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There are few places in the world more fitting for a cannabis conference than Niagara Falls. A fast and vibrant city, ensconced by some of the quietest and richest agricultural lands the Canadian countryside has to offer, the natural beauty of Niagara Falls proved once again an inviting place for the second annual Grow Up Conference.

With cannabis legalization in Canada only one month away, the atmosphere was alight with curiosity and anticipation at this year’s Grow Up event, which followed in the footsteps of the inaugural conference in 2017. While a number of last year’s participants were again in attendance, this year’s event was exponentially bigger. 

Not only did the number of booths and attendees multiply – showing an obvious uptick in cannabis interest – but the size and scope of the conference’s seminars took on a much more sophisticated tone. The speaker list, made up primarily of influencers and industry insiders, was headlined by Kevin O’Leary, which certainly added some star power to the conference.

An influential businessman and star of Dragon’s Den, O’Leary was optimistic about the potential for Canada to lead the world on the cannabis front. In his keynote speech, delivered to an eager and packed crowd, O’Leary pointed to draconian federal laws around cannabis in the U.S. as Canada’s ticket to become the global leader in this new industry. 

Enthusiasm remained high throughout the weekend at an event that did a good job of balancing both cultural and commercial interests. Where the seminars stimulated a strong discourse about nearly every topic being explored under the cannabis banner – cultivation, marketing, quality assurance and branding – the conference floor had a little something for everyone.

In addition to dozens of licensed producers, dispensaries and horticultural shops and distributors, the conference also welcomed a number of laboratories, academic institutions and non-cannabis businesses. In fact, the number of periphery players, trades people and companies beginning to work alongside the cannabis industry was impressive, and translated to a palpable excitement throughout the event.

Only in its second year, it will be interesting to see how high the Grow Up Conference can climb next year. But after a strong second showing, one thing is for certain: provided the event continues to bring in big stars and pack its seminars with strong panels and constructive discussions, both the committed and curious will continue to show up, year in and year out.

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