The New West Summit cannabis conference can’t seem to catch a break. Last year it had the unfortunate timing of occurring when there were huge wildfires. This year the conference had to carry on through the drumbeat of protestors.
It certainly wasn’t the fault of the conference organizers that union workers were protesting the Marriot hotel. Protestors banging drums and yelling at conference guests made for an unpleasant experience. Many attendees confessed they felt terrible crossing the picket lines. It also affected the conference’s speakers and exhibitors.
New West Summit Executive Director Jim McAlpine said, “We had 10+ speakers back out, several exhibitors back out and a LOT of attendees who did not come and asked for refunds.” This reporter had a panel member back out and not attend as a result of the protestors.
“I was going to be interviewing former Men’s Wearhouse CEO George Zimmer on stage but he canceled due to strike as well,” said McAlpine. Zimmer is now the CEO of Generation Tux and is a well-known advocate for legalization.
The conference also got off to a rough start as computers didn’t cooperate during the initial check-in causing long lines and the wifi was mostly non-existent. The space itself had poor reception causing many attendees to have to step outside to make phone calls. If you’ve attended any conference, being cut off from the ability to work while inside is frustrating.
Several attendees suggested that attendance had dropped, but McAlpine said that the numbers were the same as the previous year, but that the exhibition floor was bigger making it look less crowded. He also noted that there were more panels that were spread out over more rooms, so that made it look as it attendance was lower.
Many of the top cannabis industry professionals did attend, while KCSA’s Phil Carlson hosted an investment track featuring numerous public companies.
McAlpine said, “We expected about a 25% increase and were on track for that.”