Despite a global pandemic, cannabis is one of the few industries that has grown throughout 2020 and 2021 — and that’s nothing compared to the gangbuster growth expected through 2025.
Here to tell us more is Chris Walsh, President and CEO of Marijuana Business Daily.
Learn more at https://mjbizdaily.com
[1:05] An inside look at Marijuana Business Daily, the most trusted business news outlet for professionals in the cannabis industry
[1:41] Chris’ background in business journalism and how he came to be CEO of Marijuana Business Daily
[4:04] How cannabis regulations have changed over the last five years and what that could mean for the industry going forward
[7:36] Surprising reasons cannabis managed to survive and adapt during Covid-19
[10:51] Why cannabis retail sales could double to put the industry at a 38 to 45 billion valuation by 2025
[13:23] Aspects of the market Chris believes investors and business owners might be underestimating
[17:14] Surprising new trends that are quietly taking hold in cannabis right now
[23:43] How more legalization for recreational cannabis could diminish the medical cannabis market
[30:24] The last states standing between the US and full cannabis acceptance
[34:59] How job growth in cannabis doubled from 2019 to 2021 despite Covid-19’s economic recession and spiking unemployment rates
Matthew Kind: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com, that's C-A-N-N-A insider dot com. Now, here's your program.
Matthew: Despite a global pandemic, cannabis is one of the few industries that has grown over 2020 and 2021. Even with all that growth, we're looking at a gangbuster growth rate through 2025. Here to tell us more about it is Chris Walsh, President, and CEO of Marijuana Business Daily. Chris, welcome back to CannaInsider.
Chris Walsh: Thanks for having me on again. Excited to talk about this crazy business.
Matthew: It's been five years since you've been on if you can believe that.
Chris: [laughs] Feels like 20.
Matthew: Well, give a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?
Chris: MJBiz is based in the Denver area and I live in a suburb of Denver. That's where I'm talking from today, from my house.
Matthew: Okay. What is Marijuana Business Daily for the person that doesn't know out there?
Chris: We provide news and analysis and market research on a daily basis for executives and investors and professionals in the cannabis industry. Then we also have another side Hemp Industry Daily for the same audience anyone who's in or looking to get into the hemp business. We run large B2B trade shows and conferences including a big one every fall in Las Vegas, MJBizCon.
Matthew: Yes, that's a lot of fun. I've been to that. Since it's been half a decade, could you just share a little bit about your background and journey and how you got into the cannabis space?
Chris: Yes, absolutely. I was a long-time business reporter and editor at mainstream metropolitan newspapers. I had moved to South Korea in my early 30s and figured I would live abroad for a while. I worked as an editor at an English language newspaper there on the business desk. Then I came back to Denver in 2011. When I left two years prior to that, there were no dispensaries to speak of, medical marijuana wasn't an industry. I worked at the newspaper in Denver and we weren't covering that on the business side because there was nothing to cover.
In just two short years while I was gone, when I came back there were more dispensaries than Starbucks in Denver and we realized there was this huge opportunity to serve the industry with news and market research and analysis, all the things we're doing now. It was about that time in the spring of 2011 that MJBiz Daily launched. I helped build the content and the strategy around that then we expanded into professional business events. I eventually turned more of my attention to the business side and helped grow the company from that perspective.
In January of 2020, I became CEO, and then two three months later we hit the pandemic [laughs] and went into that chaos for the last year. We've grown a lot along the way and really chronicling the industry and helping the industry professionalizing it, giving it good objective news and insights, and our MJBiz Daily and our conference, MJBizCon, and everything we're doing has grown along with the industry as well over these years. It's been a fun experience over the last decade.
Matthew: Is there any good Korean barbecue in Denver or did you just skip that since you can't get it?
Chris: There are actually a couple of good places here. It's a fun experience if you haven't tried it because you basically grill your own meat at the table in a little fire pit in front of you. There's a couple here that do that. It's an enjoyable experience.
