Hall of Flowers 2023 highlights a bifurcating industry in flux
Hall of Flowers 2023 was a unique California experience that had all ends of the spectrum. From craft to boof and everything in between. Just like every year, there’s some good and some bad. People often hear me talk about the false dichotomy between indica and sativa – but I’m starting to see that there are boolean true dichotomies in the cannabis industry, too. Something about inevitable bifurcations (forks in FOSS parlance) in any social setting. There’s the half that’s ok with spraying terps, and there’s the half that aren’t. There’s the half that asks “what is this?” before smoking it, and there’s the half that asks after, and only if they felt some type of way about it. There’s the half that follows rules and the half that doesn’t follow rules. The word “half” was used liberally. Never forget that the cannabis “industry” used to be 100% those that did not follow the rules. We’re obviously some way through the transition and probably way past 50/50 at this point, but maybe things are coming to a head – or maybe it just always seems like that.
While rules on no smoking or even dabbing inside were strictly enforced, being able to spark one with an old acquaintance is part of the appeal of showing up to events like this. I still saw lots of that, and that’s the true hallmark of a successful cannabis event. Hall of Flowers might should consider a rename though because we’re fast reaching a point where flower isn’t half the attendees.
It’s worth noting that it has only been seven months since the last one – in the exact same location. Differences are thus easier to note, for anyone. Certain symptoms let you know about the health status of the industry. I’ma go with the good/bad/good news sandwich.
Hope shines through at Hall of Flowers
Equity Grant Winners, Farmers & Small Batch Area
Hall of Flowers highlighted six Equity Grant Winners:
- Dakota West Coast
- Dope Flavors
- Oakland Equity Collective
- Bush Family Farms
- Sunrise Mountain Farms
- Green Gift Gardens
The booths that I ended up having some of the best conversations at always ended up being one of the Equity Grant winners that were interspersed among all the booths. It’s very refreshing to see Hall of Flowers allow brands that would never otherwise be at Hall of Flowers have a chance to shoot their shot.
Another area that I pointed people to at every chance – were the ones at the end of Hall B in the Farmers and Small Batch area. They weren’t even booths, technically – just tables that in some cases were being shared by two or even three brands.
Cool peeps like Ice Box Flat Farms, Wood Wide Farms, True Humboldt, Humboldt Homegrown, and many more.
If you missed chatting with these folks, hit them up
Also shout out to the few genetics companies that showed up. Special shout out to the only piff in the house. A picture of Oakland Piff by Phinest Genetics. Still haven’t spotted any Cheese on the Cali market. Two diesels though and even a single forbidden fruit.
Visible signs of flagging legal cannabis revenue
On the exhibitor, some might say that innovation has ground to a snail’s pace. I saw multiple consumer-facing brands with the same things they had last year – I imagine these were those subscribed to the down to the oft stated business mentality here to sign up more dispensaries with their tried and true products. I even had a chance to catch up with Smoakland’s Chang about the competitive nature of consumer goods – which the cannabis rec market absolutely is a part of.
He emphasized that the same way that you can’t show up to CES or E3 with the same stuff every year, so too should the level of competition at Hall of Flowers evolve. Some brands are doing it, some aren’t.
To that end, there are brands that didn’t show up at all – brands that came back and had smaller booths, brands that came back and had bigger booths, and many brands that decided to only show up as attendees. The whole spectrum, all because even in a year after tax revenue has dropped for the first time in legal cannabis history, California has to defend against brain drain extra hard right now and showing face is still showing face. That being said, the elephant in the room was a certain lack of certain larger players – like certain MSOs that had abandoned the state, ones that owe money to many of the brands present – and their ilk.
I saw so many prerolls. So many cartridges and disposables, and oh so many more cartridge companies than last year – all different ones, too. When I hear “we have the same manufacturer as CCELL” as the top selling point, I know I need another hit. On the plus side, I wasn’t expecting to speak so much Chinese at Hall of Flowers and it’s always nice to practice – even if it’s just to say I don’t want your hard liquor.
Lots more beverages (the ones you expect), lots more consumer education on nano but still not enough. Speaking generally for a second: Reps or straight up employees that don’t know the product are yet another sign of bad times. Speaking of which, I saw the hardest flex that I can think of in the nano edible/drinkable space… some nano’d ice cubes. They’ve gotta be tasteless right? I didn’t try so I can’t actually say.
