Several Cannabis Industry Events Halted Due to Coronavirus Concerns
Update (March 13, 2020, 2:30 p.m. EDT): The National Cannabis Industry Association postponed its March Cannabis Caucus events following the publication of this report. The New England Cannabis Network also announced the postponement of its Illinois convention and new dates for its Boston show. The story has been edited to reflect these developments.
A growing number of high-profile cannabis industry events have been put on hold due to concerns over the spread of a novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, which earlier today was classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The South by Southwest (SXSW), Hall of Flowers, and CannaTech shows, among others, have all been canceled or postponed in recent days as event organizers work with state and local officials to help slow the spread of a virus that has infected nearly 126,135 people across more than 100 countries as of 10:15 pm EDT.
Meanwhile, the first of two 2020 Hall of Flowers shows, attended by cannabis brands, retailers and other industry stakeholders, was officially canceled yesterday.
In a statement, event organizers expressed their “deep concern for everyone impacted by COVID-19.”
“This decision was not made easily, and it was guided by ongoing developments with the virus,” the promoters wrote.
Slated to take place on April 1-2, 2020 in Palm Springs, California, Hall of Flowers followed the lead of other events such as the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach Festival that were also scheduled to take place in Riverside County.
“We want to assure you that we are already developing our contingency plan to reschedule this postponement and will announce the dates as soon as they are secured,” Hall of Flowers organizers wrote yesterday.
The postponement of Hall of Flowers came hours after the New England Cannabis Network (NECANN) postponed its three-day Boston convention that was set to kick off on March 20, 2020. That show has been rescheduled for June 27-29, 2020.
"We are facing a world health crisis, and every community in New England and beyond needs to work together and make the right decisions to control this outbreak," NECANN co-founder Marc Shepard wrote via a press release.
NECANN’s original announcement came on the same day that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency. There are now 95 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts.
Other cannabis events that have been canceled in recent days include:
- The American Herbal Products Association’s Hemp-CBD Supplement Congress, which was scheduled for March 14-15, 2020 in Portland, Oregon.
- The ROTH Capital Conference, which was set for March 16-17, 2020.
- The National Cannabis Risk Management Association’s conference, which was scheduled for March 22 - 24, 2020 in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, the CannaTech Global Cannabis Summit in Tel Aviv Israel was rescheduled for June 15-16, 2020, and Marijauna Business Daily’s MJBizCon Next event scheduled for June 3-4, 2020 has not been canceled.
High Times also postponed its upcoming 420 Cannabis Cup competition.
"It is with an extremely heavy heart that we delay this event - our festival celebrating our favorite day of the year -- but the safety of our patrons is our first priority," the publisher wrote in a statement.
Several small meetups that were organized by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and scheduled to take place throughout March have also been postponed.
"We are taking extra precautions in the face of a serious global health issue," the trade group said in a statement. "These events will be rescheduled after the situation stabilizes."
NCIA spokesman Morgan Fox told THCnet that the group is still planning to host its Cannabis Business Summit in San Francisco in mid-June. However, the NCIA is "monitoring the situation in case social distancing measures need to be prolonged for public safety," he said.
GIE Media's Cannabis Business Conference scheduled for April 21-23, 2020 in Las Vegas is also continuing as planned.
According to Johns Hopkins, there are 126,135 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,630 deaths worldwide as of press time. In the U.S., there are now 1,311 confirmed cases and 38 deaths.
The rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic, and the uncertainty surrounding the number of individuals that could have been exposed to the virus, has made it difficult for event promoters and venue operators to feel confident hosting large-scale gatherings.
“At any venue, public safety is the number one prioirty,” said Kaitlyn Findley-Thorn, the chief operating officer of the Sonoma County Events Center and Fairgrounds, which plays host to cannabis events like Hall of Flowers and the Emerald Cup.
“We need to make sure the public feels safe at the event,” she added. “If they don’t, they won’t return for future events and we’ve seen that play out in the past.”
With COVID-19, Findley-Thorn said the Sonoma County Events Center team has identified upcoming events expecting more than 1,000 attendees and is working with promoters to increase safety measures, reschedule or cancel shows altogether.
“We've put out more hand sanitizer stations, and information about washing your hands,” she said. “We’ve also increased janitorial services, so they are hitting bathroom areas and common areas more frequently.”
Findley-Thorn said that both Hall of Flowers and Emerald Cup, which draw roughly 2,500 and 10,000 attendees, respectively, are slated to occur later this year continuing as planned. An August country music festival that will draw 25,000 people over three days is also not being canceled or postponed, she added.
However, other upcoming events -- including a food show that is expected to draw international visitors and an artisan cheese festival -- have been postponed.
Looking ahead, Findley-Thorn said she expects event promoters will seek out insurance policies that provide revenue protection should so-called “Acts of God” occur.
“You will see people wanting to include specific language about what they would want to do if something were to happen that neither the promoter nor the venue had any control over,” she said.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, several companies have implemented work from home policies while many universities have instructed students to stay away from campus. Other notable groups have taken drastic measures to help ensure public safety, cancelling upcoming events and large public gatherings like concerts and sporting events. Perhaps the most shocking? The National Basketball Association tonight announced that it would suspend the season indefinitely after a Utah Jazz player tested postive for COVID-19.