Social equity, preferably known as equity empowerment, was the name of the game at the 15th iteration of the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference (BCCC), which took place at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago on September 13 and 14. Adult-use cannabis consumption, possession and sales of cannabis products are legal in the State of Illinois.
Through the BCCC series, Benzinga “strives to put a spotlight on the conversation surrounding social equity via panel discussions with organizations that are combating inequality in the cannabis industry, individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, and policymakers who are leading the charge on writing legislation to undo the impacts of prohibition,” according to the company event’s website.
Keeping in line with that mission, Benzinga offered discounted conference tickets to owners of marijuana businesses that have received state certification for their social equity initiatives.
Women + Minorities
Additionally, Benzinga offers scholarships for women and minority-owned businesses. To that end, the company partnered with organizations, including WomenGrow, and Minorities for Medical Marijuana, to showcase their associates on Benzinga’s conference stages and in the exhibit hall.
One of those presenters included Amber Senter of Supernova Women. Despite suffering from Lupus, Senter leads the charge via her 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to empower BIWOC to become self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space through education, advocacy, and network building.
In the expo hall, female-represented brands were out in full force, including Chicago Norml’s Edi Moore, My Bud Vase’s Doreen Sullivan, MtoM’s Christine Wilson, Illinois Equity Staffing’s Shawnee Williams, HerHighness’ Allison Krongard and Laura Eisman, Budwell’s Sara Hussain, and CannaBellaLux’s Tiffany Woodman, among others.
Women-led brands who pitched from the stage included House of Puff’s Kristina Lopez Adduci, Black Buddah’s Roz McCarthy and 40Tons’s Loriel Alegrete.
In The Ring
Apart from the strong representation of female brands, Benzinga also welcomed more than 150 speakers from top-performing cannabis companies. Three executives of Tyson 2.0, including the legendary heavyweight boxing champion himself, landed on the roster. While retired from the sport, Mike Tyson is now a regular on the cannabis conference tour. During his press conference in the expo hall with former iconic WWE superstar Rick Flair, the latter said, “I love being relevant; and being in marijuana keeps you relevant.”
Benzinga’s VP of Events, Elliot Lane, is pleased with the level of participation from all avenues.
“Chicago was our 15th iteration of the Cannabis Capital Conference and second this year,” he said. “The turnout of industry executives, investors and media was overwhelmingly positive, and the response from our attendees has been glowing.”
The Envelope Please…
Of special note were the first annual Benzinga Awards. “Finding the best of the best in cannabis is no easy feat, but someone has to do it. So, we assembled a panel of high-level judges to help us determine who are the people and organizations driving the cannabis industry forward,” said Chief Zinger Jason Raznick.
According to Benzinga, the awards celebrate new, creative, innovative and outstanding people, solutions and companies in the cannabis industry.
The winners of this year’s Benzinga Awards are as follows:
- MOST IMPACTFUL CANNABIS EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Ben Kovler, CEO, founder and chairman of Green Thumb Industries
- “BRETT ROPER AWARD” FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Nancy Whiteman, founder and CEO of Wana Brands
- FRIEND OF THE INDUSTRY AWARD: Rep. David Joyce (R) of Ohio told the audience: “God bless you all for taking on this fight. I am going to keep doing my best to help you.”
- CANNABIS ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR: Mary Bailey of the Last Prisoner Project
- SOCIAL EQUITY AWARD: Desiree Perez of the The Parent Company
- BEST CANNABIS LEADER UNDER 40: Luke Anderson, co-founder of Cann
- ACHIEVEMENT IN BUILDING TRUST: Emily Paxhia, co-founder of Poseidon Investment
- MOST EFFECTIVE CELEBRITY CANNABIS BRAND: Cookies, founded by Berner
- CANNABIS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF THE YEAR: US Cannabis Council
- CANNABIS LIFESTYLE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jon Cappetta, High Times Magazine
- CANNABIS POLICY REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment
- CANNABIS FINANCE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Tim Seymour, CNBC
- CANNABIS BUSINESS REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Berke, Insider
- BEST EUROPEAN CANNABIS COMPANY: TILRAY Brands
- BEST LATIN AMERICAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Khiron Life Sciences
- BEST CANADIAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Village Farms
- HOTTEST CANNABIS TECHNOLOGY: Weedmaps
- BEST CANNABIS LAW FIRM: Foley Hoag, LLP
- BEST CANNABIS ACCOUNTING FIRM: Crowe LLP
- BEST INVESTMENT RESEARCH: Scott Greiper, Viridian Capital
- BEST CANNABIS INDUSTRY ANALYST: Matt Bottomley, Cannacord
- BEST USE OF CAPITAL: Jushi Holdings
- MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS LENDER: Pelorus Equity Group
- MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS ETF: YOLO – AdvisorShares
- CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – INSTITUTIONAL: Ricky Sandler, Eminence Capital
- CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – PRIVATE EQUITY / VC: Mitch Baruchowitz, Merida Capital
- BEST CANNABIS RETAIL EXPANSION STRATEGY: Trulieve
- BEST CANNABIS PARTNERSHIP: TILT, which brought a true social equity partnership to the Shinnecock Indian Nation
- BEST USE OF CAPITAL: Jushi Holdings
- BEST M&A DEAL: Flora Growth
- MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY OPERATOR: Geomat Patented Water Recovery Systems
- MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS BRAND: Miss Grass
- MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS SMALL BUSINESS: House of Saka – Cannabis-infused wines from Napa Valley
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