Matthew: Good. Well, Chris, the last time you were on the show, as I mentioned was 2016 and the industry was so much smaller back then and the regulatory framework was very edgy. Things didn't look as certain as they do now. Where are we now? What do you think the biggest challenges and opportunities are in front of us?
Chris: Well, the regulatory situation is still challenging and it shifts very frequently. Every state is handling this industry very differently from the jargon and terminology used by legislators and in the regulations all the way up to how the industry operates. It's still a very piecemeal industry and it depends on the state and oftentimes the city that you're operating in that really define the business opportunities and define what you can do in cannabis.
What we've seen since then is a lot of states there's a newer model that's emerged particularly in the Midwest and the Eastcoast that is much more planned out from a regulatory standpoint. Then the initial states did it a decade ago like Colorado and Washington and Oregon. You do have a split in this industry. You've got the western side which is the old school players and the more mature markets. They've done things very differently from a regulatory standpoint than the eastern half of the country which are newer states to the game.
They've taken a different approach and they're different players involved. It's a lot more costly to get started. It has a lot more influence from the regulators and business people. That's what we've really seen crop up. There's still no really uniform way on the regulatory front that states are using. Even the newer ones, they pick and choose from what they see working elsewhere. They avoid the things that they think are mistakes that other states have made but there's been no cohesiveness around a regulatory scheme that works in multiple states.
Not much has changed from that perspective in that it's still this tapestry of differing regulations and different approaches. What we do have is this evolution over the years of states figuring out what works for them and what works for their patients and their consumers and they're still a long way to go, still a lot of trial and error and experimentation that's going on. This is a brand new area for everyone. It's likely going to be in this type of a situation for the foreseeable future. When we look at opportunities again, it's really on a state basis.
That's what's fascinating is the opportunities in California are completely different than those in a newer recreational marijuana state like New York. Whether it's allowing delivery or consumption lounges or capping licenses or having a free-for-all, you're just really seeing the opportunities vary by state. If you're in this business or you're getting in it, you have to be really aware of that. There's no one-size-fits-all approach. Much of that is dependent on the regulations but the consumer bases are also developing differently across the country and the wants and needs of the people buying cannabis are different in different areas.
You have to approach it with that framework and really get to know each market on its own.
Matthew: Is there anything that's surprised you in terms of how the cannabis industry has survived and adapted during COVID-19?
Chris: I'm floored at how the industry did. It's just an amazing success story. When you put it in historical perspective and think that it wasn't that long ago when marijuana was demonized by a fair percentage of the population. When we first started in 2011, the looks you would get, the questions when you said, "Hey, I'm involved in the marijuana industry," were very interesting. Even for someone like myself where we didn't touch the plant and still don't and we're just providing information and connections and networking opportunities, people were wondering back then what the heck you were doing getting involved in marijuana and think you went off the grid.
What's really surprised me is that in a very, very short period of time you have just the sea change in the approach. You have states that are now legalizing medical and recreational through their legislators not just the population. That's been a big change. Also just how quickly this caught on, how public opinion towards this has changed, with poll after poll showing strong overwhelming support for medical marijuana legalization and now strong overwhelming support for marijuana legalization in general. I did not think we would see this type of change happen.
When you look at the map of states that have legalized, we've been running maps of the US since 2011 and when we first started it was mostly blank in terms of states that had legalized at that time just medical. Now you look at the map and it's mostly filled in because the majority of states have legalized medical and an increasing number are obviously legalizing recreational. That rapid change in how this industry is viewed and perceived, the business opportunities, the immense growth that's come.
Then I have to say that the other two quick things are the mainstream interest in the industry has really been taking off for the last couple of years. I thought it might be a little while before you had the big alcohol and tobacco companies coming in because we've been chronicling this for a long time and they're hesitant because it's not federally legal but you're seeing an increasing number of mainstream companies coming to cannabis, making investments, buying up companies, developing products.
