It seems like Las Vegas has a trade show for everything—and that includes cannabis. MJBizCon recently hit the Las Vegas Convention Center for three days, showcasing vendors, seminars, conferences, and exhibits dedicated to squeezing dollars out of cannabis plants.
The event fosters a sense of community, all united in the feeling the pot business has gone legit. Yet despite all the progress, signs of trepidation still exist. While scouring the exhibit floor, I interviewed a business owner eager to discuss his handcrafted edibles—at least until I pulled out my digital audio recorder. “Oh no… I don’t want to be out there,” he said, waving me away.
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What were some of the trends, products, and services that caught the most attention in Las Vegas?
Sniffing out Smells
After 30 years in the odor control business, OMI Industries launched the Cannabolish line of products in April. The brand is targeted specifically to cannabis users who don’t want their clothes, homes, or cars to smell like smoke.
“You’re not getting this weird, funky, fake fragrance on top of cannabis odor,” says Senior Director for Strategic Partnerships and Business Development Melinda Adamec. “We’ve developed a formulation that eliminates the odor molecule from cannabis and tobacco smoke.”
Cannabolish is an alcohol-free, non-synthetic proprietary blend of plant oils with wintergreen as one of the primary ingredients. It comes in 8oz ($11.99) and 2oz ($4.99) sprays—the latter is small enough to pass a TSA security check. A soy-based candle with a 30-hour burn time is destined to become a fixture in dorm rooms around the country. “The candle has to warm up, but the oils actually vaporize off of that and into the air,” says Adamec. “The spray is immediate odor control.”
We don’t recommend taking a puff while on a work break. But if you do, add some Cannabolish to your stash.
New Convenience in Lighters
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. The Toker Poker is a small plastic case that fits around a standard Bic lighter and includes a built-in packer and poker.
“It solves the age-old problem of cleaning out your pipes with paper clips, bobby pins, toothpicks, or whatever you have laying around the house,” says Matt Bodenchuk, who began selling the product about five years ago. “Now you have a poker that’s attached to your lighter when you really need it the most.”
“It's kind of a shocker that nobody came up with this 20 years ago.”Matt Bodenchuck , Founder of Toker Poker
The built-in tamper is an easy way to pack down herb without using your fingers or the corner of a lighter. Wrap a hemp wick around the bottom of the case and use it when ready to light up.
“Light that wick, touch the flame to your bowl, pod, or whatever you’re smoking, and then you’re inhaling residual organic hemp rope soaked in beeswax,” says Bodenchuk. “It makes the herb taste better and there are health benefits by not inhaling the butane—it’s a simple, innovative product,” he says. “It’s kind of a shocker that nobody came up with this 20 years ago.”
Big Equipment is Getting Bigger
“It’s happening everywhere,” says Pete Patterson, co-founder and COO of Vitalis, an extraction technology company. “Bigger, bigger, bigger. There’s more capital to scale up and professionalize operations.”
Patterson notes that GMP (a recognized standard for “Good Manufacturing Practice”) is bringing processing and cultivation to a new level of quality. “There’s a lot more that goes into building a piece of equipment right now,” he adds. “It’s way more complicated than it was two years ago.”
Vitalis makes a point to create machinery at “the highest level” in order to accommodate not only regulations that can vary from country to country, state to state, and even municipality to municipality, but also anticipate new regulations that could take shape in the future.
The largest piece of equipment coming off the company’s production line is the R-400, a 400-liter CO2 extraction system—with options to go even bigger. Recent custom orders have included a 3,000-liter CO2 system and 5,000-liter ethanol system. “The market is saying ‘this is great, but can you do bigger?'” says Patterson. “This industry is moving so fast.”
Going North for Financing
Even though the cannabis industry is expanding at a rapid rate, federal restrictions remain in place. That’s why US companies and operators are looking to Canada to secure financing.
“Over the last 12 to 18 months, you've seen a large number of US operators go public in Canada.”Scott Hammon , COO of MGO-ELLO Alliance
“The money is coming from all over. The ecosystem happens to be in Toronto,” says Scott Hammon, COO of the MGO-ELLO Alliance “You’ve got the investment bankers who are willing to work with cannabis companies when most US investment bankers wouldn’t. Even if they would, there’s been limited demand for such companies in the US markets.”
Some companies are looking to grow from one state to another. Others are simply looking to expand in the same geographic footprint. Either way, you have to spend money to make money—and the MGO-ELLO Alliance is promising A-to-Z services to get finances in order, from audits to taxes and everything in between.
To make these cross-border transactions happen, the alliance works with Calgary-based MNP, one of the leading tax and accounting firms in Canada. “Over the last 12 to 18 months, you’ve seen a large number of US operators go public in Canada,” adds Hammon.
Decarboxylation is a vital step in modifying cannabis for medical purposes. However, the wrong decarbing process can compromise the overall plant profile and degrade the cannabinoid content. That’s why Harvest Direct invented LACY, a piece of machinery that captures the true medicinal properties of cannabis in pills, topicals, or virtually any other non-smoked form.
