Running a successful event of any kind isn’t easy. And running a successful event in the cannabis space isn’t any easier. But that’s exactly what Marc Shepard is doing, and he’s helping local communities and industries to thrive and grow.
Marc is the founder of NECANN–the world’s largest B2B cannabis convention–as well as a member of the MassCann/NORML and Mass Grower Advocacy Council. Over the course of 20 years, he’s produced and executed cannabis events all over New England, advocated tirelessly for cannabis legalization across a ton of outlets, and is a massive Silver Age Marvel nerd. In fact, he’s also the owner and founder of the Salty Comics Corp.
In this conversation, you’ll hear the inside story of how NECANN started and how it’s expanded across a number of states and markets. You’ll also hear all about NECANN’s upcoming High LifeStyle Show, which will be their first-ever consumer event, and how you can make plans to attend.
- What NECANN’s mission is and how they became an alternative to a showcase of major brands by helping local businesses.
- Why making the events affordable for businesses and attendees is such a high priority.
- The reasons why NECANN isn’t trying to compete with the largest conferences, and instead focuses on doing what those events can’t do.
- How the NECANN Cup, which celebrates local growers, is judged and how they select their judges.
- What Marc has planned for the NECANN High LifeStyle show coming up on Oct 7-9th.
- Why social justice and expungement has become a touchy topic on the way to legalization–and what needs to happen to get the best results in the long-term.
- “It can’t be what I think. I’m a stage and everybody’s going to be able to have a voice. And that’s what I see our role as.” – Marc Shepard
- “The idea of the Cannabis Cup is very old and tried and true and it’s a great way to showcase the talents of the local growers in each market.” – Marc Shepard
- Follow Marc Shepard on LinkedIn | Twitter
- Follow NECANN on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn
- NECANN Cup
- High Lifestyle Show
- Salty Comics Corp
- Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council
- Harvest Cup
- Terptown Throwdown
- Marijuana Business Conference and Cannabis Expo (MJBizCon)
- Boston Freedom Rally
- New York Cannabis & Hemp Convention
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Jeffrey Boedges: Good morning, Vietnam!
Rick Kiley: Good morning, Green Repeal!
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s it. That’s it.
Rick Kiley: Channeling a little Robin Williams today which, by the way, have I mentioned how much I miss Robin Williams?
Jeffrey Boedges: There’s probably a lot of people we miss. You know, man, I still get pissed off every time I think about like Chris Cornell, Prince, Tom Petty.
Rick Kiley: The musicians, it’s just an endless string of people we wish were here.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, I just feel like they’re really necessary now. And Robin Williams is the same way. You know, it’s just like these guys that sort of checked out early, and I’m just like, “We need you right now, dude. We need some smart, funny, passionate people here to help make some of this nuttiness a little bit more palatable.”
Rick Kiley: Yeah, a little George Carlin might be nice right around now, too, you know?
Jeffrey Boedges: Oh, yeah, man. Yeah, Rodney. I mean, you want to talk about a cannabis ad again. I miss Rodney Dangerfield, man.
Rick Kiley: Well, yeah, we should talk about what we’re here to talk about. Not just all the people we miss. It’s a different podcast.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. But that’s a topic for a thing. I think we can definitely. I wonder who would be the right celebrity guest to come in and talk about people who like to smoke weed who are gone now.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Like a combination of like Shirley MacLaine and Woody Harrelson. Like, put those two together. Right? So, one would be like channels the dead and then someone who’s just unabashedly high constantly.
Jeffrey Boedges: Right. Okay. I think that’s…
Rick Kiley: Willie Nelson and Bill Clinton.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. My brother and I started calling weed “Clinton” years ago.
Rick Kiley: You mentioned that. You mentioned that. Well, look, we have a great interview coming up, really interesting one with a gentleman named Marc Shepard. He’s the founder of the NECANN Conferences. And really interesting guy and the NECANN Conference was actually one that I spoke at. I spoke at one of them in Albany a month ago. And he talks about the events that they put together, the goals of them, how he got involved, and as well as some of the other work they do. They organize a cannabis cup, which I’ve always found really interesting because, Jeff, we talk about this all the time, the thought that…
Jeffrey Boedges: How do you judge that?
Rick Kiley: How do you judge?
Jeffrey Boedges: You can’t spit weed.
Rick Kiley: Right. When you do a wine tasting and you’re judging wines, they try it, they swish it around in their mouth. They taste it, goes in the bucket, and they do, I don’t know, 50 at a time probably like in a day.
Jeffrey Boedges: Tons. Same with whiskey tasting. Same with, you know, you go to the San Francisco Wine Spirit thing, all those double golds that you’re always hearing about, those people are swishing and spitting.
Rick Kiley: But you can’t take 50 bong rips, can you?
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, I think some of our guests could and maybe do.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. There are some high-tolerance people but like, can you accurately judge that?
Jeffrey Boedges: So, I mean, after the third one, can you say, “Okay. This one has a different kind of buzz?” No. High is high at that point.
Rick Kiley: Right. Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: There’s no palate cleanser. There’s no palate cleanser for weed, which is what you would need. You need to be able to get, “Okay. This feels good,” and then you could eat a piece of bread, and then you’re not high anymore.
Rick Kiley: That would be good. That would be good. I think someone was talking about that you can take something to de-high yourself.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah?
Rick Kiley: Yeah, I don’t know. But that would be good technology.
Jeffrey Boedges: Like a box of Oreos.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Kind of like a trip to Taco Bell.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. I think that just makes you fat but, you know, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Rick Kiley: So, it’s a really interesting interview. He has a lot of knowledge in the industry. They’re even doing some, trying out a consumer event coming up next month in Massachusetts, which sounded really interesting. And he does demystify a little bit of that process of how judges judge cannabis for these award ceremonies, which happen all over the place. And I think it’s great that they do them because it’s a very good trade marketing vehicle, especially when brands are in their infancy and when an industry is in its infancy. So, it’s great to see that those are happening.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. And we still don’t really have true national brands. So, it’s not like you can say, “Oh, I’ll just go get a Budweiser.” You know, you got to kind of really pay attention to the local scene and see what’s good. And it’s also, like wine, there’s so much to choose from now. I mean, we live in the golden age of cannabis right now. Now, granted, it’ll get better but I think it’ll consolidate. Now, it is a buyer’s market. There’s so much to choose from. And without a guide, and of course, we have budtenders, but if you really wanted to be like a student of the game, it’s good to have these ratings and these rankings.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I’m going to the Renaissance fair soon so I was just thinking about, what would a Bronze Age of cannabis be like?
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. That’s what I think we were saying. Mead and weed. Yeah. Friar Tuck, he never tuck, you know.
Rick Kiley: Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: Token.