That has been surprising over the last couple of years that more and more big, big names, big household names, and brands are coming into the industry. The last thing I'll say which completely caught me off guard was that this is becoming an international industry and movement. We were really focused on the US for a long time and then we saw what was going on in Canada, we focused on Canada too, but you have more than two dozen countries that have legalized at the federal level medical cannabis.
Now you have discussions in Germany and other countries, obviously, Canada already legalized recreation and Uruguay but that kind of global development of this industry caught me off guard and those walls came down really quickly.
Matthew: How big is the cannabis market today and where do you see it going, what's your estimate by 2025?
Chris: Well, for this year we expect the retail sales in the legal market to be between $22 and $26 billion and that's a wide range I admit but tracking actual sales across the industry because every state handles this differently is very difficult. We put a range in, there's a lot of factors that go into it every year, every month, in fact, every week there's a different unexpected development in this industry, so it's really hard to project what's going to happen in two months, let alone in two years.
We use all of our experience doing this and we provide a range, on a low end we expect $22 billion and on the high end we expect $26 billion, it may fall somewhere between there. If everything goes right, we'll hit that higher number and that's very, very significant. We're approaching the point where marijuana sales are going to catch up to craft beer sales and the global opioids market, it's already past the NFL. That gives you least or some bigger perspectives of what these large numbers mean.
When we go forward, we look at what are going to see as more states legalize, as mature markets continue to grow and expand as there's the potential for this federal change at some point, hopefully in the near future, what is that going to mean for the industry? When we look forward, we think the industry could double in terms of retail sales by 2025 getting up to around $45, $46 billion if you're looking at this through an optimist lens.
Again, having done this for many years, a couple of years down the road is very hard to determine what's going to happen in this industry but we're comfortable with this range of $38 billion to $45 billion, anywhere from 70% growth all the way up to a doubling of the industry. We're not at the tip of the iceberg, we're below the water level and we can see how big this industry can be and the potential. There's still massive opportunities but a doubling from where we're at today is another $20, $25 billion in additional sales which translates to tons of business opportunities, investment opportunities, and more rapid growth in general in the next couple of years.
Matthew: What aspect of the market do you think investors and business owners are underestimating but you think are going to be big?
Chris: I think there's this hype right now about the potential for federal change and most people including myself are seeing the most likely scenario would be a shift in federal banking laws versus some kind of outright legalization bill which I do not think is in the courts any time soon. There's another potential for some type of move whether it's decriminalization, rescheduling or just allowing states under federal law to determine their way forward. There's those types of moves that could happen too which would change the industry tremendously but I think the most likely is a fix to our banking laws which accomplish a lot of what we want in this industry.
It would really open it up the types of banking services and investment money and funding that we don't have now and business certainty which is lacking when you have trouble finding banks. If that type of move happens which everyone is hoping and a lot of people are actually expecting and making bets that that's going to happen, I think what we're not really recognizing is that that's going to change things tremendously. It's not no like, "Hey, here's a panacea if this happens, we're all going to be millionaires overnight." It's not going to work like that.
Once the federal government is involved even on the banking side things will change. As we hope to see this easing of federal laws whatever that looks like, there's going to be a lot of new struggles and challenges ahead. Whether that's the banking authorities getting involved, whether that's the FDA, the way that the industry has evolved to date has been very haphazard and it hasn't had any of this federal guidance. We look to hemp right now to see what that looks like. Hemp was legalized through the 2017 Farm Bill and there're still many things that the federal government is working through and there's a lot of uncertainty.
If we use that as an example of what might happen when we see change on the marijuana side, it's going to be a long evolution and businesses are not all of a sudden going to have all the certainty they need and want. There's going to be new challenges on the horizon, new places we're going to have to spend money and then you're going to have this wave of I mentioned mainstream companies, that is going to explode even with banking. That changes the dynamics of the competitive situation.
That's not to say it's not on the radar of everyone, I just think that companies do realize this, they do realize the competitive landscape is changing, new skillsets are coming in, new experiences from the corporate world that's already disrupting parts of the industry. As that plays out, we all have to be prepared for another decade of fast growth combined with uncertainty, combined with a shifting landscape. How you compete is going to be a much bigger element of the industry than what it has traditionally been which is, "Hey, this is new, stores are opening up for the first time, there's these new products out there and this is rising tide for all the boats for lifting all the boats."
