The Canadian cannabis business sector witnessed the return of a staple in the industry with the first Lift & Co. Expo held since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been 29 months since the last time the Toronto Convention Center hosted a Lift cannabis event.
Shawn Pierce, president of strategic events, meetings and incentives at MCI Group, the company overseeing the branding of Lift & Co., told the Investing News Network (INN) that setting up the event again was a challenge made especially difficult living in a world that is still enduring a global pandemic.
This Lift Expo was supposed to take place in September 2021, according to Pierce, but was delayed to wait for more widespread availability of vaccines effective against COVID-19 in Canada.
When asked about the sentiment surrounding the cannabis industry, Pierce said stock market momentum and rundowns for cannabis have led to a sector that is now more mature and thoughtful.
The last Lift Expo in Toronto took place in 2019, a time described by Pierce as a bursting point for the industry on the investment side, when investors were not seeing the returns they had expected.
“I think that that was unabashed enthusiasm that was running amok there,” Pierce said.
In its previous iteration, before a bankruptcy and reorganization, Lift & Co. was a publicly traded entity and ran a variety of businesses aside from its event-hosting duties. These included data-creation programs for the industry and budtender training programs.
Pierce told INN he wants the Lift Expo to represent a gathering space for the industry, and he is not looking to revert the company into those business operations just yet.
Industry members speak on experience of revisiting Lift Expo
Alison Gordon, founder and former CEO of 48North Cannabis, a publicly traded company now owned by HEXO (NASDAQ:HEXO,TSX:HEXO), told INN that getting back on a conference stage helped her reignite her passion for collective conversation in the industry.
Gordon, who co-founded the cannabis product-focused boutique sales agency Other People’s Pot, said these events are vital for growing a network of connections and are absolutely necessary for building relationships in the industry. “I don’t know how anyone is starting in the industry without these relationships,” she said.
George Smitherman, president and CEO of the Cannabis Council of Canada, said Lift provided him with an opportunity to finally get to meet some of the people he’s been talking with online for the better part of two years.
For her part, Trina Fraser, a partner at Brazeau Seller Law, admitted to feeling a little strange returning to an event of this scale. “Before COVID, I was doing this at least three or four times a year, so it was quite an ordinary occurrence,” the cannabis lawyer said.
Fraser agreed with Gordon’s emphasis on the community and relationships built out of events like Lift.
“I’m based in Ottawa, and virtually none of my clients are in Ottawa. So these events are the opportunities that I have to get face time with my clients,” Fraser told INN after a full day hosting the Lift Cannabis Business Conference, held on November 18.
What’s the future of the Lift Expo?
Pierce told INN he is thrilled about the Lift Expo’s numbers in terms of audience attendance.
“We’re hitting all of our expectation numbers, so I can’t be happier in those regards. I think we’re probably 25 to 30 percent off of where we would be in normal times,” Pierce said.
When asked about next steps for the health of the event, Pierce said the team decided to skip hosting a Lift Expo in Vancouver during 2022 and instead will move ahead with a Toronto show in May. However, he didn’t shut down the idea of doing a Vancouver show again in the future.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.