Hall of Flowers, the innovative B2B event that blurs the line between conference and festival, is back.
One of the most talked-about cannabis industry gatherings in California returned to its home at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds last week, bringing with it dozens of brands hoping to capture the attention of a bevy of retail buyers, journalists, and thought-leaders thirsty for the next big thing.
Throughout the multiple brand halls and courtyards, big and small operators alike offered a glimpse at their latest offerings. Many brands relied on vibrant hues and Millenial memories to attract passersby, but in true “IYKYK” fashion, the majority of the heat was hidden in plain sight.
“I noticed many brands tapping into nostalgia and going heavy with the candy and sugar theme — in products, booth design, and swag,” said Christina Wong, founder and CEO of Fruit + Flower Co. “It was a sea of bright-colored rainbow packaging from ice cream carts, to cotton candy, claw machines, 90s aesthetic, banana-flavored preroll cones, syrups, tonics, potions, and candy gummies. Gives me a toothache.”
The revamped Core Conversations series offered thought-provoking discussions surrounding a range of relevant topics. Presentations included the potentials of Web3 in cannabis, social equity in action, and the current state of California cannabis provided attendees with plenty of food for thought.
At a time when the market is on the brink of disaster, many wondered if this year’s Hall of Flowers would have the same exuberant energy as years past. And while anxiety about the future of the industry was indeed felt, an unexpected announcement on day two certainly saw the energy shift.
When a voice came over the event PA and told the crowd that President Biden would be taking action on cannabis decriminalization, the reactions ranged from skepticism to sheer bliss. Many wondered if the news would lead to real change or if it was simply a well-timed PR push ahead of a volatile mid-term election season but most would agree it was a step in the right direction.
“My first reaction to the Biden news was literal tears of joy,” said Lindsey MaHarry, aka _oystergirl_, a popular cannabis writer and educator. “It was an amazing thing to be able to share that with all of the cannabis community and I thought it was a momentous, magical experience to share that with everyone.”
MaHarry disagreed with those who downplayed the news, insisting this is a new chapter that should unify the industry.
“People are trying to say this is something that isn’t important or is a ploy for votes — of course, it is. But who cares? I think that sometimes in our industry, a lot of people get bonded to the idea of trauma and doom and gloom, and this is fraught, and it needs to go back to how it used to be. But the reality is, it’s never going to go back to how it used to be, it’s going to become something new and we can work together to shape it into something better.”
Politics and market concerns aside, one thing was certain at this year’s Hall of Flowers: there are still tons of folks putting out quality. Whether it’s terp-rich rosin or activations designed to entice, there were plenty of things that impressed us throughout our two days in Santa Rosa.
Read on for our top five favorite things about this season’s Hall of Flowers.
Cirque du GoldDrop’s sensory overload
One of the best parts of Hall of Flowers is the free-flowing consumption. Lazing about in the gorgeous Santa Rosa fall weather on a pile of pillows with your friends and copious amounts of cannabis is a true blessing. This year’s event saw the space between Hall B and the Core Conversations as the place to be, thanks to a perfect blend of entertainment, refreshments, oil, and vibes.
Dubbed the AVD/GoldDrop lounge, the open-air courtyard was a true feast for the senses. Curated by the legendary Hashinista herself Elise McRoberts, the activation offered visitors a chance to relax, cool off with a terpene and CBD-infused slushie from Lehua Brands, try out some fire liquid diamonds courtesy of GoldDrop, and delight in pop-up performances from gold-clad stilt-walker Krysta Cook, belly dancer Luna Moon, and former Cirque du Soleil aerialist Viva La Glam. HOF attendees who made their way to the AVD/GoldDrop lounge often found it hard to leave, a testament to the activation’s powerful mix of comfort, class, and amusement.
“We wanted to create something that people would remember,” explained Joe Encinosa, CEO of GoldDrop. “But we were also able to create a space that allowed for more meaningful and intimate conversations.”
Encinosa added the activation was a huge success for both attendees and GoldDrop, attracting a potential East Coast deal thanks to the mystique and intrigue of the environment.
“In a world where we’re seeing a lot of copycat marketing, it was extremely exciting to bring something I knew would be a much-appreciated surprise—a gold sparkle when we needed it most,” McRoberts added.
Sneak previews leaving us hype for winter
Hall of Flowers is known as a hub of cannabis industry innovation, with many companies eager to offer a glimpse into what’s ahead.
On the ancillary side, Xylem Tech shared the latest R&D news on their cutting-edge vape cart filling and capping technology, teasing concentrate-specific measuring is in the works. Meanwhile, two-way humidity control leader Boveda presented its brand new integrated jar lid dubbed the Boveda Closure.
Beard Bros staff also caught glimpses (and whiffs) of stellar flower and concentrated products about to take the market by storm. A line from cannabis art darling Greg Welch aka cannabiscapes in collaboration with Strong Mountain Farm had us thrilled, while media favorites Respect My Region‘s upcoming collab with House of Cultivar should have the Pacific Northwest lit in no time (their California Legacy line is also getting rave reviews).
Cannabiscapes brand from Greg Welch Respect My Region’s cannabis offerings
Over at the Flamingo Hotel, the unofficial HOF after-hours gathering spot, several brands provided sneak previews of upcoming launches in well-appointed hospitality suites. Hydroponics expert Tony Buckets showed off some fire flower from his new brand Rivers with a side of delicious snacks handmade by Chef Holden Burkons. The Purple Apricot should not be missed when the line drops in Colorado and California dispensaries.