You're seeing this play out some of the more mature markets, you've got to be more competitive. I think some of that is things that we all need to prepare for, companies are at different stages and reading these tea leaves and getting their business in shape to meet these new challenges in the future.
Matthew: Chris, you talk to a lot of people in the industry, when you talk to executives, people operating businesses, what kinds of trends do you hear, and what keeps them up at night?
Chris: Well, I think you had the pandemic which kept everyone up at night for various reasons whether it was for your business or your personal situation. The industry faired pretty well during the pandemic. Overall, there were definitely pockets of pain in different niches of the industry and different geographic regions and different types of businesses. Some did experience pains, some went out of business, some are still struggling to get on their feet but in general, the last year has been pretty decent for the industry, companies are now coming out of this.
The industry deemed essential in many states and so we saw record sales across the country. Significant growth last year in retail sales of around 30% to 50% again depending on the ranges. That's good in any industry. I feel really comfortable and optimistic about how the industry moved forward in this time over the last year. Now, as we turn the page and we come out of this, what are companies focused on? They're focused on how they're going to survive going forward and how they're going to thrive.
I'm hearing more from some people who've been in the industry for a while, some entrepreneurs, the OGs of the industry, a lot of people are now looking at exit plans or at least getting the heads around what that might look like. That is something that is a relatively new trend. Not for maybe the newer entrants with more business savviness or investors who demand to have some outlines for an exit plan but for many, many years it wasn't even on the radar of people in the industry. They were just excited to be able to start a company in the cannabis industry.
A lot of them had a personal or previous connection with cannabis in whatever way they consumed it themselves. Maybe they were part of the illicit market but they had an affinity for the plant in many, many cases. They were just happy to be here, growing their businesses and absorbing all this excitement, and helping lead the industry forward without real thought on what the long term held for them. That's something that we experienced. You could not plan very far in this industry until recently.
Even now it's really hard but I mentioned earlier even doing estimates for sales there's a million factors that could come into play that no one can predict right now, what states are going to come online, how regulations might shift, how the federal government's approach might change, how new players will enter. All the things that I've mentioned made it very difficult to have a business plan that looked more than six months out. Now you're at a point where the industry, even though there's all these uncertainties, it's almost becoming a requirement to look further out than we ever have as an industry overall. You're seeing a lot of focus on midterm planning and even long-term planning, including exits.
Some people are tired. This is a grueling industry. It's exciting, but it takes a lot out of you. I think some people are considering new chapters for themselves or their companies. I'm hearing a lot more of that. They're also looking at the trends and you've got the mainstream companies, the mainstream investors coming in. If you've got a green rush going on and people are willing to and eager, and in some cases almost desperate to get involved, they'll pay a pretty penny. It's this exit strategy it's longer-term planning than in the past. It's where do I focus?
That's what a lot of companies are going through now is, what's changing the industry, what forces are at play? As I look at my spreadsheet of opportunities, which in many cases is huge because there are opportunities everywhere you look, everyone's trying to figure out, "How can I take a disciplined approach and a strategic approach for the future versus just winging it?" which many of us did. That's what I'm hearing from a lot of people, it's where do I fit in in the new dynamics of this industry and how do I focus my company around a core vision, a core strategy so that we're not getting distracted and going off here or there applying for licenses in any state that opens.
Whatever it is, and just randomly choosing how you're going to go forward, doing it with a much more focused lens.
Matthew: You have the factbook that just came out, when you had the very first draft of this factbook in front of you, was there anything that jumped out at you and surprised you?
Chris: Yes. Having done this for a while, it's hard to surprise me now [chuckles] because you just learn to be surprised all the time. As we were going through this, it's really the continued momentum and the shifts when it comes to product preferences. Flower is still, and as we've known it, it's the biggest part of the industry, and it's been eroding as you've got this array of new products and ways to consume. I think that that's a trend that we're really focused on and seeing what the true potential of edibles and beverages and vape pens are and all these other products out there, all the innovation going on versus flower.
