building local businesses and preserving medical cannabis. To learn more about exhibiting or attending the upcoming NECANN events in the Northeast, visit NECANN.com.