Rick Kiley: No.
Jeffrey Boedges: From Robin Hood, Friar Tuck.
Rick Kiley: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yeah. I was going to say Friar Lawrence for some reason, but I’m not sure that that’s right. I did find one other article because we talk about destigmatizing perceptions of people who consume cannabis quite a bit. There’s an article published on the Marijuana Moment, which is where I go and pick up a lot of my news. The headline is Marijuana Doesn’t Turn People Into Lazy Stoners as Stereotyped on TV, Study Finds, which I thought was a promising headline, a good lead. And it basically said if I scroll down here a little bit, again, I’m trying to find the quote that I wanted to say, “Our results suggest that cannabis use at the frequency of 3 to 4 days a week is not associated with apathy or effort-based decision making for reward, reward wanting or reward liking in adults or adolescents.” And then it goes on to say, and here’s a word for you, Jeff, “Cannabis users had lower anhedonia than controls, albeit at a small size effect.” So, I know you’re a language arts master here.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Pretty sure, anhedonia means like, again, it goes back to how many times you like to go to Taco Bell, no, actually, that’s not what it…
Rick Kiley: No. It is referred to as the inability to experience pleasure. Isn’t that interesting? I hadn’t heard that word before today.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. I didn’t really know that was a thing. I mean, who really can’t experience pleasure besides, well, people who have a stick up their you know what?
Rick Kiley: Right. So, I think the point is, while the researchers found that marijuana consumers were slightly more capable of experiencing pleasure regardless of the frequency of use, they’re saying it wasn’t statistically different than the groups when it came to apathy. So, I think basically it sort of summarizing and saying is like, you know, there’s another quote here by one of the folks who led the study, “There’s very little difference between cannabis users and non-users when it came to lack of motivation, lack of enjoyment, even among those who use cannabis every day. And this is directly contrary to the portrayal we see on TV and in movies. The stoners we see and as the dude in The Big Lebowski.”
Jeffrey Boedges: True Romance, man, Brad Pitt laying on the couch, watching cartoons. His name was Floyd.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. And they’re depicted as lazy stoners but it’s not true. It’s not how people are using it today. And I think it’s nice to see that there’s a study, right? Like the proof has to be in the data to really help remove stigma over time. Of course, we live in an age now where people don’t believe facts often but you do need them. We do need them.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. I mean, there’s a big, healthy part of the population that likes facts.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I like facts.
Jeffrey Boedges: I like facts. I like things that I can believe in.
Rick Kiley: I even like fax machines. I just, you know. do you remember those? I didn’t like that curly paper, though.
Jeffrey Boedges: No, the curly paper blew. The plain paper fax was like the big change. Yeah. They should bring those back. Yeah. Remember, you would get all that junk mail. But anyway, yeah, so I agree, though. When I think about the people that we’ve interviewed and the people we’ve been meeting. And I would say actually most of them seem to be on the fitter side.
Rick Kiley: Sure.
Jeffrey Boedges: There’s a real sort of holistic approach or at least sort of a healthy sort of lifestyle, organic. They’re into that type of living in the industry anyway. I feel like the people that are involved in are generally speaking healthier than the average bear.
Rick Kiley: Gives new meaning to the term, “Feel the burn.” Weed gym where the tagline is, “Feel the burn,” or, “Embrace the burn.”
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s good. Well, we talked about it because weed yoga is a real thing. People do it and I’ve still yet to mix my two passions there, but it’s on the docket. I’m going to make that happen.
Rick Kiley: Dude, goat yoga is a thing. Like, yoga is being combined with a lot of things these days.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. Well, I suppose. A new friend told me last week and he’s like, “Real technological breakthroughs or real breakthroughs aren’t usually something that are built from scratch. It’s usually combining existing things in a novel way,” like goats and yoga. Yeah. But he was talking digital. But I think the lesson applies here as well with weed. What else could we combine weed with that would be novel?
Rick Kiley: Novels?
Jeffrey Boedges: I think that’s been done, man.
Rick Kiley: It probably has been done. Yes, yes, yes.
Jeffrey Boedges: I mean, really, when you look back at The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I mean, wasn’t that really just one giant metaphor?
Rick Kiley: I mean, yeah. What about Alice in Wonderland?
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: That might have motivated something else.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, but it’s good to know that I think the key takeaway here is, is that stoners aren’t any lazier than the average Joe.
Rick Kiley: Well, I think the word stoner is like wrong, but it’s users and I think as we talk about the evolution of social consumption, perhaps the opening up of on-premise consumption lounges, the way people consume it, the new intakes such as through beverages where it more aligns with existing social patterns and we’ll continue to see the stigma fall. But I think like data and studies like this basically reinforcing the fact that you can be a successful individual, live a very purpose-driven life, raise a family, have a job, be responsible, and still have cannabis be part of your life, and the facts will bear that out that there are lots of people who can do that. So, I like it. I want to see more of it. I want it out there.
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, I think that’s the piece. You know, you’re right. We still haven’t seen modern, responsible cannabis use portrayed in movies or on TV at all.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, that’s fair. And someone’s got to. I mean, I think there are in like I’m going to say, like in the reality TV sort of world, I think there are some things that are happening about people that are making cannabis, they’re growing it, and how they have a relatively normal life. But you’re right. Popular fiction, pop culture, movies, TV, it’s not integrated in a way that seems…
Jeffrey Boedges: Positive lifestyle reinforcement.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. It’s probably a big need, right? It’s probably. There was a movie. I don’t know. Do you remember there was a movie that came out called Thank You for Not Smoking?
Jeffrey Boedges: Yes, I remember it.
Rick Kiley: And it was about like the smoking lobby and…
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. It was the whistleblower.
Rick Kiley: No, no, no, no, no. This was a comedy farce. You’re thinking of a different one.
Jeffrey Boedges: Oh, right. I remember.
Rick Kiley: But he goes and he meets with Rob Lowe, who basically plays like a superstar, like a movie executive producer. And he’s like, “Oh, yeah, I got it. We’re going to make smoking popular again. We’re going to set this movie in the future.” “Why the future?” “Well, because it’s the future so it must be healthy by the future.” It’s just like, you know. But the sort of power that’s there of recognizable icons.
Jeffrey Boedges: Shaping public opinion.
Rick Kiley: It’s valuable, especially in today’s Instagram influencer days and YouTube days.
Jeffrey Boedges: I think as a former smoker, I remember seeing smoking on movies and on television and thinking they looked cool. Of course, I always look like a giant douche but people on film, they look good.
Rick Kiley: Don’t sell yourself short.
