Cannabis Expo Brings The Heads And Financiers Together

Lennon Ficalora, left, and John Holub, of Wampum, a Bridgehampton head shop, at the Cannabis Expo on Sunday. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

The grounds behind The Clubhouse restaurant and bar in Wainscott were packed with people attending the annual Hampton Cannabis Expo 2021, on Sunday, testimony to the growing interest in business opportunities in a sector that 50 years ago would have been dismissed as literally nothing more than a pipe dream.

Young people with tattoos and piercings rubbed shoulders with members of the investment banker set in typical Hamptons weekend casual attire.

The event brought together vendors, ranging from Wampum, a Bridgehampton head shop, to Neiman Marcus, the upscale department store that is now offering a variety of premium CBD-infused skincare products that David Kirschenbaum said had excellent anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties. More locally, Sean Carroll and Ryan Andoos of Route 27 Hemp Yard in Center Moriches, which Mr. Carroll said was the largest cannabis cultivator on Long Island, offered soaps, lotions, and lip balm, among other products

Sanja Ganja, the director of marketing and operations manager for THC Girls, a Miami-based marketing firm that specializes in — what else? — cannabis-related businesses, stood outside her company’s booth, inviting passersby to sit on pillows under a small tent with a cup of tea to discuss their business ideas. With New York State having recently legalized cannabis for recreational use, Ms. Ganja said she looked forward to “working with the new government and new companies” even though new regulations are not yet clear as various municipalities begin the process of deciding whether or not they want to allow recreational cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions. At the next booth over, Charlene Ali, the owner of Hi-Five Edible Wonders in Queens, extolled the healing powers of cannabis food products, a broad smile never leaving her face.

At another booth, Juan Alcantara, of budlocker, displayed small, smell-proof (to the human nose, anyway) lockable bags. As part of its legalization of recreational cannabis use, New York State requires people traveling with pot to keep it in a locked compartment, Mr. Alcantara said. The smell-proof feature would come in handy when traveling through states that have yet to legalize cannabis.

Cannabis Expo is the brainchild of Gary Bierfriend, an attorney and a former managing director with Deutsche Bank, who has held the event for three of the past four years. “I wanted to create a superhighway to bring world-class business leaders from national companies together with grassroots entrepreneurs,” he said. “A lot of local brands are looking for investors, and the heads of lots of corporations are out here in August. It’s the right geography, the right audience, and the right time.”

He said about 700 people attended the event, which had to be postponed a week because of the threat of Hurricane Henri. Industry leaders gathered under a large tent for panel discussions on topics such as advocacy to ensure that Blacks and other minorities have equal opportunities into what is expected to become an $80 billion industry, legalization issues, and investment questions.

It was sponsored by numerous companies in the cannabis business, including the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s Little Beach Harvest, which is moving forward with plans for a medicinal cannabis dispensary on its Shinnecock Neck territory.

Barre Hamp, a tribal representative, who took part in the advocacy panel, used a sports analogy to sum up his outlook. “We are in the first inning, first out, of a nine-inning baseball game in this industry,” he said.