As you look at just consumer behavior in general you look at smoking in general, people are trying to live healthier lifestyles. They don't want to inhale anything anymore, except for oxygen, of course. I'm interested to see how this plays out because now that you have these big beverage companies getting in and big CPG companies, they're seeing a big market here. I don't know what the true potential of it is and how much more share of the market they will take versus flower. Continuing to see this area of the industry grow, I think is fun to watch. It was fun to look at that this year too.
See, this is a huge area that I wouldn't say is untapped at all, but that represents a significant growth opportunity, and what the limit and what the ceiling is on that, we don't know but I think it's pretty huge.
Matthew: A lot of people don't talk about or hear about the medical cannabis market much, but it's still large and relevant. What do you think is most important to know about that?
Chris: I think the future of the medical market is very uncertain right now. As you've seen states legalize recreational, you over time start to see the medical program diminish and dwindle. There's still a base of patients absolutely who prefer going that route. It's usually cheaper in terms of taxes and there are some benefits for staying in the medical structure, but we're seeing a bigger migration away from the medical it's just easier on the recreational side. You don't have to get a card, you don't have to see a doctor. In some cases, there's a wider array of products available to you.
Where this goes in the long-term and whether states take the route of Washington, which basically merged its medical into its recreational, so it's just one marijuana industry or whether they try and keep them separate and what that means going forward, we don't know. There's still a big focus on the medical side in some areas. There's companies that are really focused on that patient base and doing things more from a health and wellness standpoint. It's hard when you've got the much, much, much larger recreational market and consumer base over there.
A lot of companies are tempted to just go in that direction. There's less of an emphasis in some cases on the medical side, from the companies that are out there. I don't know where this is all going to go on the medical side. It's definitely part of the discussion. It's great to see states continue to legalize medical, which is the 38 states have done that. It's the largest market in terms of number of states, but in terms of dollars and the opportunities, it's heavily on the recreational marijuana side.
In this grand experiment that we call state-level cannabis legalization and this experiment with this marijuana industry across the country, we have to see how it plays out. The early results in terms of medical, that it is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the market with less attention paid to it.
Matthew: One thing that's really hard to measure is the size of the unregulated or illegal market. Do you have any guesses or the best estimate of the size of that market in the US, or even any state?
Chris: I could throw out some numbers for sure, but hesitant to do that. We used to do estimates for the black market but what we learned over time is that there's really no good way to track it. Everything you're throwing out there, no matter what you justify it with, is really a big guess. You'll see now there's estimates from 30 billion to 100 billion, to 150 billion, it's all over the board. I say that because I'm hesitant to provide any type of numbers or range. What I can tell you though, is the black market or the illicit market varies by state as well.
In some states, it's been diminished for sure, as legalization has taken root and the legal market has grown. There's no doubt about it, that in every state, it has some type of impact on the black market. You just look to the sales numbers I provided earlier, we're talking $20, $25 billion in sales. Where would that be if it weren't for the legal market? Perhaps the biggest chunk would be in the underground market. Now, not all of it would be, there's people who are only using now who never used before and never would unless it was legal.
There's a big percentage that certainly fit that description but if you just take it on the base level and say, "If you've got $20 billion in retail sales, where was that money before, or had there not been a legalized market now?" I think there's a significant impact there. However, is what you do see is the illicit market is thriving in some areas because of poor enforcement, because of huge gaps between the cost with taxes, with regulations, the cost on the legal market versus the illicit market.
Then you are seeing this unfortunate situation where there's easy diversion because there isn't much oversight. People can buy mass quantities and go sell them on the illicit market or they can home grow and then sell even if they're not supposed to be selling it or even home growing. In some cases, it's opened the door for bigger aspects of the illicit market in pockets. That's worrisome. I don't think the black market's ever going away, but what we can say is that the legal market has not only generated all this money that's above board.
