Cannabis has made it to the elite world of high level money managers. Last week the elegant Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills hosted the 2nd annual Cannabis Private Wealth Summit focused on delivering investment information to family offices. The event operator is out of New York with extensive investment conference experience.
Well, even though I don’t have a Maserati, I am comfortable in Beverly Hills as my first job out of college was just a couple of blocks away at Union Bank. The Peninsula is a very upscale and intimate hotel, which was perfect for this gathering of 150 private office investment executives. I noticed a bit of apprehension among the group initially, which very soon subsided. After all cannabis investment is not quite private equity material yet, is it? The line up of expert speakers quickly dispelled this trepidation aided by a sumptuous buffet brunch to start.
Right out of the box attendees were given a high level panel discussion with veteran investment manager Kevin McGovern of McGovern Capital as moderator. This high powered panel also included Matt Hawkins of Cresco Capital Partners, Douglas Leighton of Duchess Capital, and Steve Schuman with Halley Venture Partners.
McGovern expertly guided the panel through a discussion of how they look at cannabis investments. He brings impressive credentials, including being on the board at the Smithsonian and a trustee emeritus at Cornel University. I was particularly struck by his global views on cannabis development. “Israel is leading the way on cannabis. They are way ahead of the United States on clinical trials,” according to McGovern, who had just returned from a large cannabis event there.
Matt Hawkins of Cresco Capital discussed how his firm has been cautiously employing capital into the cannabis space. Steve Schuman was perhaps the most reluctant to invest, noting that he was having a hard time finding good deals. One thing that all on this panel agreed upon was that publicly traded Canadian cannabis stocks are overpriced. This was disputed by some Canadians in the audience, who reminded all just how large the cannabis market could become.
Just like the city of Los Angeles, this event was a melting pot of worldwide interests. India, Canada, Colombia, New Zealand, Mexico, and China were all represented, as were most parts of the U.S., including New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle, and a large group from SoCal.
Noa Kahner of Kahner Global was the event host. Kahner is no stranger to this environment, having put on many family office and pension conferences over the past decade. JJ McKay founder and publisher of the Fresh Toast emceed the presentations and panels. McKay has an extensive media background and launched The Fresh Toast in October 2016. Already it has become one of the largest information sites regarding cannabis in North America.
My hat is off to both as the event went very smoothly. Kahner kept things going behind the scenes, which always includes last second shuffling at events like this, and McKay mingled and informed attendees with a unique and festive flair.
Arizona Cannabis Business Expo
Just a couple of weeks earlier I was in downtown Phoenix for the Arizona Cannabis Business Expo. Eric Norton founder of Imperious Expo is the event organizer pioneering in this conservative state, which narrowly defeated the Adult Use measure brought before voters last fall. Still, the mood was quite upbeat as most in the exhibit hall figure it is just a matter of time before Arizona is in full support.
This event was quite different than the Beverly Hills event, instead focusing on small businesses and investors. There were over 100 companies exhibiting and presentations devoted to marketing and regulation in the adjacent rooms. The Arizona event reminded me of California events two to three years ago, which is where most of the rest of the country is in this genesis. They still do not have the mainstream business people on board. Most attendees were probably a little concerned about the legalities of the cannabis industry in a fairly conservative state. Whereas in California, we have gone way past that. I can tell you from personal experience that most serious money managers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or even Santa Barbara are snooping around for cannabis investments. Their clients are wide open to investing in the space.