Trade shows are almost always excessively boring.
Unless you have a product to sell or an operation to buy for, the best you can hope for is a few complimentary cocktails and enough refillable water bottles and branded bottle openers to last several lifetimes. The first thing one notices when walking into Hall of Flowers is that things are a little different when it comes to the cannabis trade.
Taking place from Sept. 18 to 19 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Hall of Flowers kicked off its third “season” (the first was in 2018, the second earlier this year in April) with a layout that featured three exhibition halls packed with vendors of all shapes and sizes. In addition to some of the industry’s bigger brands like Bloom Farms, Cookies, and Kiva, a number of smaller, more regional operations were also represented.
Taking a big picture view of things, Hall of Flowers represents one of the best chances for buyers for dispensary chains like MedMen, Harborside, and mom and pop operations throughout the state (and beyond) to connect with new growers, products, and trends. If it all sounds a bit corporate and gross, it should also be noted that almost everyone at Hall of Flowers is either about to consume, currently stoned, or making plans for their next session.
In one area between two exhibition halls, a Mediterranean-themed patio was laid out with carpets, bean bag chairs, and plenty of spare matchbooks and lighters. Walking through the outdoor space, you’re never sure if the folks on either side of you are simply taking a break from running their booth or putting the finishing touches on a multi-million dollar deal. Both things happen with regularity at Hall of Flowers.
For Graham Farrar, founder of Santa Barbara’s Glass House Farms, Hall of Flowers represents an opportunity to expedite the building of relationships that has long served as a cornerstone of the pot market.
“There’s really not another B2B show out there,” Farrar says. “Arguably, it’s the only place to have retail, manufacturing, and distribution under one roof. People can do two months of work in one day here.”
His colleague, Saman Razani, serves as Glass House Farms’ Vice President of Manufacturing and agrees that the atmosphere of Hall of Flowers is another thing that sets it apart.
“We’ve gone to a couple of different shows like MJ Biz,” he explains. “It’s nice to see the diversity of people walking around here — it isn’t just people in suits.”
Be it suits or tenuously unbuttoned dress shirts, the Silicon Valley sharks were undoubtedly circling. However, as Razani observed, Hall of Flowers does not enforce a dress code of any kind. That meant the majority of attendees wore shirts and jeans, while some embraced the congenial mood by coming to the Sonoma Fairgrounds in outfits that bordered on costumes — all in the name of celebrating cannabis.
The two-day event’s most notable moments included an unannounced visit from actor Seth Rogen, who recently launched his own Canadian cannabis company, Houseplant, with longtime co-writer Evan Goldberg. The affable comedian seemed utterly delighted to wander the halls and take in the surreal site of a fully operational trade expo devoted solely to cannabis. Clearly the sales for Vacation — a cannabis brand from musicians Sublime with Rome — are going well as the company opted to give one lucky giveaway winner $50,000. That should be enough for a permit and a few ounces, right?
It was warm in Santa Rosa, which made the existence of a hydration station sponsored by CannaCraft a welcome oasis. Some folks seemed understandably confused to learn that no water was actually available there — only the company’s Hi-Fi Hops in three doses (including a newly announced 18:1 CBD:THC formula). To be fair, water was widely available for free throughout the fairgrounds, but it did somewhat perfectly encapsulate the current state of the cannabis industry to watch people trying to order water be told that they could only get pot-infused beverages.
In summary, the general public is arguably right to ask what Hall of Flowers has to do with them. Though the event is an industry-only affair, in its third edition, the team behind Hall of Flowers has clearly made a compelling case to be the cannabis equivalent of the literary world’s BookExpo America or one of several craft brewing B2Bs that have come to be considered “must-attend” events for those in the marketplace.
It’s entirely plausible that Hall of Flowers will be the place where the big deals — either confirmed or by rumor — for cannabis go down. If that’s true, we’re lucky to have it so close to San Francisco. Just maybe bring your own water.