It's also gaining more traction with a lot of people because, let's face it, even if it's cheaper on the illicit market, there's a huge benefit for most people to be able to walk into a store, do it legally have the product selection that you only get in that regard have trusted brands have testing. All of the things that go along with that retail experience is a big benefit for many people. When you weigh that about saving some money and go into the guy down the street and going in his basement and having to share part of it with them or how that's done these days, I don't even know, that's only appealing to some people.
I think over time the legalize industry as more states come online and more people come into the fold and there are more options, more innovation, more trusted companies and brands out there, you'll see a bigger hit on the illicit market. It also will require better enforcement of the laws, which I don't know if we're going to get there because it's very difficult to do. States aren't investing a ton of money into that aspect. They're investing a lot into regulating the legal industry but not a ton of enforcement on the illicit side. There's still a thriving illicit market in California and some other states. That was just a long way of saying that the industry's absolutely had an impact on the illegal market. I expect it to continue to but it's never going away.
Matthew: We're at that cultural shift moment in cannabis acceptance, are there any US states that you look at and you say, hey, they're really symbolic of the last vestiges of resistance and when they fall, it's really just a whole different chapter?
Chris: It's really the south. When you look at the map, it's the south and it stands out like a sore thumb. The good news is that we have had some traction in the south over the last couple of years with Florida legalizing medical and having a thriving industry, even though it's limited from a business perspective because there's only basically a handful of licenses available. We made some good progress as a movement and a nation and an industry in that regard, but in general, that's where a lot of the holes are. Why that is important is the remaining markets right now, we basically have some of the biggest states that have already legalized medical and now recreational.
Whether it's California, now you've got New York, you've got New Jersey, you've got Ohio with medical, you have Michigan. Most of the big population centers where the big opportunities are have legalized in one form or another. There's an increasingly smaller pool of new attractive states, but why I mentioned the south is Florida, if they go recreational at any point-- and it doesn't look bright for that prospect this year based on some recent developments. If Florida can go recreational, that's a massive, massive market that is very attractive.
It will likely spread further into that region in terms of other states legalizing or feeling the pressure to do it. That's what we've seen elsewhere like with New Jersey going then New York, does that convince Pennsylvania? Does that convince Ohio, et cetera? We've seen it play out where once a state in a particular region goes in this direction, the ones around them end up following. Not in every case, but it does happen. Then you look at I'd say the really, really big prize left on that map and that's Texas.
That they have a very, very limited-- some people call it the medical marijuana program. We do not classify it as a legal medical marijuana state because it's basically a CBD and hemp program. Just essentially trace amounts of THC are allowed. We don't put it in into the same category as the states with what we call full medical marijuana programs. If Texas expands its program into one of these more traditional medical ones, which it looks like there's some opportunities it might do this year, that opens up a huge market.
If Texas goes the direction of recreational, that's even bigger, you've got a lot of power players there, a lot of money there in oil and gas, and that spreads out across the industry. It's not just the size of Texas or Florida, it's the influence and it's locking down that region. To your earlier question, that's where that last bastion has traditionally been. We've seen some cracks in it with states legalizing in recent years. There's still resistance though when you look down there.
I just want to highlight why this is all so important because when we look at federal laws, the biggest holdup in any real change has been people in Congress and particularly the Senate and particularly Republicans who are against these types of changes to federal law, with marijuana. A lot of them cling to these old stereotypes about marijuana in general. A lot of them are older in general and they represent more conservative states. Even though these states are starting to legalize medical, they have held up this movement at the federal level.
The more states that legalize that these congressmen and women represent, the better chance we have at federal change because they have to reflect their constituencies. It's hard for them to argue there shouldn't be federal change if their own state, particularly if it voted and the population voted to legalize medical recreational. If we can get some of these states, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas on the medical side, if we can get Florida on recreational, you're talking about a potential shift in federal laws because you will now have that support in the halls of power.
Matthew: What can you tell us about job growth in the cannabis industry?
