SAN FRANCISCO – Canada’s marquee cannabis trade show will branch out into the United States next year. Lift Events & Experiences, formerly Lift&Co. Expo, will host its first U.S. event in San Francisco in August 2023.
The organizers hope to disrupt an American business conference scene that — since the pandemic — insiders increasingly view as becoming hidebound. According to Lift Events & Experiences Portfolio Lead Lindsay Roberts, the American debut will offer advocacy-oriented content, inclusive networking, activations, and opportunities for attendees to see, touch, and smell live product on the show floor. Roberts said the event will be “dedicated to honoring the grassroots legacy of the cannabis industry while serving each of its unique modern audiences.”
“Lift is known for avoiding the stuffiness while perfecting the mix of professional and fun for its signature surprises as well as the Lift After Party,” she said. “Hosting Lift at the Moscone Center in San Francisco — the epicenter of the U.S. cannabis reform movement — makes it possible to deliver a totally unique cannabis event experience: the ability for brands to showcase actual ‘live’ cannabis products on the show floor. In addition, Lift will provide a comfortable, curated outdoor consumption lounge. ”
Additionally, “Lift will ensure there are no barriers of entry into the event through cost-conscious pricing with high value, allowing small business and all segments of the cannabis industry to participate,” she said. And “Lift [will place] a big focus on budtenders through the Budtender Program, paying tribute to the unsung heroes who are moving product from the brands to the consumers.”
Saving the brand
More than an expansion, the American show will be part of a revitalization campaign designed to effect an extraordinary turnaround for an event that nearly folded under the weight of economic pressure and the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, facing plummeting stock prices and an imminent corporate collapse, the parent company — publicly traded data insights and events enterprise Lift & Co — entered a strategic partnership under which meetings, events, and conferences organizer MCI USA assumed operational control of the Canadian events. Then the pandemic struck and Canada locked down its population, forcing trade shows into dormancy. Lift declared bankruptcy, laid off almost all of its staff, and witnessed the mass resignation of its board of directors and executive team.
According to Roberts, an undisclosed private equity group acquired the Lift&Co. Expo brand, including the partnership with MCI, which recently acquired full ownership of the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo and the Seed to Sale show from the National Cannabis Industry Association. MCI plans to incorporate key attributes of those events into the Lift portfolio, evolving the strategic partnership, Roberts said.
“The private equity group essentially saved Lift&Co. Expo from going away,” she said. “Through the strategic partnership with MCI USA, the vision has been to rebuild an iconic cannabis brand. Lift was the first large-scale Canadian cannabis community gathering. It was important to honor those roots while ensuring the event evolved alongside a rapidly changing marketplace, which went through some incredible ups and downs over the years.
“The new Lift team was determined to bring the industry back together and, through hard work and dedication, Lift was one of the first events to activate in Toronto in November of 2021,” Roberts continued. “As of late, there is an expanded and experienced MCI team in place, dedicating themselves to serving the cannabis community. The team is spending a lot of time listening to the needs of the industry, each segment within the industry, and each individual geographic location. The team is completely focused on doing their part to drive meaningful change and forward progress.”
The San Francisco event will incorporate some of the historical elements of the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo. The three-day schedule is expected to include the Lift Cannabis Business Conference on August 2 followed by two days of exhibits and activations. Key to the experience are Lift’s signature surprises and “a-ha” moments, which at past Canadian shows have included live music, cameo appearances, prize giveaways, and demonstrations.
Throughout the event, leading subject matter experts and fresh new voices will address the business, diversity, and future viability of the industry, and healthy debates with tangible outcomes will be encouraged, Roberts said.
“Lift welcomes everyone, from legacy participants to multistate operators to everyday folks who enjoy and respect the plant,” she said. “We’re producing a year of shows that care for the specific needs of each segment of the cannabis community while inspiring an exciting future.”
Industry insiders are intrigued by the possibilities presented by the new event — especially the potential for consumer interaction with live products. Although Roberts did not address the possibility, Lift’s Canadian shows traditionally include a day during which consumers are welcomed and the event’s pitch deck includes a line item touting “VIP consumer activations.”
“The Lift brand has a remarkable history of elevating thought-leaders and trailblazers in our industry,” said Women Grow President Gia Morón. “Cannabis is at a pivotal juncture across the United States, Canada, and throughout the world. I am so excited to see Lift bringing its unique event to San Francisco. This is a wonderful opportunity to grow a responsible, equitable and profitable industry — and have a really great time while doing it.”
Dan Sutton, chief executive officer at British Columbia-based Tantalus Labs, indicated he believes Lift will forge cross-border alliances ahead of what many believe is impending U.S. federal legalization.
“It’s great to see a Canadian event like Lift now expanding into the U.S. market — especially a market as close to the heart of the cannabis industry as San Francisco,” he said. “The ties between the U.S. West Coast and western Canada’s long-thriving cannabis culture are well known, and the Lift event bridging those cultures highlights the value in this increasingly global conversation.”
Lift’s premiere U.S. event will take place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco August 2–4, 2023. Other shows on the 2023 calendar include Lift Vancouver January 12–14 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and Lift Toronto June 1–3 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.