• Ljubica Kostovic

Powerful insights that industry leaders shared at Kahner Global's annual event in New York City.


Hosted in the offices of Duane Morris, in the heart of Times Square, the New York City summit embodied the energy of the city that never sleeps. Over 100 ultra high net worth investors and family offices gathered with industry leaders to share their insights on the rapidly evolving cannabis industry and explore opportunities for growth in what will soon be one of the biggest global industries of our time.

JJ McKay of Fresh Toast brought the high energy with the opening remarks followed by a history lesson on how cannabis became illegal in the first place by David Feldman. Secrets on how to park your car in NYC for $18.25 were also revealed.

The first panel of the morning gave an overview of the legal cannabis industry in the U.S.. Panelists Karnes and Weiner shared insights on how the legal market is disrupting the illicit market and mused about Canada’s best practices becoming the standard in the U.S., despite the seemingly unrealistic valuations observable ahead of full recreational legalization this coming October. When it comes to U.S. investments, the experts suggest that you ask he following questions: “What happens if enforcement picks up again?” “What happens in the event of full federal legalization?” One thing is clear, the global cannabis industry has only just begun and a long term vision can go a long way to ensuring your investments are successful.

On the technology panel, Michael Klein, CEO of Cannabis MD, previously of Conde Nast, appeared to be humbly sitting on a goldmine with ownership of hundreds of sought-after domains and a vision to build the largest authority of unbiased cannabis-related information. With the rapid growth of the global industry, and the marketing restrictions in Canada’s highly over-regulated industry, the Vogue of cannabis is certainly in high demand.Curious about where to invest in the canna-tech sector? The experts suggest APIs, state-side, and other backend developments.

The third panel of the morning featured Montel Williams, who spoke true and from the heart as he shared a plethora of knowledge relating to the national and international medical cannabis sector, as well as his personal journey with the plant. The focus of the panel was placed on high quality, safe and effective medical cannabis formulations with an eye on now 30 countries worldwide that have approved cannabis for medical purposes. Biologically-derived cannabinoids are believed to be the future of the “pharmaceuticalization” of standardized medical cannabis.

The highly anticipated Investor Pitch Session saw six companies present to a panel of three critical, but highly fair judges, with MediPharm’s extraction technology and business vision taking the big win up North. Although tensions ran high, JJ cutting one off for time meant that he’d like to enthusiastically thank you and congratulate you on a job well done! JJ’s energy through this segment, and the whole day, in fact, means that none of us really want to attend any more conferences where JJ isn’t the emcee for the day.

The afternoon sessions began with some words from Larry Sharpe, who not only used this opportunity to reflect on lessons learned from Colorado, California and Oregon, but also to outline what would be his approach to legalizing cannabis in the state of New York in this hopefully not too distant future.

The Extraction and Manufacturing panel was moderated by the ever engaging Jeanne Sullivan who asked the tough questions regarding the safety and efficacy of a variety of extraction techniques. The panelists, which included Pat McCutcheon of pitch winner MediPharm, came together to educate the attendees on the differences in CO2 and ethanol extractions and techniques for getting that whole plant cannabinoid and terpene profiles into luxury products in Canada and the U.S..

Lindy Snider led a discussion on the benefits of investment funds in the cannabis industry alongside panelists Saraf, Kaminsky and Hawkins. When it comes to investing in the cannabis space, it looks like funds may be the better option for high net worth individuals and family offices—a fund offers diversification for passive investment and also removes the high net worth individual or family office from the risk associated with such an investment.

The Strategies for Investment panel seamlessly tied into the themes of the afternoon, where experts discussed the importance of brands and investing in multi-state operators. According to Mitch Kahn, it’s best to “stay away from large scale cultivation on the West coast” at this moment in time. The experts agree that the market opportunity continues to be huge—within CBD alone, there are predicted to be many sub-verticals. Assuming that cannabis is to be regulated similarly to tobacco and alcohol—and Canada is proof that tobacco-like regulations are top of mind—the cannabis market can be safely estimated at $35B.

The Beverages and Branding panel stirred interesting conversation around brand building and the lack of education on the consumer side within the current space. With focus shifting away from smoked cannabis and trends in legalized states showing a 30% decrease in alcohol consumption, it looks as though investments within the edible and beverage space are bound to be impactful. Companies such as Province Brands lead the way when it comes to pushing forward for standardized and unique “highs” and dosages, alongside authentic branding within the cannabis beverage sector.

The last panel of the day raised the topic of questionable public company valuations with panelists and attendees in high anticipation over whether the Canadian market bubble will soon burst thanks to the “astronomical multiples” that contribute to the current outlook. Although panelists shared the concern over the quality of publicly traded companies, they most certainly agreed that the key lies in taking advantage of the timing and the delta between private and public valuations. U.S. and Canadian metrics appeared to be in contrast, as well, with more focus placed on yield per square foot and quality in Canadian territory.

Closing remarks by host David Feldman reiterated the highly tailored, unique and intimate nature of the day’s events. The perfect investor entrepreneur flow continued with the evening’s festivities at a private home for some mingling and cocktails.. If you missed out and couldn't make it to this year's summit, don’t worry, the 3rd annual Cannabis Private Investment Summit Toronto will be taking place at Bennett Jones on October 23rd in Toronto. For more information on all upcoming summits, visit the event’s website here.

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