Vivien Azer will provide some insight on the latest industry trends on June 1 at Benzinga’s Virtual Cannabis Capital Conference. She will be a featured speaker at 1:45 p.m. EST.
A lot has changed since 2014, when Colorado’s legal cannabis market — both medical and recreational — officially launched.
At the time, Vivien Azer’s expertise had been in the tobacco and beverage space. Curious about the burgeoning cannabis sector, she opted to visit a Denver dispensary to see what it was all about.
“It was so taboo still,” Azer recalled. “It took me all day to work up the nerve.”
Once there, Azer realized it wasn’t just a niche market for the stoner stereotype. It was becoming mainstream — a consumer staple just like liquor and tobacco — and there was money to be made.
Later that year, Azer would go on to join financial services giant Cowen Inc. and become the first senior Wall Street analyst to cover this emerging industry.
“We laid out how cannabis can touch a lot of different industry verticals, and that it’s not just a substitute for alcohol,” she added.
Fast Forward To 2020
Fast forward to 2020. The landscape is different. Cannabis is medically legal in 33 states, and there’s less of a stigma attached to its use.
“It was slow to build,” says Azer, who currently oversees an entire Cowen team devoted to cannabis coverage.
“I work in a profession that, traditionally — in a pre-COVID world — I was probably traveling 70% of the year,” the an NYU Stern School of Business alum said.
That routine changed once the coronavirus pandemic forced companies to require employees to work from their homes. However, this presented a silver lining.
“Now when I’m not racing through airports and security lines, I have more time to work with my team,” she said. “There’s a lot more time for contemplation, research ideas and more time for analysis which I’m grateful for.”
Among Azer’s findings: Cannabis sales in the United States have continued to climb, despite the COVID-19 outbreak. Also, the pace in which states are legalizing, has tracked exactly in line with Cowen’s expectations.
“If there was one small disappointment, it was that New York wasn’t able to legalize for adult-use last year,” she says, referring to New York legislature’s not passing a marijuana legalization bill. “It might not be part of the budget process, but the momentum is clearly in place.”
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