Cannabis Legalization and It's Effect on Event Planning

As we enter into a new decade, the legalization of marijuana continues to be a hot topic of discussion, particularly among meeting and event planners. As of January 1, 2020, Chicago has legalized marijuana and dispensaries are popping up all over the city. At PlannerPalooza in November, we were joined by experts in the cannabis industry who weighed in on how these new laws will affect planners, venues, and vendors. Here are three things to keep in mind when planning an event in a marijuana-friendly environment:

Know Local Laws

As it stands right now, 11 states have full-scale medicinal and recreational marijuana laws in place, while 33 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, according to panelist Donna B. More, Partner at Fox Rothschild LLP. Because there tends to be so much gray area with what is classified as medicinal or recreational, it is important to understand the local laws for the cities and states for the event you are planning. Hotels may not support the addition of a marijuana feature on-site, and you may need to acquire a license to host such an event said More. In addition to licensing, look into insurances that may be needed either at the venue or for a one-off event. Insurance companies are becoming increasingly more comfortable with insuring the marijuana industry. Also, understand the importance of signage and distributed information as local laws dictate; making health claims, for example, is typically illegal.

Consider the Overall Audiences

From attendees to your sponsors, make sure you know your audience inside and out when bringing on a weed feature at your event. Panelist Doug Lambert, Managing Partner at Scale Momentum, LLC noted that it's important to research other brands and sponsor representation prior to embarking on a marijuana feature or activation at the event since other brands may not be on board with the association of marijuana at the event. Panel moderator Ryan Crane, CEO of Tempo, said that the recent uptick in brands evolving into marijuana-friendly will almost certainly dictate a larger number of events that will house weed-based activations, particularly the food and beverage, retail, and cosmetic industries. Provide resources for your audience so that they can become aware of laws, regulations, and opportunities surrounding new legalizations.

Employ the Right People on Site

An event cannot function without a committed staff of employees to help with logistics. When bringing a weed activation or feature into the mix, it is important to have the right people in place to streamline legalities and any potential issues. To ensure that all bases are covered, More suggested teaming up with the venue to ensure that their general counsel okays the presence of a cannabis company on site (or any giveaways they may have), as well as signing on the lawyer of said company. She noted that cannabis companies also have a wealth of resources to keep themselves covered, and are often willing to provide those resources to partners.

In Case You Missed It: PlannerPalooza 2019

Planner Master Class hosted its first-ever PlannerPalooza event on November 13, 2019 where nearly 200 meeting and event planners, Chicago's hottest vendors and venues, and industry experts gathered to share ideas, network, and discuss business and partnership opportunities.

The event, held at Kaplan Institute, consisted of two sessions of rapid-fire pitches from vendors and venues including restaurants, nightlife, venues, transportation, entertainment, and more.

After 10 rapid-fire pitches to kick off the event, meeting and event planners had the opportunity to sit in on a choice of two expert panel discussions. The first panel discussion, titled "Follow the Money: Trends in Procurement & Vendor Relationships" was moderated by Jackie White, Director of Events & Conference Services at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Industry experts who offered their professional insight included Bailey Shultz, Account Manager of Sourcing at NHS Global Events and Jay Weidner, Managing Partner of On The Scene. The second discussion, titled "Innovation in Events: Planning Through Production" was presented by Convene, and was moderated by Maria Dillon-Kemp, Vice President of Marketing at Convene. Expert panelists included Taylor Podgorny, Event Production Designer of Frost Chicago, Casey Crisenbery, Art Director of Agency EA, Annie Eaton, CEO of Futurus, and Sean Thorndike, Director of Business Development of CSI DMC.

Meeting and event planners heard from 10 more venues and vendors during rapid-fire pitches before the final panel discussion, titled "The Green Rush: Weed Legalization and Its Effects on Meetings & Events", moderated by Ryan Crane, Founder and CEO of Tempo. Panelists included Donna B. More, Partner at Fox Rothschild LLP, Josh Schonwald, award-winning journalist and futurist at PlanetWise Communications, and Doug Lambert, Managing Partner at Scale Momentum, LLC.

The event culminated with networking and refreshments sponsored by Motor Row Brewing and City Winery.