Jeffrey Boedges: Right. The comedians I dig.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, exactly. Well, I don’t think we should hold it up any longer. I think you’re going to enjoy the conversation with Marc. Very knowledgeable. Also, if you’re in the Northeast and you’re someone who’s trying to crack into this business, be you trying to get licensed, you’re just looking for a job, looking for information education, NECANN is a great, great resource. We invite you to check it out. Hope you enjoy.
Rick Kiley: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of The Green Repeal. We are into autumn, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey Boedges: In a very big way. It’s gorgeous out today. So nice.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I got to get some like apple picking going on or something like that.
Jeffrey Boedges: Right.
Rick Kiley: You know where we’re going, though? The Renaissance Fair.
Jeffrey Boedges: Oh, I thought you were like, where we’re going like Royal Weed just like pick your own weed.
Rick Kiley: No, no. Very different. I wonder what Renaissance Fair Weed would be like. They have ale.
Jeffrey Boedges: Well, we have mead. Right. So, mead and weed is like that just writes itself.
Rick Kiley: I don’t know. And maybe our guest today wants to do something with that idea. We have a really great interview lined up today. We’re welcoming Marc Shepherd. He’s the founder of NECANN. He is also a registered Massachusetts MMJ patient and a member of both the MassCann/NORML and Mass Grower Advocacy Council. During his 20-year publishing career, he has created, promoted, and executed successful live events all over New England, he served as a judge for the Harvest Cup, the Terptown Throwdown, and, of course, the NECANN Cups.
Jeffrey Boedges: I got to go to the Terptown Throwdown.
Rick Kiley: It’s a great name. He’s spoken for MMJ in cannabis legalization on many outlets and is an unrepentant Silver Age Marvel comic nerd and the founder and owner of the Salty Comics Corp. All right. We’ll talk about that a little bit. NECANN, which is also known as the New England Cannabis Conventions, has been developing engaging conventions for the cannabis industry since 2014, expanding market opportunities for businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, educators, patients, advocates, you name it. NECANN takes a collaborative approach with local industries and communities for the conventions, which have resulted in consistently high returns for exhibitors, sponsors, attendees, and the local cannabis market, allowing everyone to benefit and grow. So, got that double entendre in there. There you go.
Rick Kiley: Marc, welcome to The Green Repeal. Pleasure having you here.
Marc Shepard: Thank you so much for having me on, guys. I really appreciate it. I’ve never actually heard all that stuff said out loud, so it really actually sounds okay. So, the proofreading holds up.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. No, it’s impressive. It’s like when they announce Tiger Woods at the first tee. It was like, “Winner of…” and it just goes on and on. You’re like, wow, man.
Rick Kiley: We want to make sure that everyone understands how awesome you are right out of the gate, establish that. So, I think you know what we tend to start with is just trying to get an understanding of how everyone became part of the legal cannabis industry. I’m wondering if you can just give us a little bit of insight into how you became who you are today in this industry.
Marc Shepard: Sure. You know, I’m old so my early days of cannabis. We’re in the early to mid-80s and been a fan and an advocate since then. And when I talked about you mentioned the publishing career, I worked in all weeklies. You know, if you’re familiar with like The Village Voice, Portland Phoenix.
Rick Kiley: Sure.
Jeffrey Boedges: Oh, yeah.
Marc Shepard: So, I worked for the Phoenix newspapers for about 20 years. Obviously, very progressive papers and cannabis normalization was always part of the editorial mission. So, we’re very familiar with that and early on, it became very obvious that like most newspapers, we needed new revenue sources and events were always easy to produce because you had free advertising. And one of the ideas we came up with in 2014 was to try a cannabis convention. That was about two years before rec was legal in Mass, and there weren’t any medical dispensaries even open yet. So, it was kind of a desperation play, which was what we did pretty much every day in newspapers. I was just like, “I don’t know.” We waited and waited and we’re like, “Well, we can’t wait. We need the money. So, let’s just do it now even though the timing isn’t right. And it was a hilarious disaster in that we sold the floor. We were ready to go. And then the Patriots went on a run in the playoffs and the Super Bowl was the day of the convention and we’re like, “Sh*t. We got to postpone it.” So, we pushed it two weeks, called everybody up, changed the dates, screamed at the venue.
And then if you guys remember 2014, I don’t know if you know but in New England, it snowed about a foot every week for two months in 2014 and by the time the show came, there was literally seven feet of snow on the ground in Boston and it snowed all weekend, and the place was mobbed. There were people around the block waiting to get in. We actually had to stop people coming in after a while and I looked at the guy I was doing the event with who was actually the owner of the newspaper. And I said the good news is, obviously, this is great. They said the bad news is I quit. We won’t be working for a newspaper anymore because we made the decision to kind of launch that event as a separate entity outside of the newspaper. And so, that was kind of the end of my newspaper career but the beginning of the cannabis convention career.
Rick Kiley: Oh, wow. So, wait a minute, then does the newspaper company, are they in any way an owner or partner in NECANN today?
Marc Shepard: No. The gentleman, Jeff Lawrence, who kind of co-founded with me, about two years later he sold the newspaper, and then he subsequently sold his interest in NECANN to me.
Rick Kiley: Okay. All right. That’s interesting. Yeah. The way you were setting up that story, I was not envisioning a lot of people showing up.
Marc Shepard: Yeah. It was just crazy. I couldn’t believe it. And nobody pre-bought tickets because nobody knew if it was like, “Well, what if it’s a blizzard? I’m not coming, this, and that.” So, everybody just showed up and said, “We want to buy a ticket.” Talk about understaffed event.
Rick Kiley: Well, to be fair, though, the two weeks after the Super Bowl is probably the worst sports weekend on the calendar. Yeah. So, that’s a good scheduling thing.
Jeffrey Boedges: Back in the day, they used to have the all-pro game. What was it called? The Pro…
Marc Shepard: The Pro Bowl. Sure.
Rick Kiley: And everyone watches that, Jeff. I mean…
Jeffrey Boedges: I joke every year when I get on like, “We’re going to have a Pro Bowl party,” because like who else has a Pro Bowl party?
Marc Shepard: Right. It’s a good time.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, not really.
Rick Kiley: Wow. All right. So, NECANN started by, let’s just say happy accident, and the idea was really borne out of desperation. But like I guess you could have done any type of event. What led you to the idea of like let’s do a cannabis event two years before it’s even legal?
Marc Shepard: Well, it was really in Massachusetts, like a lot of states, I mean, medical had been legalized but the local government was trying to slow it down as much as possible. That actually was legalized via a popular vote. It wasn’t legalized…
Jeffrey Boedges: Referendum, yeah.
Marc Shepard: Yeah, referendum. I’m sorry. And so, they were trying to put the skids on it. So, it was very frustrating for patients, very frustrating for people like, okay, it’s legal but you can’t grow it and there’s no way to get it so everybody was just messing. So, it was just such an eye-opener.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s the New England way.
