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EXCLUSIVE: Shifting Public Perception Of Cannabis Industry, AI’s Role, More Insights From Market Leaders


The Benzinga Cannabis Market Spotlight event ended with a panel discussion featuring Alexa Alianiello, the head of cannabis at X, formally known as Twitter; Wendy Berger of Green Thumb Industries‘ board and Emily Paxhia, co-founder of Poseidon. These prominent women delved into the current California trends, challenges and innovations shaping the cannabis industry, providing invaluable perspectives on its developing landscape.

Alianiello illuminated the role of digital platforms in fostering a vibrant cannabis community.

“X is a place where people come to connect with the conversation around cannabis,” she said, highlighting the platform’s 40 million annual posts as evidence of its central role in the discourse.

Alianiello pointed out the significant contribution of California, with its 10,000 daily posts, underscoring the state’s leadership in the cannabis conversation. 

She noted the surge in engagement among the under-25 demographic, emphasizing the shift towards more open and accepting attitudes towards cannabis. “The highest engagement content focuses on community, mental health and policy,” Alianiello added, showcasing the broadening scope of cannabis-related discussions.

Berger brought attention to the market’s landscape, likening its ever-evolving nature to the fashion industry.

She touched on the resurgence of closed-loop vape systems and the innovation emanating from California. Despite the vibrant market, Berger highlighted significant hurdles, particularly in dispensary distribution.

“There are not enough dispensaries. I think we still have 60% of the counties have little to no cannabis businesses,” she said, pointing to the challenges of expanding market access.

The panel also explored the impact of technology on the industry. Paxhia expressed enthusiasm for companies leveraging AI to enhance operations and customer insights.

“It’s a cool way you can query and engage with the data,” Paxhia remarked, emphasizing the potential of AI in transforming business strategies.

Alianiello introduced “Grok,” an AI chatbot designed to analyze platform data, offering a glimpse into the future of data-driven decision-making in the cannabis world.

To prove her point, Alianiello had Grok give her an answer to the question: “How will technology and advancements influence the cannabis market?”

Grok answered: “As a platform where people can share their thoughts. And experiences, X helps to shape the public perception of cannabis.”

“For example, X can help spread awareness about the benefits of cannabis for both recreational and medicinal purposes. This can lead to an increase in demand for cannabis products as more people become interested in trying them out.”

The discussion also ventured into the economic and regulatory challenges confronting the industry. Berger shared thoughts about the “cannabis premium” associated with real estate, a notable barrier for new and expanding businesses. 

She says, “You only have a few choices about where to go and who your landlord is. There is still a massive premium, and in a business where margins are already difficult, where we’re all capital-starved, the realist, the cannabis premium is still very, very challenging. This is econ 101.”

The conversation touched on the complexities of interstate commerce, with Paxhia offering a sobering perspective on the legal and regulatory maze that hampers the industry’s growth.

Despite the hurdles, the panelists shared a hopeful outlook for the cannabis industry. They emphasized the importance of conversation in shifting public perception and the potential of policy reforms to alleviate financial and operational burdens.

“Something I think about is the power of conversation in shifting perception and yielding global movements,” Alianiello said, underscoring the transformative potential of dialogue and community engagement in the cannabis space.

The Benzinga Cannabis Market Spotlight panel offered a comprehensive synopsis of the cannabis industry, marked by discussions on consumer trends, technological innovations and the complex regulatory landscape. The expertise and experiences shared by Alianiello, Berger and Paxhia provided a helpful roadmap for navigating the challenges and opportunities in cannabis.

The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is returning to Florida in a new venue in Hollywood on April 16 and 17, 2024. The two-day event at The Diplomat Beach Resort will be a chance for entrepreneurs, both large and small, to network, learn, and grow.

Renowned for its trendsetting abilities and influence on the future of cannabis, mark your calendars — this conference is the go-to event of the year for the cannabis world. Get your tickets now on bzcannabis.com – Prices will increase very soon!

Photo: Shutterstock

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