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Attending my third cannabis expo and conference was just as enlightening as the first time I dawned a media badge.

Kevin O’Leary headlined the events, but the true excitement came from the faces of the people brave enough to take a stand for something they believe in.

The Grow Up Conference and cannabis expo in Niagara Falls Ontario brought together thousands of cannabis activists, enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs to celebrate the birth of a legal industry. Moving closer and closer to legalization, these conferences are more and more like a giant shower for a legal weed baby.

Everyone at the Grow Up Conference and cannabis expo had some kind of relationship with cannabis, be it love, disdain, passion or another emotion. More so, almost everyone at the conference has an interest in seeing the legal industry thrive, succeed, and grow into the mature market being we all know it has the potential to be.

It’s interesting because as “caregivers” in the proverbial cannabis parenting industry, we all have different beliefs about how our children should be raised. We say things like: “our cannabis should be organic,” or “our cannabis should be sold by people who understand cannabis.

But with a legal industry moving into place before our eyes, government and private industry have different vested interests than the large population of cannabis culture activists.

Grow Up Conference and Cannabis Expo Recap

To be blatantly honest, I put together a recap that no-where close to covers the scope of this conference. There were over 100 speakers and even more side speaker sessions. Instead of striving to cover everything, I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite parts.

From the keynote address with Kevin O’Leary to the cannabis expo floor and side speaker sessions, here is the 1-2-3 on the Grow Up Conference and Cannabis Expo in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Key Note Address — Kevin O’Leary on Cannabis

Kevin O'Leary Grow Up Conference and Cannabis Expo

Kevin O’Leary takes questions after his keynote address at the Grow Up Conference and Cannabis Expo.

Kevin O’Leary took the stage at the Grow Up Conference and Cannabis Expo with the poise and confidence we all expect from Mr. Wonderful. He touched on a bunch of generic entrepreneurial advice that we’ve seen in some of his other talks. O’Leary also referenced past Dragon’s Den Episodes and brought them up on the screen to hammer home his point.

It was classic Mr. Wonderful, but everyone in the audience was waiting for his specific comments on cannabis. After the initial intro, he started to elaborate a bit more. O’ Leary stated that “cannabis is a commodity,” and the companies that were going to differentiate themselves, were the ones that built a brand with a loyal following.

A big part of this following is due to the power of social media, O’Leary continued. Brands that can leverage the power of storytelling online have vast, low-cost reach that dwarfs the return on investment of companies that refuse to engage in social media.

Kevin O’Leary on Cannabis in Canada

Kevin O'Leary Grow Up Conference and Cannabis Expo

Mr. Wonderful talks cannabis at Grow Up.

On the topic of Canada, O’Leary undercut the value of the recreational market. He said that international investment and interest is coming from science and the value of medicinal cannabis. O’Leary did, however, comment of Canada’s place in the future of cannabis. He stated,

“There is no question that Canada is leading the charge.”

The true opportunity that sits for Canada is of a scale that dwarfs other industries.

“Canada can own it,” he said. “That potential I’ve never seen in my investment lifetime.”

The Cannabis Expo Floor

Kevin O'Leary Grow Up Conference and Cannabis Expo

The expo floor had a lot of investment put into it. You could tell from the look and feel of the exhibitors that this was a more business-focused conference, compared to more consumer-based events we’ve seen from the LIFT Cannabis Expo.

The number of professional services, technology, distribution, and manufacturers.

Side Speaker Sessions

I had the chance to catch several speaker sessions at the conference. One that stood out as a different included Jessica Nudo, co-founder of the Elevated Collective and Stoner Bites, as well as cannabis influencer and social media mogul Marley a.k.a. TweedleDoob.

The two touched on leveraging social media in the cannabis space and discussed some of the challenges and opportunities that come with this new legal industry.

Stay tuned for a full interview with both of these ladies.

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