And while all the product on display was indeed exciting, it was the Binske suite that really had us juiced. The company is set to launch Oni into the regulated market, a connoisseur brand from the team who brought the world two of the top strains in the game: Tropicana Cookies and Papaya. All we can say is: don’t sleep when this line drops—the FOMO will be painfully real.
Journalists and influencers were treated to a goodie bag featuring flower, rosin, and infused donut joints, all of which were louder than anything else seen (and smelled) at Hall of Flowers. Every single product was 10/10 for terps and quality, with the Strawberry Poptarz rosin and Purple Something flower leaving us especially intrigued.
“Much like a rare wine, an exquisite car, or a gourmet culinary experience, Oni is created by people that have devoted their lives to the craft,” explained Elise McDonough, director of marketing at Binske. “These are legacy growers steeped in tradition, who have stepped up to elevate the dispensary experience.”
Old favorites who continue to deliver
There were lots of new faces at this year’s Hall of Flowers but many of our favorite samples came from the respected names we count on for quality.
Indoor flower brands we always count on came through in a big way, with Holy Moly! from Fig Farms, Pearadise by Team Elite Genetics, and Watermelon Mimosa from 420 Kingdom never failing to disappoint. Other honorable mentions included a mystery bag from CAM (we think it’s the CAM Runtz), Quest by Source Cannabis, and Gary Payton from Moon Valley Cannabis Company.
Aeroponic flower from 420 Kingdom Sun-grown flower from Sol Spirit Farms
Minor cannabinoid products starting to shine
It was clear at this year’s Hall of Flowers that brands are beginning to comprehend that high-THC products are not the end-all be-all. As the market matures and more consumers begin to seek out products with therapeutic benefits, producers are seeking to provide more options to expand their reach.
The Chemistry/Emerald Spirit Botanicals Pink Boost Goddess pre-roll collab was highly-sought after at HOF, thanks to its unique THC-V profile and wins at the 2022 Emerald Cup Awards. The Sweet Sleep Fig Mind Expanding Belt, a 1:1 CBN:THC gummy from Space Gem also continues to raise eyes while STIIIZY announced their 2:1 THC:CBN gummy at HOF this year as well. A new THC:CBN disposable vape dubbed Sweet ZZ from DreamPen by Sauce also caught our attention.
“I am so proud of our bubble hash CBN belt,” said Wendy Baker, founder and CEO of Space Gem. “It took one and a half years of research and development to find the perfect ratio of THC and CBN so our customers would elevate as they sleep and feel amazing the next day. There’s nothing else like it on the market and the reception has been wonderful.”
The rise of minor cannabinoids is a welcome sight as our industry evolves to be more inclusive and welcoming of any person who may want to benefit from the cannabis plant’s myriad benefits.
The evolution of edibles
Speaking of market maturation, the edibles category is also experiencing a welcome glow-up. While sweets may continue to dominate for the foreseeable future thanks to their familiarity and flavor, brands are starting to understand that not every consumer wants a sugary treat.
Hall of Flowers saw a number of interesting edibles debut on the floor. TSUMO Snacks launched their highly-anticipated Snazzle Os, a collaboration with Snoop Dogg that has seen the brand attract mainstream media attention. We had a chance to try the tasty baked onion rings with the light texture and burst of flavor forcing us to hide the bag so we wouldn’t eat them all in one go.
Another new brand generating a lot of buzz at HOF was It’s All About Choices, which uses revolutionary nanoemulsion technology to create delicious water-soluble mixes and snacks that slap. The seemingly endless variety of colorful packets stood out, with Beard Bros staff elated at the idea of infused onion soup and garlic mashed potatoes.
“Hall of Flowers was such an amazing experience, and we couldn’t have chosen a better place for our debut into the cannabis industry,” said Hadas Cohen, COO of Powder Nation, the brand’s parent company.
“We’ve been working so hard on this project for the past two years and we haven’t really been able to share it until today. We can’t wait to get our product in people’s hands and for them to see the endless possibilities that It’s All About Choices offers!”
Small farms getting the attention they deserve
One of our very favorite things at this year’s Hall of Flowers was the presence of some of Northern California’s most revered craft cultivators—arguably among the most important people in the room. In times of great uncertainty, seeing legacy operators who have been able to survive was a testament to the true power of the community.
The Mendocino Cannabis Alliance booth was bustling while down the way Lost Paradise Organics and Moon Made Farms offered attendees a VR tour of Tina Gordon’s gorgeous estate. The futuristic experience brought visitors back to basics, something Gordon always strives for.
Pics from left to right: Mendocino Cannabis Alliance: VR tour of Moon Made Farms: Product tins and swag from Moon Made Farms
“For many people, I think that was the first time they had seen a sun-grown plant in the ground, and what it looks like in the Emerald Triangle in the hills,” the founder of Moon Made Farms told Beard Bros. “One of the beautiful things is there was a sense of wonder and adventure. And that’s what cannabis gives us. Discovery, tapping into that glow around being alive. It was beautiful to watch people go through that experience.”
Gordon added that while the small but mighty presence of small farms resonated throughout the halls, she hopes to see an even bigger showing at next year’s event.
“I would love to see more farmers at Hall of Flowers and I would love to see more buyers purchasing regenerative sun-grown craft cannabis. I have that firm belief that cannabis needs craft. It started here, it’s going to come back around. And for those who understand the benefit of this, there’s a collective push right now to create access in the marketplace.”
Were you at Hall of Flowers? What moments stood out for you?