Value added products are the name of the game right now. The more steps involved in making your product, the more idle hands you can occupy.
Here’s a free tip. Proper infused prerolls can’t be cones because they will clog.
LA was in the house
The Dabwoods booth deserves a special shoutout. There was an unwinnable claw machine inside – but Dabwoods had a human claw machine on the outside that was very winnable. Seemed like people were having fun!
Everywhere you walked around outside at Hall of Flowers, you’d hear the sound of Adam Ill announcing. I saw some LA brands that I had only heard of through the screen. Laughing Gas, JOSH WAX, AIMS LA, and many more.
Hall of Flowers: A media frenzy
Cannabis media is still going strong.
Maybe it’s cuz I can recognize more faces, but I particularly appreciated seeing the cannabis media working as hard as ever. From Respect My Region to LEAF Magazine, High Times, Leafly, the Dazed and Confused Podcast, GW Smoke Break, Beard Bros, SF Gate, and so many more – it’s validating to see this part of the industry striving.
The role of the media and influencers is often overplayed, but can’t be underplayed. One such side event at HoF was the Daybreakers by Grasslands Agency.
This is the part that I want to focus on: The events surrounding the hall of flowers are the bow on top of the present. They’re the true indicator of what’s going on in the industry. They’re where the uncensored conversations can happen.
I got to meet Ellen Holland, the current Editor in Chief of High Times who shared some words during her fireside chat with Ricardo Baca of Grasslands Agency:
“We are making our legacies now, and it’s important to write them down.”
Later, I got a chance to talk with her and delve more into what she meant with that call to action. I had taken it to mean that too much legacy culture is being forgotten by the wayside – she saw it as a reminder that all the seemingly fruitless efforts of today and the recently trodden path will eventually be seen as the cornerstones of whatever is built in the future. Having both come from news backgrounds where the royal “I” was royally taboo, she told me that she had struggled in the past with that transition until she finally embraced her place in the story. She told me:
“Don’t be afraid to write yourself into the story.”
Welp, here I am – writing myself into the story.
The attendees still love Hall of Flowers
When attending these events as press, I always like to get feedback from the attendees that paid full ticket price to attend. Whenever I see a group of people moving in unison at one of these events and I haven’t seen them behind a booth, I know they’re power attendees. I shimmy up behind them as they’re doing their rounds and it’s always an interesting conversation. They’re here to make connections, after all. One such group I joined for a sec had come all the way down from Washington and were walking around wide eyed like “ooowee!”
Classic Hall of Flowers snafus I’ve either witnessed or committed myself:
- Mistaking a brand name with the same brand name but from another state
- Mistaking a brand name for the same brand name but spelled differently
- Being a Zombie on day 2
- Not having enough or any stock of your brand’s best strain
- Going to the wrong afterparty. See Jon Capetta’s take.
Go to the one with Luxe Rolls.
As a lifelong marketer, I thought the best marketing materal in the entire building were these descriptions by Mike at Fig Farms.
I also really like Type 2 cultivars and Country Cannabis’s Mendocino Train hit the spot.
The Estes fam was also in attendance.
Hall of Flower Unicorns
There are certain stories that you hear told at the Hall of Flowers among exhibitors. They go something like this:
“Well known Person A from Brand B said Cultivar C from Brand D is the only thing they’ll go to a dispo to buy.”
Those are the unicorns I make sure to leave the event with. In this particular instance, that sample was Dutch Treat from Wood Wide.
It’s funny to say, but even at events like this it’s clear to see how – with the exception of capital intensive processes such as nano’d drinkables – the legacy market is still leading the legal market… especially on the flower and concentrate ends.
Here’s an example: Many brands had infused prerolls – only a handful had hash holes, hasshholes, or straight up hashholes called asshholes. I thought it was like an opinion and everyone would have one. Thanks for reading mine.
PS: I did meet someone named Chad. He wasn’t wearing a suit, and he seemed like a great guy.
PPS: If a booth is offering alcohol to anybody that walks by – they shouldn’t be at a cannabis event and are actually an active liability to the culture and the organizers.