LACY won first place in the MJBizConNEXT Innovation Battlefield competition earlier this year. The technology preserves the “entourage effect,” in which major compounds retain and utilize their minor elements to increase positives and decrease negatives. The same principle explains why a concentrated caffeine pill might give you a more jittery sensation than the complete profile found in a cup of coffee.
“There is data that shows CBD alone isn’t helping with epilepsy the way it should,” says Gharib. “There’s data about how THC alone deals with pain but can cause paranoia. That’s because those isolated forms are missing out on the entourage effect.”
Vapes are Getting Smaller
When you already have a wallet and smartphone in your pocket, it feels like a hassle to carry around a vape pen as well. Los Angeles-based TMA Labs is the inventor of the Roach 1, billed as the smallest fully disposable vape cartridge in the world. With a height of less than 48 millimeters, it’s hard to argue.
“It’s supposed to be fun, and if it gets taken away at the club … whatever.” says CBDO and Cofounder Mark Hoashi. “Your weekender who comes to Vegas for a show doesn’t need $80 worth of weed. They just want to buy .3 grams and be done with it.”
TMA Labs customizes cartridge shells based on design, color, shape and texture, which are especially attractive to brands looking to promote themselves. “If you want to make it look like you’re smoking out of a Christmas tree, we can do that too,” says Hoashi.
Cannabis with a Suntan
Studies have shown that in greenhouse settings, UVB exposure to plants can increase THC content by 30%. That information was shared by Emil Breza, co-founder and president of AgricUltra Advancements, a company that develops equipment to manipulate UVA and UVB rays in growhouses.
“It's your secret and no one is going to know how you did it … No one can replicate it because only you know the recipe.”Emil Breza, Co-Founder and President of AgricUltra Advancements
“We know this works because plants grown in very high altitudes, which get exposure to more UVA and UVB, tend to have higher THC concentrations,” says Breza.
The discovery isn’t new, but the affordability and advancement of LED technology is, opening the door for cannabis growers looking to create premium THC-enhanced versions of familiar strains. AgricUltra’s most advanced product is a high-performance four-channel light fixture, which can be customized for indoor conditions. Fine-tune the lights and discover the sweet spot.
“You can have a tailored cannabis profile that only your grow has,” explains Breza. “It’s your secret and no one is going to know how you did it. And if they want it, they have to come to you. No one can replicate it because only you know the recipe.”
Kalvara just hit the shelves and is currently available in Las Vegas dispensaries, including partner Exhale. The product is advertised as the first cannabis cocktail, which is more-or-less accurate if you’re looking under the “ready-to-drink” category. “There’s a couple of other drinks on the market, but none with our technology,” says Nevada Brand Manager Tyson Burkett.
Each 2 oz. serving comes with 10mg of THC that’s suspended in nitrogen and instantly infused with the drink once the cap is turned. “It’s called sonic emulsification — that’s how we break the oil down,” explains Burkett. “That way, you don’t have to metabolize it. As soon as (the THC) hits your mouth, it’s applied orally.”
Kalvara comes in a citrus flavor, doesn’t have to be refrigerated, and appears to have an indefinite shelf life. The THC dosage is precise, making the product more consistent and reliable than say, your typical edible.
Grow Houses that Grow Vertically
The phrase “time is money” can apply to virtually any business. Well, space is money too. That’s why vertical hydroponic farming is becoming more attractive to grow and harvest operations.
“We sell turnkey systems for the cannabis side of things,” says Eric Levesque, co-owner and sales manager of ZipGrow. “We’ve been getting approximately 450-675 grams per square foot, compared to the industry average of 39.”
The company’s commercial vertical farming towers tend to be around eight feet high with enough room for 12 plants. After three weeks as a seedling, about an ounce-and-a-half can be harvested from each plant with a quick five-week turnaround.
“We were talking to a customer who is looking to get a 15,000-square foot building for a license he just got for 1,500 plants,” says Levesque. “We would be able to grow 2,400 plants in 500 square feet of growing area. So we’re really minimizing that space and we’re saving water.”
Feeling the Freeze
“If you don’t use freeze-drying, you have to use [an alternative] drying process that takes seven days,” says Dan Neville, CEO of Harvest Right. The process is already widely used for food and pharmaceuticals, but is now being discovered for cannabis—with results in a quick 24 hours.
“The marijuana industry is like the brave new world … There are a million ways to do things.”Dan Neville, CEO of Harvest Right
“And during that process, you’re using heat, which destroys the material. You’re also letting mold, microbes and things like that grow. It compromises the product.”
Harvest Right produces freeze-drying equipment specifically designed for the cannabis industry. The units are “smart,” just press a button and you’ll hear a beep when it’s done. The company produces four models, ranging in price from $2,000 to $10,000, but can customize larger sizes.
“The marijuana industry is like the brave new world,” adds Neville. “There are a million ways to do things.”