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Where Supply Meets Demand: In Year Two, Flower Expo Mass Expands

“If we can make the perfect atmosphere for you to get high, then it’s probably going to do well for you to then go and make business deals too.”

Though 2023 was its first year in existence, the Flower Expo launched with quite a spectacle. With more than 150 exhibitors and representatives from an estimated 70% of Massachusetts dispensaries in attendance, it was a rare fun industry event where business actually got done, and lots of it.

Part of that early success came from Flower Expo’s pedigree—the show is a nephew to the California-born Hall of Flowers, also a B2B affair where cultivators show their harvests and wholesale buyers sample and shop. In its second year, however, the Bay State brand is finding its own personality, all while leaning into certain features like eye-popping installations that the longer-running Cali show is known for.

We asked Flower Expo CEO and organizer Jason Bello what his team learned in year one and what pot biz attendees can look forward to when the event returns to the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield on June 5 and 6.

What’s your annual routine? Do you basically start planning for this year the second that last year’s event is over? Or even before that? 

My dad’s show, Hall of Flowers, does Toronto and California. But for my show, we did it blockbuster in Mass last year, and we’re running it back this year. And we’re also doing [Flower Expo] Michigan in August; it’s going to be another debut event. A smaller show, just like Mass last year, trying to prove the concept out there and gain the respect of the community.

At Hall of Flowers I did an array of things, and was instrumental in helping them launch their first Palm Springs show. That’s where I got hands on with more of the planning and production and operations, but for Massachusetts I really tried to make it the perfect show, drawing on the production of what they do and emulating that show while creating more incentives for dispensaries to come out. 

How do you define it? Is it that Flower Expo’s not so much a trade show as it is a trading show?

It’s as simple as brands meet buyers. That’s what we do. There’s tons of shows out there that have different focuses and do a bunch of different stuff, but our show is supply and demand, basic economy. I got weed, you have a store, let me sell it to you my friend.

What are people telling you that they’re looking for? Distillate? A certain grade of flower? 

There’s definitely a race to the bottom with products, but for high-quality product, if it’s fire, soil-grown flower, or something like that, you can still command [a higher dollar amount] because connoisseurs are out there seeking that top-shelf product no matter what. We’ll have everything [at the Flower Expo], from outdoor sungrown to top-shelf rosin, but I know brands in plenty of places whose whole mission is only to go after 15% of the consumer market.

I know there was a monsoon of sorts at one point last year. What were some of the things you learned in year one, bring us to those moments …

We are holding an outdoor event, and shit happens. If you want to smoke and consume, you are subject to the powers that be. But it was the last hour-and-a-half of the show, and if anything, I think it kind of brought everyone together when everyone huddled into the Hall. 

We definitely learned from it, and that’s why this year there’s kind of a cool result—Hall of Flowers is known for big activations, and big structures, and we had a couple of those, like PAX. So now there are no little tents or anything like that outside, and we are jumping up from about 15,000 square feet of indoor space to about 40,000. We are going to build a temporary structure that’s going to take a week to put up. It’s going to be phenomenal. It’s like a mini world’s fair.

What’s the layout going to look like? Are there any big changes? 

Production is really going to be a step up this year. We’ve made a lot of internal moves. There’s really going to be some awesome cool furniture, the lounge is scaled up, we’re kind of pulling from even Coachella inspiration. There’s going to be a food truck pavilion area; we want the lounge and food truck areas to be places where you can kind of get away from it and smoke and chill.

As far as regulations and what people can and cannot do, what do you tell your vendors? How black and white are the rules for a private event like this?

It’s just like last year. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any progression on social consumption. But to answer your question directly, yes, it’s personal gifting, it’s personal allowance laws, it’s a private event. Greenfield is one of the only cities that actually has a legal process to approve cannabis events, too, and I’m working with people from the CCC who have seen my plan. We have also worked with the city and the local police department.

I’d say what we’re doing is good enough, but it needs to be better for sure. Even in Michigan, where we’re launching now, they have a cannabis event licensing structure and it’s just like getting a retail license. Massachusetts needs it, and what I want to do by doing such a professional event is show the CCC that this can be done.

How do you resist the urge to have it turned into a mini festival of sorts? What’s a threshold that you will not cross?

I serve the client at the end of the day—my client is, number one, the exhibitor, and, number two, the attendees who are the retailers. So ultimately I have to do my best by the exhibitors, and that means not letting in non-vetted people who are just looking to score free bud. There are great consumer shows in Massachusetts, but we have our angle and our lane and that’s what we do best.

At the core, we want people to come, talk, transact, do business, smoke, consume, and sample, but we also want to make it conducive so that people enjoy their time. If we can make the perfect atmosphere for you to get high, then it’s probably going to do well for you to then go and make business deals too.