Marc Shepard: Yeah. It was such an eye-opener. One of the first people through the door, I don’t know if you guys are familiar with Bob Lobel who was…
Rick Kiley: Sorry, no.
Marc Shepard: He was kind of like the sports news guy in New England for like 25 years, like the evening news, the sports anchor. And he was trying to become a medical patient for a couple of conditions he had and he didn’t know anything about it, had no ideas, doctor didn’t know anything. So, he just showed up. And then he agreed to speak and people went crazy and I was just like, “Wow. People need information more than anything else.” Like, there’s people here that there was still a big stigma and I was like, “These events,” like I was just thinking like, “Trade show, trade show,” but it became very obvious like this is vital information people need.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s great. Man, I love that story. That’s so cool. And obviously, he was free because there are no good sports. So, there you go.
Marc Shepard: And he’s retired.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, that.
Rick Kiley: Oh, well. I’m going to keep going with my February being a terrible month for sports.
Jeffrey Boedges: It’s a terrible month for almost everything. I mean, there’s really nothing going on. There’s no, in addition to no sports besides basketball and hockey, there’s just like…
Rick Kiley: It’s a good Dead Presidents Month.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, that’s true.
Marc Shepard: Nobody wants to do anything.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Awesome. So, then let’s talk about NECANN. So, what’s the official now today being 2022, what’s the mission and who are the main constituencies, and what are the key offerings that NECANN is providing to them?
Marc Shepard: Sure. Well, when we got in, we realized we weren’t the first people to think of this. If you guys know that MJBizCon out in Vegas was already three years old. We looked around, we saw other people doing it, and we realized we’re local. We have low resources. What’s our niche here? What’s not being done? And so, we looked at it and said let’s make our core mission. Let’s make our events a platform and stage for advancing normalization, providing education for medical patients. And then lastly, like creating a kind of lower cost, affordable, locally-focused event so that the local businesses, entrepreneurs, and people can get into the local market. You know, the barrier of cost that most of the conventions keeps the local people out. It just kind of becomes a showcase of the major brands that are going to come in and take over. And we’re like maybe we can be an alternative to that.
Rick Kiley: Okay, cool. And so, when you talk about education being a priority and I know you’re doing these conferences, is there anything outside of the conference work that NECANN’s focusing on or is the primary goal to bring people together in that forum?
Marc Shepard: The conventions, that’s really our main outlet for everything we do. We do the Cannabis Cup. We’re doing some social events. We do a lot of donating and supporting of advocacy groups like the Boston Freedom Rally was last weekend in Boston. You know, we are a supporting member of MassCann that runs that. We donated a lot of services and infrastructure for them to do the event. So, we’re more in a support role to help the advocacy groups. And then our main thing is doing these conventions.
Rick Kiley: Got it.
Jeffrey Boedges: How many are you doing and where?
Marc Shepard: We did seven in 2022 and we’ll do eight next year. And the rundown of states, it’s Boston, it’s Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maine, and then probably Virginia.
Jeffrey Boedges: Right. So, New England is a little bit of a poetic interpretation of where you’re operating.
Marc Shepard: Yeah. And the name really is just to make it clear that we’re from New England and we’re not trying to hide it. It’s just such a cliche in our industry. Like, the traveling cannabis conventions, they all show up and you get the inevitable owner, the guy throws on a Red Sox hat and says, “It’s the Boston CannaCon,” and just like I just don’t want to be that guy. I’m like, “We’re from New England, period.”
Jeffrey Boedges: Cool.
Rick Kiley: All right.
Jeffrey Boedges: And how many of those like because I know like New Hampshire is not legal yet, right? Where’s Connecticut these days?
Marc Shepard: Connecticut just passed. And that’s why we’re doing our first show there next year.
Jeffrey Boedges: Got it.
Rick Kiley: Got it. All right. And so, how do you feel? I mean, obviously, you’re continuing to operate so I have to imagine the events are successful. But when you talk to like what is your stated goal for them? And you mentioned good ROI for high returns for the exhibitors, sponsors, obviously creating connections, bringing people together. But like what’s your next goal? What’s NECANN’s goal with these conference overall? Like, how would you describe it?
Marc Shepard: Well, yeah, in order for us to actually be a successful business, we have to bring something to the table that other people don’t. And we can’t compete like I said with what a lot of people do from a resource standpoint. So, some of the things that we make our goal, for exhibitors, we have to bring attendees. We have to bring people. So, again with the model of not trying to be MJBiz, we do the New York Cannabis Convention. So, what we’re saying there is we’re going to bring all the players from New York into one room. We’ll make it the annual meeting of the New York cannabis industry. So, if you want to do business in New York, this is just the event. You should come to meet all the players. How do you get those people there? We do outreach. We connect with those people. We invest in them. And then from a pricing standpoint, it hurts because we don’t make the money but like if you look it up, MJBiz, which I love and it’s a great show, we actually have a booth there but if you want to buy a ticket to see their programming for three days and go to the hall, it’s about $900. And we kind of adopt the model where we kind of include all the programming and the base ticket price and we try to get that price as low as possible.
For most of the shows, it’s $20 or $30. So, it’s really about getting the local people to understand, look, the word everybody throws around, “Hey, in Massachusetts, cannabis is going to be a $3 billion industry but is it if all the money is going to go to MSOs and companies that are already set up in Colorado and Washington, and they’re just going to hire you to work there? Let’s make it $3 billion from Massachusetts.” And that’s by getting everyone in, providing them with lawyers and experts and businesspeople to give them sessions and education that they can afford so they can see like, “Wow. I can jump in here. I can get licensed, I can get registered, I can launch my own business,” and let’s make it a local industry.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s great. How are you finding people or are they just finding you that are like, “Hey, I’m a hand raiser. I want to be in this business. I have no idea how to get in?”
Marc Shepard: I mean, we do tons of advertising for the shows but really it comes to a ton of outreach. Like, we decided to do New York in 2022. So, even back in COVID, 2021, we were reaching out and connecting with and finding out who are the major players, who’s been doing the work in New York, who has the credibility of leadership and education. Let’s reach out. Let’s join their organization. Let’s make donations to them. Let’s invite them to speak. Let’s give them a keynote. Let’s give them prime space on our floor. And let’s get them mobilized to believe that we are here to give out, not just take. And we want to give them a stage and microphone so that they can educate the people in their market and get them moving and grow. So, we’re just trying to be that facilitator.
Jeffrey Boedges: So, it’s more industry orgs than humans, than individual people?
