Meanwhile New Jersey is on the brink of legalization
The year was 2011 when CHAMPS Trade Shows began exploring the possibility of staging its massive trade show in a host city other than Las Vegas. Since 1999, CHAMPs had been holding two shows yearly in Vegas. But the cannabis industry was growing and there were huge segments of the cannabis economy that hadn’t benefited from the CHAMPS experience.
Jeff Hirschfeld, the president of CHAMPS Trade Shows, looked eastward and chose Atlantic City as the next venue for the ever-growing B2B trade show. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Jeff explains: “It was an easy choice. I wanted a city that our people would enjoy: nightlife, casinos, the beach. I grew up on the East Coast and loved the beach experience. And I always loved Atlantic City.”
Of course, there’s another big reason CHAMPs has found a home on the East Coast. For over 70 million people, Atlantic City, located on the coast of southern New Jersey, is only a two-hour drive away. Furthermore, New Jersey is on the brink of legalization. Over 60 percent of state residents support legal adult use of cannabis and Governor Phil Murphy strongly campaigned on the issue. On March 25, the state legislature was scheduled to vote on a legalization bill. But the vote was canceled at the last minute when it appeared there were insufficient votes for passage. A new vote has been promised, but remains unscheduled at this time.
The undeniable fact is that, in the near future, all of the states of the Northeast will legalize and become the largest market of cannabis consumers. Let’s add up the total (approximate) populations for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states: New York (20 million), New Jersey (10 million), Massachusetts (7 million), Connecticut (3.5 million), Maryland (6 million), New Hampshire and Maine (1.3 million each), Delaware and Rhode Island (1 million each), and Vermont and Washington D.C. (700,000 each). That’s well over 50 million residents in a far smaller area than California. And if one adds Pennsylvania to the mix, with 13 million residents, the potential legal marijuana market will, without a doubt, dwarf that of the West Coast.
As the cannabis economy widens on the East Coast, CHAMPS expansion in Atlantic City has been impressive—a robust 10-15 percent increase in vendors and attendees each year. At this year’s show, well over 300 vendors will set up shop at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Retailers from up and down the East Coast and beyond will travel here to survey the newest products and innovations of the flourishing cannabis industry.
The breadth of CHAMPS reach has broadened. While its roots have always been in the functional glass art community, the representation of other products and companies grows with each show. A wide array of CBD merchandise is now exhibited at CHAMPS, the most comprehensive display seen at any trade show to date.
The emergence of CBD products in the mainstream marketplace represents a major breakthrough, not just for entrepreneurs, but for the simple truth it advances. As all advocates for cannabis know, fighting myths and misinformation about the plant is a daunting task. But a wealth of evidence now proves that CBD has an untapped reservoir of uses in medicine, nutrition and the beauty industry, causing an explosion of new companies and new brands. For consumers who may have had reservations about cannabis, knowing that the oil, tincture or lotion they personally use is derived from that very same oft-demonized plant is a revelation and motivates them to reconsider their past views.
This year, CHAMPS launched a new division of the trade show dedicated to addressing the needs of dispensaries. As legalization sweeps the nation, consumers require outlets to access cannabis—medical and recreational. You’ll see a variety of companies in Atlantic City that offer dispensary owners and operators support: insurance companies, financial advisors, IT and POS systems designed for the industry.
Also prominently featured among the vendors at CHAMPS are kratom wholesalers and distributors. For those who may not know, natural kratom is derived from a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family native to Southeast Asia. Its leaves have been used for centuries as an herbal supplement in traditional medicines for pain management and relaxation. It’s not a drug or opiate.
Since 2010, CHAMPS has hosted the Glass Games, a live, on-site competition of elite artists who square off against one another for cash prizes. In February, the Masters Final took place in Las Vegas, the culmination of a yearlong season of contests that take place at all CHAMPS shows. The Atlantic City Glass Games will kick off a new season for the competitors. Forty-eight top glassblowers will light their torches and create unique pieces in five so-called “Mini-Games,” wherein artists compete in timed competitions. The Games are always a major attraction drawing awed spectators who snap hundreds of shots of the spectacle, which, in turn, become a social media phenomenon.
Situated next to the sea, Atlantic City has always held a special place in the world’s imagination. It’s where Miss America is crowned. Casinos, beaches and boardwalks have long lured vacationers, gamblers and nightclubbers. A century ago, someone dubbed it “The World’s Famous Playground”—and it still is. For decades, it’s where East Coasters have come to cavort in ocean waves and enjoy a luxury vacation in classic hotels. Now it’s a second home to CHAMPS.
As the mid point of CHAMPS’ twentieth year approaches, Atlantic City stands as an important destination in the cannabis world, proof that the industry truly stretches from coast to coast.