By now I’m sure we’re all sick of the COVID pandemic, literally and figuratively. I know I am. Staying home, practicing social distancing and generally not being able to go out and mingle with other humans is painful, and masks are a hassle.
But if you’re smart, you do it because it’s what the medical experts tell us is the responsible thing and the best way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Given the choice between listening to a Ph.D. or an M.D. with years of experience studying infectious diseases or a six times bankrupt, reality TV star/real estate developer with a background that includes fraud and tax evasion, I’ll follow the doctors’ orders, thank you.
Which gets me to my next point: As I mentioned above, COVID is a giant hassle. It’s changed how we do business, interrupted our lives, messed with our children’s schooling and generally caused havoc in the economy. However, while many businesses have suffered (mostly small businesses), other have thrived. The stock market is doing well because the big tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook are recording record profits and growth. These five tech giants account for nearly 20% of the stock market, and the way business has changed actually benefits them. To put it another way, as one of my friends in venture capital pointed out, it would take roughly 300 American Airlines to equal the stock valuation of Apple.
Luckily, the cannabis space at the production/retail level has also fared well. Stores stayed open, growers kept growing and, with the obligatory adaptations for social distancing and sanitation procedures, the business has changed little.
In most legal states, cannabis sales have actually increased at the store level. Even in the most mature markets, including Colorado, Oregon and Washington, retailers are seeing record sales during the pandemic. In Washington, most of the store owners I know have had few problems beyond increased employee absenteeism and shortages of certain products. However, not everyone in the space has fared as well as retailers. Almost every single trade show or in-person event has been canceled or rescheduled.
In their place, there has been the rapid emergence of the virtual trade event. Are they working? From what I can gather, the simple answer is “no.”
And the reason should be easy to understand: Trade shows were invented as a way for people who did business together remotely to assemble in one place at a physical location for face-to-face meetings. In other words, the whole reason for trade shows was to get folks who only knew each other from letters, phones calls, faxes, emails and text messages to meet face-to-face. Attempting to recreate real human interaction in a virtual setting is like trying to make Trump honest. You can try, but in the end, it’s not going to work. There are just some things that make no sense: using gasoline to put out a fire, voting Republican if you’re not rich and cynical, taking sand to the beach and producing virtual trade shows.
I look forward to things getting back to normal. At Marijuana Venture, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to host our B2B event, Interchange, in November in Renton, Washington, with a few minor adjustments in place to ensure the safety of all participants, of course. It will be our first in-person event since the fall of 2019, and I know cannabis business owners and managers are looking forward to being able to network face-to-face again.
Like most of you, I miss the day-to-day activities and human interactions that come with business, and I hope the coming months bring some relief. With that in mind, please wear your masks and don’t listen to idiots who think they’re smarter than they are.