Marc Shepard: Yeah. I mean, the individual people, they get a heads up when they start seeing a critical mass of local chatter on social media and in the news and via email of these groups saying, “Come to this event. If you’re interested in the New York cannabis industry, this is the event to be at.” And then those people, they come.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s good. But what do you do with all the MSOs? Because there’s a lot of MSOs out there who are operating in New York.
Marc Shepard: Yeah. And we take them.
Jeffrey Boedges: Oh, you take them. Okay.
Marc Shepard: Yeah. And sometimes people come at us, and I don’t have any problem with that. Like coming from the alt-weekly world, I don’t have any problem with someone who wants to advocate or protest or give their opinion. But I just kind of always throw it back and they just say, “Look, obviously, we’re a very progressive newspaper back in the day. Let’s just pull an example,” but certainly we’re never going to write an article saying, “Vote for George Bush.” But if George Bush wanted to advertise in the paper, we’re going to run his ad.
Jeffrey Boedges: Did you ever see that time where George Bush comes on and was like really a head?
Marc Shepard: Right.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah.
Marc Shepard: Like, it’s so funny. And that’s really where we are. Like, the MSOs, they’re part of the industry. I’m an industry convention. I’m like I can pretend they don’t exist or I can veto them or keep them out. The slippery slope there and this is what I learned in journalism is the problem, if you block MSOs, now you’ve established, “Oh, there’s a bar here.” And either I approve 100% of a company and what they do or they can’t come. So, by default, I’m giving my blessing to every company here. So, now what? I have to vet every company? Did your VP assault somebody? Did you guys do this? Do you have someone who’s a sexual predator on your team? I’m like I’m not interested in vetting every company that comes down, you know?
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah, that makes total sense. And frankly, there’s a huge spectrum of people because they can be an MSO and only be in New England. That wouldn’t necessarily preclude them. And also, and I guess this is another question for you is like even with MSOs now though, by law, they can’t really move money. They’re not supposed to be moving money across state lines. So, I mean, it seems like most of that 3 billion would still stay in New England if it was sourced to New England.
Marc Shepard: Theoretically, yes.
Jeffrey Boedges: Right. Okay. I’m sure there’s some gray area.
Rick Kiley: It sounds like in reality, no.
Marc Shepard: Well, it’s the same way like in Massachusetts no one can own more than three licenses. But if you really dig deep through the sub businesses this and that, you find out there’s people trying to kind of have partial ownership of seven, eight, nine. As soon as you write a law, the lawyers say where’s a loophole.
Jeffrey Boedges: The lawyers are finding loopholes.
Rick Kiley: Right. Well, cool. And I think you’re aware of this and I’m going to take that title now of player in the industry, Jeff. I’m just going to be saying that because I had the privilege of leading a panel at your recent conference in Albany. So, that was a really cool experience. So, Rick Kiley, player in the industry. Thank you. When I was there and because I’ve been out to Vegas for one of the bigger conventions and so forth, I noticed that a lot of the exhibitors it was different. It was very different for me. There were a lot of exhibitors that were selling seeds, soil, lights, grow management systems, and I thought that was quite different versus some of the other markets where I think the industry is a little bit more mature, where rec has been legal longer. And I’m just curious, do your conferences shift in terms of the attendees and their needs based on sort of like how far away they are from the point of legalization? I was sort of blown away by just how much was focused on the grow rather than packaging, brand, logistics, distribution.
Marc Shepard: No, that’s 100% right. And to simplify it the most, our exhibit floor is typically a mirror of where that state’s industry is right now if we’re doing it correctly. Like, I’m actually doing a disservice to companies that I do business with, like you say like brands and packaging. If I say, “Oh, you should come to my New York convention,” well, no, you shouldn’t because you have no customers there. There’s no open dispensaries for you to sell to. If you want to come and do the meet and greet and get your name out there and say, “Hey, we’re ready when you’re ready,” that’s fine. But there’s nothing for them to do there yet. So, it really shows, yeah, you’re going to see like what’s the opportunity? I mean, New York just either yesterday or the day before, just legalized medical home grow. So, yeah, people are going to want to learn about that. That’ll be a big focus of the convention next year. Once licenses come through and you’ve got people walking the floor who are in the license process or have a license, those people are going to want to see those brands and the show will develop. I mean, yeah, if you come to our Boston show, you’ve got 20, 25 retail outlets on the floor exhibiting and you’ve got dozens of brands on the floor and exhibiting, trying to do business with them. In New York, two more years, they’ll be there.
Rick Kiley: Got it. And so, that’s just like organically happening or is that our year? Yeah. Okay, cool.
Marc Shepard: Yeah. And part of it we do like to say, like, it’s easy to try to just sell every person. This is a show. Yeah. Buy a booth. Buy a booth. I feel like we do a decent job of steering people away from shows and say like, “Do you need immediate ROI? Don’t come. If you’re invested for the long term, come.” And so, that can affect the floor too.
Jeffrey Boedges: I would think that’s an important sales differentiator for you from the big conferences too because the big conferences are trying to be everything for everybody. And I think when you start talking about being market specific and needs specific for that market, yeah, I definitely think people are going to get better bang for their buck.
Marc Shepard: Yeah. And MJBiz they do a great job and I could never compete with them so why would I try? You know what I’m saying? But what can’t they do? Like, if I’m a small business in New York, I may go to MJBiz for the overall experience but am I going to find a network, the people in upstate New York that I need to do business with at that show? There’s 35,000 people there. So, maybe they need both and that’s what we’ve kind of said is like what can we provide that the bigger shows can’t do? And honestly, they’re happy to leave that to us. You know, MJBiz probably does 40 million a year on their show. They don’t need what I do.
Rick Kiley: Right. Okay, cool. So, in exploring NECANN, in your offerings and we know from your opening here beyond the conferences you’re also producing the NECANN Cup. Can you talk about what that is a little bit?
Marc Shepard: Yeah. It’s kind of the same with the conventions. We certainly didn’t invent anything new. The idea of like a Cannabis Cup is very old and tried and true. And they’re a lot of fun. And we just said like we’ve got a big audience and part of the reason to do those is to get the acclaim when you win. And I just said, what’s missing is when you do these shows, there isn’t that big announcement that you want in front of thousands of people. And it’s like, “Wow. We have that.” So, I was like, “Could we do it?” And I reached out to a local guy named Mike Clinton who had some experience doing some shows. And he operates our cups for us and they took off the first year or two years ago, and they’ve just blown up. They’re just a lot of fun and everybody gets into it. And it’s a great way to showcase the talents of the local growers in each market.
Jeffrey Boedges: Can you explain the process? How does it work? How do people join? How do people enter? What are they entering? What are the categories?
