Mid-September saw the second edition of the highly successful Hemp and CBD Expo at the prestigious National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, UK. We went along to see how it represents the state of CBD in the UK in 2019.
The Hemp & CBD Expo follows their debut back in March and sees a move up to a bigger space, to accommodate more exhibitors, more guests and more speakers – 30% more, in fact. This trade show event hosted 150 exhibitors and two seminar stages. The event welcomes both CBD and hemp experts, industry insiders along with people simply looking to educate themselves on this booming industry.
Around 8,000 visitors were estimated to have attended, with the vast majority being B2B (business to business), consisting of investors, buyers, retail and more. There were a glut of stalls selling edibles, most commonly gummies, with some opting for an eye-watering mark-up of £10 per two brightly-coloured sugary gummies. Stalls like this came as a disappointment, offering little advancement in CBD and hemp, merely as a way of making profit by touting unhealthy snacks as healthy by virtue of containing a small amount of CBD.
Some the exhibitors went down the brightly-coloured, pop-art style imagery with comic-style text offering ‘crumble kits’, plus a ‘Dab Bar’ which went for a Grand Theft Auto style aesthetic that doesn’t sit right with the belief that the CBD industry needs to portray a professional image. The risk is that by going for this low-rent childlike imagery, companies like these will prove to be fatal to the burgeoning UK CBD industry; much as the reputation of vaping in the USA has been damaged by the less scrupulous regulations in places over there, leading to a moral panic about children vaping and the potential of an upcoming ban.
But there were plenty of more credible options, from all corners of the CBD and hemp worlds. The Cannabis Activist stall tapped into the ‘hippy’ feel, with plenty of hemp leaf logos dotted around, plus comfy seating and throws, but paired this with a wealth of knowledge about the plant itself and its legal status in the UK.
The two seminar stages (the main stage, and the new business pro stage) proved to be the real draw over this two-day event, with a packed roster of individual speakers and in-depth panel discussions. This saw 50 leading industry speakers and influencers taking to the stage to educate and inform.
These speakers came from all over the world to share their collective expertise on all aspects of the hemp and CBD industry. This means insider information about farming, production, brand development, international legal issues and investment opportunities. Well-staffed stalls from industry trade bodies such as the Cannabis Trade Association UK, CannaPro, European Hemp Industry Association and the British Hemp Association were also represented.
Unfortunately, the most high-profile guest from the entire event, Dr Christian Jessen, had to pull out of the medical panel discussion on Saturday. His recent comments about CBD, saying that there are outrageous claims being made about it, and that more detailed research is needed, would have offered some useful balance to the other speakers featured over the weekend.
Despite this, the two stages provided some of the most informative and eye-opening moments of the entire weekend. Here are a selection of highlights:
- Scott Calliham, the COO/chief business development officer from Collective Hemp Brands, giving his informed and considered take on legislation in the UK.
- Peter Reynolds, president of CLEAR and founder of CannaPro, the trade association for the UK’s cannabis, CBD and hemp businesses, taking a deep dive into the world of legal and regulatory matters, and looking at how Brexit could have a positive impact for the CBD and hemp markets in the UK.
- Dan Herer, son of the legendary hemp advocate Jack Herer, talking about what he’s learned from his time in the hemp industry.
- A fascinating panel, headed by Robert Jappie, speaking to legal experts Sine Selman and Guvvy Sandhu, about the future of the CBD industry in the UK.
- An inspiring talk by Dr Dani Gordon, about the multiple wellness benefits of CBD, from a doctor’s perspective.
- A panel chaired by Clifton Flack from CIITECH, hosting a wide-ranging discussion with international rugby stars James Haskell and Ben Franks from UK CBD brand Impact Sports.
The Hemp & CBD Expo showcased some of the most informed people in the UK CBD industry and beyond, speaking with clarity and from a position of deep knowledge. However, the expo wasn’t perfect and there were issues that need to be addressed in the near future. There were some worrying signs in among the stalls, with a lack of tact and a desire for profit over wellness, but these were far outweighed by speakers such as Dr Dani Gordon, who took a professional and engaging perspective on all things CBD and hemp.
More than this, the bulk of the speakers focused on the benefits of this complex and fascinating plant, rather than how big business can profit from it. And with plenty of charlatans popping up in the CBD world of late, this is more important than ever. It’s always worth stressing: buy your CBD oil from reputable CBD suppliers, who provide lab reports for all their products.