Source – https://www.forbes.com/sites/katieshapiro/2019/01/09/marijuana-and-music-converge-at-the-2nd-annual-aspen-high-summit/#338540576b79
While the mega-marijuana conferences of the world continue to grow in size and frequency — MJBizCon welcomed 27,600 attendees to Las Vegas in 2018 alone — one under-the-radar cannabis confab has quietly earned the reputation as the industry’s most exclusive, must-attend event.
The Aspen High Summit is what co-founder Jim Lewi has coined as “the anti-conference,” which by invitation only, brings 150 of the leading minds in marijuana and music together at altitude every December for interactive panel presentations, outdoor adventure excursions, group dinners and late night sessions at the Limelight Hotel in downtown Aspen.
Presented in partnership with the Arcview Group, it’s a sister, prequel event to Lewi’s long-running Aspen Live conference, a think tank-type gathering for music and live entertainment executives. Overseeing cannabis business for Red Light Management in Los Angeles, Lewi first came together with Arcview, the largest network of high net worth cannabis investors in the world, at the Emerald Cup in 2016 (another event he co-produces).
Soon after, Lewi got to work with Arcview president Steve DeAngelo (also known as a legendary legalization activist and CEO of Harborside Health Center) and Arcview CEO Troy Dayton to launch the first-of-its-kind conference in 2017 with a mission to connect the music and cannabis industries and encourage collaboration in preparation for the federal legalization of marijuana.
Arcview also hosts a year-round schedule of Investor Forums across the globe, often including “Shark Tank” style pitch sessions for its members in attendance. It’s also a go-to resource for comprehensive market research with its most recent report estimating that legal cannabis business will generate $57 billion globally by 2027.
“It’s all about the hang here. The best business relationships aren’t made at a trade show booth and business deals aren’t done from the stage … it’s done on the slopes during the day and sitting around the fire at night, smoking really great weed and having really smart conversations,” says Dayton. “In this industry, we are all working so hard, so having this opportunity to truly connect with those who care so much about this plant and movement is what makes the Aspen High Summit so revolutionary.”
Schmoozing on such a small scale is exactly what draws such high profile industry insiders to attend.
“The annual cannabis conference calendar is packed with standard format investor conferences and trade shows, so [Acreage was] attracted to the laid back format of Aspen High. The location, schedule and organization allowed for more high-quality, in-depth interactions between attendees,” says Acreage Holdings chief marketing officer, Harris Damashek.
Wick & Mortar founder and CEO, Jared Mirsky adds, “The relationships I made at Aspen High could have easily taken me three years to develop in any other conference circuit. Given the fact that I speak at nearly 30 conferences a year, that’s saying a lot about the value and quality of people you can expect.”
The highlight for Mirsky and most attendees, though, were each of the six afternoon panels over the course of three days. While much of what was said was asked to stay exclusive to attendees, the issues Aspen High tackled this year ranged from “CBD: The Fastest Growing Sector Since Cannabis” to “Investment Trends in the Maturing MJ Industry” to “Celebrity Endorsement of Cannabis Brands.” During his opening remarks, Dayton encouraged everyone in the room to think of themselves as panelists.
“There currently is no other conference like it, which makes it extremely valuable and the town hall format is what sets it apart. This creates an open conversation for everyone in the room to give their opinion and expertise which develops each discussion with valued perspectives and actual experience,” explains Munch and Company founder and president, Freddie Wyatt.
“Unlike other conferences, participation is very much encouraged. It was an exceptional opportunity to be able to partake in what felt like a dinner table conversation between a group of highly accomplished cannabis professionals,” adds Jojo Marina LLC founder, Jojo Frey. “Once you find yourself in the laid back town of Aspen surrounded by the beautiful, humbling Rocky Mountains, you drop all pretense.”
But the biggest issue that came up in almost every conversation? The way both industries can continue to work together to shift the stigma that still surrounds cannabis. During his keynote address, DeAngelo begged the question, “Does [your] cannabis content help us deconstruct the stigma or does it reinforce the stigma?”
After taking some time to reflect post-conference, DeAngelo shares, “We directly confronted what I think is the central challenge for cannabis content and content producers: how to break out of the stigma ghetto. We heard some of the reasons for the dearth of quality cannabis content — like the belief of cable advertisers that association with a positive cannabis show would be detrimental to their brands and the similar reluctance of A-list talent to participate in a pro-cannabis project. But I do believe we are on the verge of a change, because Hollywood is beginning to realize that breaking stigma is exactly what is needed to make cannabis shows and films successful. All we need is one breakthrough hit to drive the lesson home.”
From a legal standpoint, Bernstein IP managing partner Karen J. Bernstein cautions, “There are so many issues surrounding how celebrities could be terminated by companies outside the cannabis industry for endorsing cannabis products because their moral rights clauses prohibit them from speaking or imbibing in substances that are federally illegal.”
MedMen SVP of business development, Kellen O’Keefe says, “Cannabis legalization is a process, not an event. We need to keep working, keep pushing the ball forward. All of the issues are important. Mainstreaming marijuana is about helping cannabis consumers to come out of the closet so to speak and stand by their right to consume responsibly.”
The 3rd Annual Aspen High Summit will commence December 1-4, 2019. Before then, accredited investors can attend Arcview’s Local Investor Night in New York City (January 23, 2019) and International Investor Forum in Los Angeles (February 5-7, 2019).