Chris: Job growth has been tremendous. You can look at our retail sales estimates and the history of retail sales and there's direct correlation, not completely apples to apples, in jobs in general. You have a couple hundred-thousand people employed in the industry, nowhere near America's most dominant industries, but you have job opportunities cropping up everywhere. I think it's important to circle back on something I said before is the job growth isn't just coming from a state legalize, and there's going to be a need for cultivation operations, and growers.
There's going to be a need for product manufacturers and all the people who make that happen. Then this retail side, and you're going to need bartenders and general managers, all of that happens when a state legalizes. Then you have this whole ecosystem out there of those support services, so that the ancillary companies like what we do, and we don't touch the plant but we support the industry in other ways. You have all of these types of companies that crop up or expand as new states legalize. The important thing here is it's the mature states or states that have already legalized and have industries up and running where we're seeing job growth as well.
It's not like you legalize and after two or three years you plateau. We have many case studies on this now across the country. Whether you're looking at medical or recreational, what you find is that the programs grow over time. It's as people, as legislators, as the population becomes more comfortable and understanding of what this industry is, and they see that those negative aspects that people say the sky is going to fall and you're going to have people walking around like zombies, eating Funyuns, that doesn't happen or it doesn't happen to a degree that sways a lot of people's opinions on the industry.
Yes, there are some downsides, there's people who complain about it but in general, states are accepting this and on the medical side, people are seeing the benefit. They're having family members, friends that are using it for various ailments. They're saying, "Hey, this isn't bad. This is actually good." These states start expanding their programs. They lift the license caps, they expand access, they add medical conditions. You're seeing job growth, even in these states as the regulatory barriers come down and access opens up. That growth in jobs is all over the board.
Colorado hit record sales last year. Colorado was the first state to launch recreational sales in 2014. It's still growing. I believe it grew by 25% last year, retail sales. It's not a direct correlation again to jobs, but there's still lots of job growth across the country. I encourage people to widen your mindset if you're thinking about getting in this industry, because it's not just again, growing, processing, or selling the plant. Basically anything you do in your professional life before cannabis can likely be applied in some way to this industry.
You're seeing people come in and start marketing agencies focused on cannabis and consulting and equipment and everything you can think of that services a normal industry has a need here and you're seeing a lot of job growth there as well.
Matthew: When is the MJBizConference coming back?
Chris: Oh, we are so excited. The pandemic did not treat us well. Even though the backbone of the industry was really strong and growing, and it was a fun story to cover in the sense that, "Wow, look at this, this is now an accepted part of our country and all these businesses have to close but are you kidding? Cannabis stores can stay open. Wow, have things changed? That was the thought over and over. For us, it was really difficult because we are fueled by live in-person events and getting people together for business deal flow and networking, and education and we couldn't host our events last year.
Our business took a hit. It was some tough sailing over the last year, but we have full confidence. We're rallying around MJBizCon. We are seeing tremendous interest. Our show floor is getting sold out. We're going to launch registration soon, massive interest from the industry to get back together. We've all missed out on that in all aspects of our lives. There's a novelty in just like, "Hey, let's get everyone in the industry together again." This is the largest show in the industry and it's the center gravitational point each year that people come to for various reasons even if it's just a party in Vegas with other people in the industry.
With that said, we are gearing up for a big return to MJBizCon and to live events and we're seeing a lot of interest in it right now. We are 100% confident we're going to be able to toast it in Las Vegas.
Matthew: That's great. What's the date that it's scheduled for it now?
Chris: MJBizCon is October 20th to 22nd in Vegas. We'll be back at the Convention Center with what we hope is a critical mass of people that are going to be networking and doing business deals and learning. As I mentioned before, partying I'm sure.
Matthew: Live come early and stay late, there's a lot of fun stuff going on. That's great. I want to ask you how people can find that and register. Before we do, just a few personal development questions. Chris, what is the best piece of advice that you've ever received from anybody?
