By Lois Thomson

“Everyone needs money to operate their business,” said Patrick Lane, and anyone looking for opportunities in the cannabis industry might be able to find them at the Benzinga Cannabis Conference at the Fontainebleau Miami Hotel, Feb. 24 – 25. As Senior Vice President, Partnerships, Lane said Benzinga is a financial media company that covers markets, and cannabis is currently one of the hottest sectors.

He said the conference plans to showcase the best possible companies and investment opportunities for its users, which in this case are investors. “The goal is to facilitate networking between them – companies and investors – as well as the business-to-business relationships between companies that are interested in partnering in order to help grow the businesses. Those are the two core pieces of what we do.”

Lane mentioned some of the topics, saying one focus will be on the American multi-state operators, who will discuss the building businesses for both medical and adult recreational customers. There will also be a panel focused on the licensed producers (LPs) gaining a foothold in the United States, much of which is through the hemp CBD.

“We’ll talk about the Cannabis 2.0 rollout in Canada, the different products and companies. That’s going to be really interesting because it’s not from LPs’ perspective, it’s going to be from the folks that are helping prop up this new aspect of the industry – the extractors, the edible makers, probably a retailer like High Tide. Those are the different perspectives we’re going to get.”

Because so much activity will take place during the two-day conference, attendees should be prepared for a fast-paced experience. Whereas at other conferences you might sit through a 30- to 45-minute keynote speaker presentation or a panel that runs for an hour, that’s not how Benzinga organizes its events. “We move quickly through our content. A panel to us is 25 minutes long, a keynote speaker no longer than 15 minutes. It’s a bit different from what you would see at other events, and we like it that way. I think the age of sitting in a room and listening to an hour-long panel is gone. We’re in that sort of fast-food culture, and the content has to be fast and engaging.”

Day 2 of the conference will consist of company presentations and networking. According to Lane, each company that registers will receive 20 minutes in a breakout room, generally with 75 to 125 people attending in each room.

However, that’s not to say attendees will not be able to enjoy a bit of Florida sunshine during their stay. Nicole LaPointe, Executive Vice President of Operations for Benzinga, explained she handles day-to-day operations, including logistics and speaker management, and makes sure all events are on track. She said that while Benzinga holds cannabis conferences around the country, this one will be the second in Miami, with people coming from all over the nation, as well as from Canada and overseas.

“(Last year) we made the Miami event feel like a retreat. We gave time for outside activities and receptions, and we’re doing that again this year. People really enjoyed it because it was not just ‘Oh let’s go to this conference,’ but instead, ‘Let’s take some time in the sun and also get some business done.’ So we had really good outcomes from that, and that’s why we’re doing it again.” Approximately 750 people attended the previous conference, and Lane is estimating 800 or more this year.

LaPointe manages her responsibilities for all of Benzinga’s conferences, not just ones relating to cannabis, and Lane added that working in different areas “offers us an interesting perspective in terms of how we approach this industry. A lot of companies in cannabis only do cannabis, but we’re approaching it from a different angle. We’re more associated with the Wall Street crowd, with investors, with people who are trading, moving capital in the market. It’s important that we have the ability to focus on any sector, and cannabis is just one of them.”

He concluded, “There are a lot of conferences these days, but hardly anywhere else will you have the caliber of executives in one room (that will be at this conference) in terms of the companies themselves, as well as a really well-vetted group of investors. We’re talking about family funds, private equity, institutions – which is really the bread and butter of what these companies are looking for in terms of raising capital.”

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