But as the economy in the cannabis industry soars, it’s also important to ensure that an endorser or celebrity entrepreneur is targeting their wallet. “I get a lot of calls from celebrities who want to build a cannabis brand,” said Troy Datcher, CEO of the parent company, which owns Jay-Z-backed cannabis brand Monogram.
“The first question I asked them was what is their connection to the industry, what is their connection to the factory or the work that we think is important as we help shape the industry,” Datcher said. “And when someone starts with the fact that they want to make more money or starts with ‘This is a new revenue stream,’ that’s a quick conversation. For me, when it’s born in authenticity, it becomes part of the cultural conversation.”
Mark Flores, director of brand engagement at weed-focused agency Receptor Brands, said the key to growing and maintaining brand loyalty among marijuana users is “having a soul.”
“Have a brand identity that connects people, not necessarily the pharmaceutical route, which is more transaction-based,” Flores said, noting that this mindset can be common in newly legalized states. “We see brands that genuinely care about their consumers and try to engage with them as often as possible. And when I say have a soul, I mean that caring about the communities you serve goes a long way in distinguishing yourself from brands that don’t necessarily do so.”
Many may be left with the idea that legalizing cannabis at the federal level is the final hurdle to solving these problems, especially since the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act passed the House of Representatives earlier this month and is up for a vote in the Senate. Flores doesn’t think it’s that simple.
While federal legalization would have significant implications that would allow companies to localize the manufacturing process before shipping products across state lines, its impact on marketing and branding would be more akin to an umbrella effect or have the potential to affect state regulations without it necessarily unify.
“Bureaucracies will always get in the way, but there are organizations — and I’ll give you an example: the National Cannabis Industry Association, where I sit on the state regulatory committee. Harmonizing some of these laws is one of our goals to facilitate federal legalization if and when it goes into effect,” Flores said. “As you have more multi-state operators lobbying [states’] To make these laws a little more coherent, it will happen. It’s just an uphill battle and it will take time, but the industry is growing fast. The money behind some of these efforts to make laws consistent is there, and we’re going to make it happen.”
When asked if he thinks legalization hopefuls should be excited about the current round of legislation, Flores added: “We should be very excited because at the end of the day this is getting us ever closer to normalizing the conversation about cannabis, for now.” it’s about to make national headlines every day. And that is exciting.”
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Much of the political talk about legalizing cannabis revolves around racial justice. For example, New York’s licensing process, considered one of the most progressive, inherently favors local operations, particularly those previously affected by marijuana laws.
“We had a chance to see what other states were doing and how they were succeeding or failing, and particularly when they were trying to implement what they call equity programs, which is really trying to get licenses into the hands of those who are affected by disproportionate enforcement. said Freeman Klopott, a representative of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. As the state begins licensing vendors it claims will be allowed to operate through the end of 2022, its focus is primarily catering to communities of color that have been disproportionately oppressed by cannabis laws.
But as governments incorporate social justice into their legislation, not all brands are as eager to address the issue. Flores advises getting directly involved in the conversation as new states open up their recreational markets. He said that brands outside of the cannabis industry have played a big part in “providing social justice applicants a financial way to get into the industry without having to touch plants. That’s great for now, but it doesn’t answer the social justice question of how cannabis as an industry should give back to the communities that cannabis has impacted in the past.”
Last year, Monogram ran a series of outdoor ads that highlighted the hypocrisy of US cannabis laws. Another says, “The war on drugs has worked when systemic racism was the goal.”
“This was a really bold place for a brand to start communicating as it’s trying to build awareness, but it’s also at the core of who Monogram is,” Datcher said. “It reflects the community we serve, allowing us to have conversations.”