Marc Shepard: Yeah. I mean, everybody’s going to make up their own thing. Like, we just go with the basics. You know, you’re going to go with flower. You’re going to go with pre-rolls, extractions, oils, all the different kinds, edibles, all the different consumption categories. And people sign up online, they register what they want to do, and then you’ve got to do the tricky part of how are you going to do the intake, how are you going to get the stuff to the judges. That’s kind of the secret sauce of how you navigate that. The other piece, every competition’s going to have its own judging mechanisms, and you kind of pick what’s important to you. And you just give them the samples and let them go.
Rick Kiley: So, is the judging done like on-site at the event or is it in advance? That’s the thing that always sort of like blows my mind with this. And you’re a judge, so you’ve been a judge, so you can talk to us about it. We come from the alcohol beverage world. There are spirits competitions and tastings all over the place. They do happen on-site within this sort of period of time for the events because people can take small amounts. With wine, they spit. With most other kinds, they don’t. But they can rinse and repeat and evaluate on-site. And I’m always wondering what are you looking for as a judge? And then how do you evaluate like a large number of products? Like, how much time does that take and how does that work?
Marc Shepard: And that’s something where you’re going to do it case-by-case based on the judge’s capacity and ability. But typically, if you’re going to give somebody a dozen samples or two dozen samples, you’ve got to give them a week or two, you know? Certainly. You have to.
Rick Kiley: All right. So, one per day?
Marc Shepard: I would guess most judges like to think they’re good for two or three a day. I work a lot. I’ve got kids. When I judge them, I was like, “Yeah. Give me the small packet. I’ll do one a day and then give me one for every day. You know, is it ten days before they’re due? You can give me ten samples,” that’s really the most I can do. But I know some people do two or three in a day easy.
Rick Kiley: Okay.
Jeffrey Boedges: How do you qualify to be a judge?
Marc Shepard: Different with every competition. With us, you’ve got to submit an application. We’re looking for really just credibility because, look, the average person just submits it, “Oh, I’ve been getting high for 25 years.” I’m just like, yeah, I get it. Maybe theoretically that qualifies you but really, you’re looking for people who have some credibility in the community, like do they work in the space? You really love to get growers, people that like grow it, they understand the process, they know what they’re looking at, somebody who’s done work in the space. Because people would say, “Oh, he just hires all his buddies,” and I’m like, well, you’re getting judges who you trust who aren’t going to just be like, “Oh, this is a chance for me to just get a big basket of weed. I’ll just fill in a bunch of baloney on the judging thing who cares?” So, the most important thing is credibility and honesty, and trust.
Rick Kiley: Yeah.
Jeffrey Boedges: With your media background, couldn’t you get like a Weedmaps or somebody like that to kind of come in and help do something like that or establish either like even like an ancillary piece of it that would be like a side gig to the whole NECANN event thing where you’re berating and giving double goals and stuff like that that people can use to market their brand?
Marc Shepard: Yeah. I mean, it’s possible like I do know people, they use the NECANN Awards to promote their stuff. Like, the people who won last year’s Boston competition, they’ll certainly have that posted in their stores. The tough thing is, to be frank, these competitions, they still operate in a gray area. And as long as that’s happening, we’re going to steer clear of any kind of sponsorship or any kind of partnership just because they are what they are.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I was thinking, though, it would be funny to have won one category judged by like a random the 25 get high random guy just like I don’t know what you call it. Yeah, the Joey. Joey’s picks.
Marc Shepard: No, I love it.
Rick Kiley: You know, it’s just like, “Yeah, these are all the people that really sees but Joey loves this one because they got him blazed.” And so…
Jeffrey Boedges: Joey from Amherst.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. You have a sports. I bring it all back to sports. I got a sports college show. “I don’t know what he was doing with this one. Why didn’t he clip it, trim it a little bit earlier? He dried it too long.”
Marc Shepard: Ironically, my son Joe is at Amherst right now. So, he could be Joey from Amherst.
Jeffrey Boedges: I didn’t know that before I made the jokes.
Marc Shepard: I know. And no offense, you know. None taken.
Rick Kiley: And this is the other thing. So, I’m curious as to sort of when you’re judging something like this, what makes a winner? Are you evaluating based on sort of different criteria, taste, flavor, effect? Is there a specific sort of rubric that you fill out to sort of come up with one?
Jeffrey Boedges: Do you have a spider diagram?
Marc Shepard: You’re going to probably have seven or eight categories on a 1 to 10 scale. I mean, most of the competitions are very similar. You’re talking visual appeal, consumption experience, aroma, packaging, dosage accuracy like it says this was supposed to be 50 milligrams of THC. Did it feel like it? And then obviously when I say consumption experience, I mean, like, was it smooth? If it was an edible, did it taste good? And then a piece of it is always going to be the effect. Was it a stimulating effect? Was it pleasurable? Was it harsh? So, the same is like at a dog show or something like that. You want the whole thing. You know, a lot of people really, really get off on what the bud looks like, you know? And it’s like, “Yeah. This is good but I want that beautiful bud.” So, that’s a piece of it. And everybody loves to smell it. And then since it’s legal now, people like the packaging or the presentation. Like if it’s food, is it good-looking food, or am I eating it like I eat a mushroom? Like, “Elk, this is going to make me feel great but it’s disgusting.” Like, can you make it a good experience? So, yeah, it really goes all across all those things.
Rick Kiley: Got it. All right, cool.
Jeffrey Boedges: I’d rather watch that show than the Westminster Dog Show. I got to be honest with you. Thanksgiving morning like my wife always wants to watch Westminster. I would much rather watch The Bud Show.
Marc Shepard: Absolutely.
Rick Kiley: All right. Well, maybe there’s an idea in there somewhere. And I was just curious, if you’re a budtender that happens to be like affiliated with a dispensary or chain or MSO, does that disqualify you? Like, are budtenders a source of your judges?
Marc Shepard: I’m sure some of them are. What you do is you take great pains for blind testing. Like, all the samples are going to come in completely blind, this, or that. And then typically, if somebody identified themselves as a budtender, it’s pretty easy to give them a category that’s going to be non-conflicting with them.
Rick Kiley: All right. Good. Awesome. And so, okay, so we talked about NECANN Cup. We talked about the conferences. Are there other events that you and your organization is planning or doing?
Jeffrey Boedges: When do consumer events start? I think that’s what we’re waiting for.
