Greenhouse Management: You’ve been covering the cannabis industry since 2014. What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in that time?
Noelle Skodzinski: The biggest changes by far are the influx of major investment funds and corporations, along with companies and executives from well-established industries moving into the cannabis space, in addition to the market consolidation that’s occurring right now.
In 2014, this was still very much new to most people, and many others were not even aware of what was happening in the legal cannabis industry. The people launching cannabis businesses in 2014 were largely veterans of the cannabis industry, whether cultivators or medical marijuana patients and advocates with a passion for bringing marijuana to the masses. Since late last year, we’ve seen international companies such as Constellation Brands, parent company of Corona beer, Black Box wine and Svedka vodka; Heineken’s Lagunitas Brewing; and Altria, (owner of Philip Morris USA), jump into the cannabis industry through partnerships or acquisitions.
It has very much become a more professional and competitive industry, even as federal prohibition stands. Along those lines, we are also seeing cultivation businesses become much more technologically and operationally advanced as businesses strive to reduce production costs under price pressures and produce consistent products time after time, especially in the medical market, but overall as well.
GM: How did you end up covering the cannabis industry?
NS: I had been following the industry as medical marijuana legalization began its sweep across the nation and as the first states — Colorado and Washington — legalized adult use in 2012. And I had been looking for a place for [myself] in the industry. With nearly 20 years as an editor behind me, obviously the best fit for me was in editorial. As I was contemplating how I might put my skills to use to advance the industry, I connected with a longtime publisher, Tim Hermes, who also was looking to launch a business-to-business publication serving the legal cannabis industry. Together, we brought CannabisBusinessTimes.com and a weekly enewsletter to the market in September 2014. (Editor’s note: Our parent company, GIE Media, purchased Cannabis Business Times in April 2015.)
GM: The 2019 Cannabis Conference, hosted by Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary, takes place this April 1-3 in Las Vegas. What are some of the event highlights in terms of speakers, panels, etc.?
NS: Our keynote panel, “Global Cannabis and Your Role,” is one highly anticipated session as the global marketplace and foreign — largely Canadian — companies are increasingly acquiring U.S. assets and expanding their geographic reach and market share. Many smaller companies — which still make up a third of cannabis cultivation businesses, according to our “2018 State of the Cannabis Industry Report,” and potentially an equal number of dispensaries — fear whether or not they will be able to compete against large corporations. This panel, which will feature leaders of successful businesses throughout North America, will delve into this aspect of the marketplace and what plant-touching businesses of all sizes can do to survive and thrive.