Chris: Best piece of advice I've received is that you always have to rethink what you're doing. You have to be open to it and accept it, and you have to embrace it. I'm bringing this up because in a previous life when I was a reporter and an editor, you get used to doing something a certain way. That's all your training is based on, that's why you go to school. In your early job, you're figuring out the way to do something and do it well. It's easy to just think that that's the way you always have to do it because you were trained and educated that way because it's worked in the past.
The rate of change, not only in cannabis, but in the world in general, and particularly in cannabis dictates that you can not have that mentality. You have to be willing to rethink what you're doing and why all the time. It may vary significantly from what made you successful or what you learned in the past. To me, that's been the best piece of advice. I have to consistently remind myself of it and it's becoming more of a habit now, but it takes a while to get there. If you don't do that, you fall behind, you lose your competitive edge, you miss trends, you miss opportunities and you become irrelevant.
That's really served me well, especially in the last five years.
Matthew: What do you think the most interesting thing going on in the cannabis industry right now, I'm sure it changes for you a lot, but one thing you're just like, "Wow, that's cool"?
Chris: I just think the continued evolution of the products. I'll go back to that again and really trying to get at the heart of what consumers want and maybe what they don't even know they want. One of the interesting products it's starting to gain some traction is these soluble powders that are flavored and you can put them in anything you're drinking. It's not already an infused beverage, it's just something that if you want to have a beer with your friends at a party, or have some people over, or maybe you want a LaCroix or maybe it's just water, you can make whatever you're drinking into a cannabis beverage.
It's not rocket science, there's drink powders in every way imaginable outside of cannabis. I just think it's exciting to see and track what we're going to see on that infused product side going forward. How companies are really trying to up their game and say, "Hey, we have this wide-open area that we can explore and figure out new ways to consume." We're going to try out all these ideas.
Matthew: Lastly, what is your favorite unhealthy comfort food?
Chris: This is very embarrassing. There's a very short backstory. I'm not a big fast-food person, I didn't eat it for many years. I started traveling internationally a lot for work, always traveled internationally but started doing it for work as we looked at a global strategy. I was speaking in other countries about the cannabis industry and doing market research. I would come back from these long trips to Israel or Greece, or Columbia, and on the ride home, I had one craving and it was Taco Bell.
It was something I ate all through college and then really never had, or very infrequently had maybe once every five years. I got on this thing where I'd travel abroad and I come back and on the way home from the airport, I'd stop at Taco Bell. I occasionally still have it. It's now my eight-year-old daughter's favorite fast food. I'm not proud of it, but it is my guilty pleasure.
Matthew: I like that you had to do it on the way home from the airport, like it was that urgent.
Chris: Oh, I could not wait. No, I get in at midnight, hadn't seen my daughter or wife in a while and I had to carve out time, go to that drive-through.
Matthew: Well, Chris, again, tell us the dates for the MJBizCon, how to find the factbook, and for people that don't get your daily e-mails, how can they sign up for that?
Chris: MJBizCon this year is basically the week of October 18th. We have stuff going on all week, but the main conference is October 20th through the 22nd at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Our site, we're going to launch registration soon. We've been selling booth space on the show floor for a while now it's mjbizconference.com. You can also get to it through mjbizdaily.com our main portal. You can also see our Marijuana Business Factbook if anyone's interested in that, where we chat the trends in the industry and make projections and estimates.
Then also, maybe I can get some tips from you, but I've launched a podcast from MJBiz called Seed to CEO, where we're really helping people navigate this industry, these new entrants that are flooding in. Those are some of the main endeavors, and you can get to all of that through mjbizdaily.com.
Matthew: Well, Chris, thanks so much for coming on the show and educating us. I think I'm going to have to find a way to get some Taco Bell now, you've planted that seed in my mind.
Chris: I don't recommend it, I'll tell you that. You might be [crosstalk] for a couple of hours.
Matthew: I know, I did say unhealthy, so you've got that. All right, well, thanks so much, Chris.
Chris: All right. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
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[00:47:34] [END OF AUDIO]