Marc Shepard: In Massachusetts, they start October 7th, 8th, and 9th at NECANN’s High LifeStyle Show, which is our first-ever consumer event. Now, big asterisk there. You can’t buy it on-site but what we did was we rented a hotel in a town called Boxborough and we rented the entire property and we’re sealing it off. And it’s going to be 21 plus and you need a ticket to be on the property for the weekend. And we talked to the local police and we talked to the hotel and they just said, “Listen, it’s private property. This is like you’re in your own backyard. Consumption is legal.” And one of the indoor exhibit halls, they said you can zoom in there as well. They’ve done smoke shows there. So, we’re doing that show and it’s going to be kind of a hybrid event. We’re going to have exhibitors. Our idea was to get a lot of the craft brands there. They can gift if you want to give out samples, that’s legal. So, we imagine there’ll be tons of gifting, lots of sharing, and then we’ve got music. We’ve got The Wailers playing, the Roots of Creation. Cheech Marin from Cheech and Chong is going to be there all weekend. The guy I’m doing that show with, he rents that facility to do pop culture and comic book-type events. So, he’s big on the celebrities and the music and the entertainment all mixed together. And we’re bringing in the cannabis piece and it’s our first one ever.
Rick Kiley: Right. Sounds like a lot of fun.
Marc Shepard: I hope so.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. What about food? Because, I mean, I think that…
Marc Shepard: Oh, there’s going to be food. Yeah. We’ve got multiple food trucks there. And also, there’s a restaurant at the hotel and they’re going to put out a bunch of stuff too. So, it’s a three-day show and we have the hotels. So, like people are literally buying ticket packages that include the rooms for three nights. So, yeah, it’s going to be kind of crazy.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. If you want, I can get some folks that go to Phish concerts to set up some hibachi grills and make some garlic grilled cheeses and egg burritos for you in the park.
Marc Shepard: You can tell them the show is in Rhode Island.
Rick Kiley: Oh, man. To my heart. To my heart. Oh, man. We got to be open to all the communities here.
Marc Shepard: Oh, The Wooks are going to be there.
Rick Kiley: Even the jam banders. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All right. That sounds like a lot of fun. I hope it goes really well.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. We’re going to have you back on after that one because I want to hear all about it.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, yeah.
Marc Shepard: I’m very interested to see what’s going to happen.
Rick Kiley: Provided that works, would the plan be to try to replicate that idea in other states?
Marc Shepard: You know, we’ll probably stick in the states that we’re in and familiar with. So, if the opportunity comes, we’ll do it elsewhere but we’ve been working with some people that are putting together the regs for social consumption in Mass. So, we just want to kind of continue to do safe, successful events and show people that all the scare tactic like this is going to happen. Like, no, it isn’t. We’re already doing it. That’s fine.
Marc Shepard: So, we’ll probably stay local.
Rick Kiley: You’re going to have the fewest bar fights at any event ever, right?
Marc Shepard: No, absolutely.
Rick Kiley: So, I’m glad you brought up some of the advocacy stuff because that’s where I wanted to sort of go next. I know that you’re involved in the advocacy side. And one question that’s come up that Jeff and I have talked about with others on this podcast is we know that cannabis is only legal state-by-state. And the way organizations need to set up basically individual state supply chains and totally sort of siloed operations, there has been some speculation that since so many states in the Northeast Corridor have now legalized for recreational use, that there might be the opportunity for an interstate commerce agreement for, say, from like New Jersey up to Maine. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on that or any knowledge about that possibility?
Marc Shepard: I mean, I’d be all for it but I don’t see it happening as long as it’s a federal crime to transport cannabis across state borders like it’s automatic. Now, you’re a drug smuggler because you crossed state lines. So, I would assume you’d need the federal government’s buy-in for that to happen but probably people that know a lot more about law just may or may not disagree with me but I don’t see how it could happen.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I was just curious if it sort of come up in some of your conversations because it’s something that I’ve heard whispers of. Made it sound like basically governors would have to agree but you’re probably right.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. It’s jurisdiction. They can definitely agree but I think that definitely puts them at odds with the government. It’s whether or not the government is going to turn a blind eye.
Marc Shepard: Right. And nobody’s going to put their license on the line if they think the chance that they’re going to get stopped by the feds at the border. So, they’d have to feel comfortable that that wasn’t going to happen.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I don’t see the feds sitting on the border for this one.
Marc Shepard: No, they wouldn’t but I wouldn’t put my license on the line for it, even though I knew it wouldn’t happen.
Jeffrey Boedges: I think it depends on what the mood is in Washington. That’s my personal opinion because if it’s a conservative mood, I wouldn’t bet that they wouldn’t do it if they can feel like they could score points with the conservative power base but, you know, we’ll wait and see.
Rick Kiley: All right. So, then just taking it one step further, I’m curious about you and your organization, what your role is on the advocacy and legalization front. How are you engaged with local governments? Are you doing any work on the federal level? Like, do you have any connections there? Could you talk a little bit about that?
Marc Shepard: Yeah. It’s a funny thing because it’s another place where I think my background in journalism, I wasn’t a writer but I was in the publisher role kind of helps in that we can be a voice but, in the end, you have to remember you’re the stage and you don’t want to drown out people who like I don’t want to… Like, simplest example, in Maine, like every state when legalization comes, everybody wants legalization but that doesn’t mean everybody likes the bill as it’s written. They don’t think it’s right. Like lots of states go legal but homegrown is illegal. Well, that drives half of cannabis support as like, “I want legalization. I’m voting against that bill because I won’t accept a bill that doesn’t have home grow.” So, we have to be very careful because like, who am I? I’m Marc Shepard. I have an opinion like everybody else but I have an incredibly unfair large voice. You know, I can send out an email and reach 80,000 people. I can post something on social media and reach 150,000 people. I can run a convention and manipulate the speakers to just be all people that agree with me. And I can actually have an influence on that.
I don’t really want that role. I want the role of being a stage and saying, “Listen, everybody gets a chance at the microphone. As long as you’re respectful and articulate, you can get on the stage. You don’t have to agree with me.” And the biggest example of that was in Maine right when it was going to vote in 2016. We were doing a convention to help drive legalization. We were doing voter registration on site for the convention, this and that. And one of the biggest groups in the state who I developed a great relationship with, it was the caregivers of Maine. They called me up. They were sponsors. They were speaking. And they said, “Marc, sorry to tell you, you’re not going to be able to have us there. We’re going to vote against, you know, we’re going to campaign against the legalization bill. We don’t like it. There’s no home grow.” And I said, “No. I mean, you have to come. You’ve got to represent that point of view. You’ve got to have a voice.” And we put them on the stage and this and that. It was just a good lesson for me. Because I was ra, ra, ra legalization and I was like, yeah, it can’t be what I think. I’m a stage and everybody’s going to be able to have a voice. And that’s what I see our role as.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. We’ve had a lot of conversations around expungement and around social justice issues really being one of the bigger sticking points for some of the legalization efforts in different states because there’s never, it’s a touchy topic. And I think people are all in agreement, yeah, we want this legalized. Yes, we want these tax dollars but they don’t know how to handle some of the touchier political issues like expungement. And I guess to your point now, the home grow.
