South Africa’s first Cannabis Expo is set to begin in December 2018. It’s been the talk of the town despite already receiving a fair amount of criticism and support on social media. Is South Africa’s first Cannabis Expo too good to be true?

Their website claims that ​”The cannabis industry is exploding, and The Cannabis Expo provides the perfect platform for international and local medical health professionals, agricultural providers and lifestyle brands to engage with industry experts and the public around this versatile plant.
The Cannabis Expo is the largest trade and consumer expo of its kind on the African continent and includes an exhibitor hall, networking and entertainment spaces as well as featuring a speakers stage and workshop that hosts local and international experts from across the industry.”

Other self made claims include it being the first of its kind and ambiguously implying that it has  been hosted in other countries. There is however actually next to no real information available for the Cannabis Expo and their social media accounts appear to be dead in the water with practically zero activity. This however did not stop them from knocking on my door a few weeks ago and asking us for up to R70 000 to attend the event with our products. This immediately set alarm bells ringing. I had never heard of these people or their event in all my years of cannabis activism, but here they were playing at being the next big thing for local cannabusiness.

The Cannabis Expo prices

The Cannabis Expo prices

So I replied “High. Thanks for contacting us. Going to be real with you, I traditionally don’t do business with companies and brands that are absent for the activism work or donations, but then hit me up for cash the first time they speak to me. It’s great and all that you intend to create more awareness about the plant. I unfortunately don’t see anything about this event giving back to the plant or the communities on the front line. All the best, it’s certain to get people’s attention.”

Their response was a polite thanks and cheers as they moved on to try more fertile ground with other brands. At first I was a bit butthurt about this first indication of non-cannabis related or inspired big business now seeing this an opportunity to cash in on the hard work of others. But then I realised that this exactly the sort of thing that what we have been fighting for all along… the right for this to happen. For people and brands to freely start creating positive awareness about the plant whether their intentions be altruistic or purely financial. I noticed much the same vibe from other local cannabis enthusiasts. At first offended by the tenacity and cheek of these complete strangers to out of the blue start hitting locals up for fat chunks of cash and support.

But then moods started to mellow as these folk started seeing this as a big picture opportunity for the plant. The fact that this was being organised by one of the Sexpo founders was also reassuring for those who needed to know that the Cannabis Expo was not some sort of scam. Brands that I respect also began getting  on board thereby adding more validity and settling some of the nerves within the community at large. Although I am personally still finding it difficult to wrap my head around this not actually being an expo for cannabis.

Cannabis Prohibited!

Cannabis Expo prohibited

Their online tickets (R150 each) make it very clear that cannabis itself is strictly prohibited from the expo and it worries me that with less than a month to go there has been practically zero marketing about it. Reading between the lines on their website reflects that they make no claims about actual cannabis products being there. I’ve also heard recent rumours of enquiries not being responded to and have seen no effort by the Cannabis Expo to promote the brands or speakers who will be attending. That their Facebook, event, Twitter and Instagram pages are dormant strikes me as being somewhat non-committal for the local cannabusiness big bang that they’re selling.

Only a handful of social media posts

The Cannabis Expo Social Media

The Cannabis Expo Social Media

There’s only two to things that I can be sure of though. Firstly, these folk definitely have an uncle in the mall space business. Secondly, the Cannabis Expo needs to walk the talk if they’re gonna create value for the exhibitors, attendees and the plant. It’s not just the 20k to 70k that they are asking for, it’s also the trust of the so far marginalised yet resilient cannabis community. I personally hope that the expo is a huge success and goes from strength to strength… even if it makes me lank butthurt.