Marc Shepard: Yeah. I mean, you’ll never get a consensus. And then I’m in the position. I’m like, “Wow, the people I like and respect the opinion of, they’re at odds,” and I just think I have an unfair weight if I pick one side or my opinion. I’m just like, “Yeah, I disagree with you but I can’t silence you.”
Jeffrey Boedges: Sure. But here’s the one and I think I know the answer to this question before I ask it but like, do you feel like sometimes people let perfection get in the way of good or get in the way of that that there’s a logical progression? Just because this bill doesn’t have home grow on it now or just because this bill doesn’t have expungement on it now, doesn’t mean we can’t add that later.
Marc Shepard: I totally agree. And it’s not a perfect analogy but if you look back at gay marriage, everybody was up in arms like, for instance, about don’t ask, don’t tell and the people they were like, “Look, this is what we can get today and this is we’re going to get and five years from now, don’t ask, don’t tell. Won’t be a thing anymore. But it’s all we can get today. We have to take this piece by piece and move forward.” So, I totally agree. And you’re not even going to get a consensus on what perfection is. Never mind get perfection.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. But I agree that it destigmatizes. It definitely helps too. It’s the toe in the water and I think people need to get okay with that at some point.
Marc Shepard: Yeah, I agree. You have to accept that there’s a huge amount of people who spent their entire life…
Jeffrey Boedges: Just saying no.
Marc Shepard: Having this… Yeah, just say no. This is demonized. You can’t just expect everyone to just snap their fingers and say, “I agree now. You’ve got to make them feel comfortable with change and that takes time.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. And I can’t even tell you, Marc. I get calls from family in different parts of the country and I have some redder roots around me. And they don’t really always like what we’re talking about on this show.
Marc Shepard: I believe that.
Rick Kiley: Well, at least they listen.
Jeffrey Boedges: That’s true. Yeah. Tell your friends.
Rick Kiley: All right. So, what’s next on the agenda for NECANN? Is it continuing the conferences, expanding to other states? You know, what’s on their vision board for you?
Marc Shepard: Yeah. I mean, we’ll continue to monitor states and look to see which ones need us, which ones we can be helpful at, and which way and expand in those ways. We’re also looking at ways to overlap. You know, last year we did our first experimentation with having a crypto portion at the convention. We called it the New England Crypto Conference at NECANN. I think there’s a decent overlap obviously between cannabis and blockchain and we’ll continue to explore that along with social consumption and the Cups. And we’ll just kind of continue pushing those state-by-state until it just becomes so mainstream that everybody just thinks of it as part of their normal culture.
Rick Kiley: Got it. All right. And so, we can agree on one thing, right? The Incredible Hulk is the best Marvel superhero. Right?
Marc Shepard: My younger brother would agree. I would agree he’s the most fun but I wouldn’t say he’s the best. For me, that’s going to be Wolverine. Wolverine’s made me too much money over the years. I actually was one of those lucky little 12-year-old nerds who fell in love with Wolverine when nobody knew who he was and I was meticulous enough to save them all, so.
Rick Kiley: Oh, man. I had a guy I went to school with, middle school with. His name was Alex Le Fossil, I think is the last name. And he loved Wolverine and had all those comics too. And I think about him sometimes, just like when all that stuff blew up with the X-Men, Hugh Jackman That’s funny. That’s funny.
Marc Shepard: But the Hulk is definitely fun for sure.
Rick Kiley: You know, I’m just thrown out there. I’m wondering which… You would know this. Are there any Marvel Comics where the superheroes consume cannabis?
Marc Shepard: I would guess Deadpool if I had to say anyone.
Rick Kiley: Sure. Yeah. All right. That’s cool. But we haven’t seen it in print yet.
Jeffrey Boedges: I always thought the Green Lantern was basically code for…
Marc Shepard: It could be. I haven’t seen it, but my days of like reading the current comics ended long ago. Honestly, I just collect the older ones, so I actually wouldn’t know but I would not be surprised if Deadpool was ripping some.
Rick Kiley: Nice. All right.
Jeffrey Boedges: He doesn’t seem like he’d shy away from it.
Rick Kiley: No, no. Those movies that he was in were pretty R-rated already. And I didn’t see the drug use in there.
Marc Shepard: No, no, maybe not.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, we’ll see. All right. Well, so we’re coming to a close here. We always end our interviews the same way. We are often talking about where cannabis is on the march to federal legalization. And we’re curious bringing us back to our sports metaphors, if you had to lay down a wager, do you have a prediction as to when you think cannabis may be federally legal in the United States of America?
Marc Shepard: I mean, I hate to say it but I think you’re at least another five years away.
Jeffrey Boedges: Yeah. It’s weird because we’ve been doing the show for two years now and you can almost see the waves of predictions are usually pretty consistent but there was a real wave of optimism I felt like two years ago. And now everybody lately is in that five-year camp or four to six.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. They’re like, “Second Biden administration if he’s reelected in the fourth year,” like that’s kind of like where a lot of people are.
Marc Shepard: I think you actually need to see the majority of the baby boomer-age legislators retire before it’s gone.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, yeah.
Marc Shepard: Because they’re never going to turn. They’re never going to do it.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. You may be right.
Jeffrey Boedges: Even Biden’s not exactly on the wagon.
Marc Shepard: No. I mean, not at all.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, it’s unfortunate. All right. So, look, if somebody wants to get some information about NECANN, about coming to a conference, about any of your offerings, what is the best action for them to take?
Marc Shepard: Yeah, very simple. Just go right to our homepage, NECANN.com. It’s just N-E-C-A-N-N dot com and our full show schedule is there. You can link to every single event, you can link to the Cups, you can link to the High Lifestyle Show. It’s all right there on the homepage, NECANN.com.
Rick Kiley: You can apply to be a judge.
Marc Shepard: You can.
Rick Kiley: Online.
Marc Shepard: Two clicks away from the judge’s application.
Rick Kiley: Right. So, Joey from the Bronx, get in there.
Marc Shepard: Joey’s on his way.
Rick Kiley: All right. Well, Marc, it’s been a pleasure speaking to you today. I enjoyed speaking at the conference. Maybe we can speak at another one or attend one of these consumer ones when it’s maybe in our backyard or something like that. But really appreciate the time you spent with us today.
Marc Shepard: Thank you, guys, so much for the opportunity. Great to meet you both and chat and, yeah, hit me up. If you ever want to come to a show, hit me up and definitely get those speaker applications in.
Rick Kiley: Thanks so much.
Jeffrey Boedges: The October one sounds great. I can’t wait.
Rick Kiley: All right. Thanks. Cheers, everyone.
Marc Shepard: Thanks, guys.