Checking In On the Cannabis Industry in 2022

The cannabis industry has continued to grow nationwide at a steady clip, in both economic scale and cultural clout. But the picture can look quite varied from state to state and country to country, given the wide variation in market maturities and regulatory details.

Getting a practical snapshot of the current state of the cannabis industry requires not just the latest data, but also a certain level of intuition and nuance. So where are we at in 2022? This is the latest.

North American Cannabis Is Heating Up

At the end of 2021, the North American legal cannabis market was estimated to be worth $15.2 billion, or about 74% of the overall global market. It’s estimated to more than double in size over the next six years, with projections suggesting the market could be worth $38.2 billion by 2028. 

Increasing awareness of and access to CBD products helped drive market growth in 2021, a trend sure to continue as cannabis and the wellness industry continue to overlap. But other hemp-based, THC-free products like Delta-8 have also experienced a meteoric rise, particularly in prohibition states where hemp-derived alternatives to recreational or medical marijuana can slot through legal loopholes.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on which states could join the legal market next. New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Connecticut, and New Mexico all ended prohibition in 2021. Rhode Island made the leap to legal in May of 2022. This year could also see Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Florida and Mississippi either legalizing, opening formerly medical-only markets to recreational, or advancing advocacy efforts. All of this legalization effervescence is ushering in even more localized marketing for dispensaries and cannabis brands eager to distinguish, say, Massachusetts strains from California flower, or to connect Florida’s unique landscape to different cannabis flavors and effects.

Roadblocks Remain for US Cannabis Companies 

The state-by-state legalization momentum is also opening up increased discussion about interstate commerce in post-prohibition regions with multiple adjacent legal states, like New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the West Coast. The feasibility of out-of-state imports and exports hinges in large part on federal law, not only in regards to the DEA but also financial policy. 

Expect the SAFE Banking Act, which would give cannabis companies access to electronic banking networks and reduce the burden of cash-only operations, to continue to be a hot topic throughout 2022, after it stalled in the Senate in 2021. Discourse about SAFE and other aspects of the friction between legal states and federal prohibition will likely heat up as midterm elections approach, too.

Meanwhile, the national supply chain represents another factor that has impacted the cannabis industry over the past couple years, and which will continue to influence how companies structure themselves and agitate for interstate commerce. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the cannabis industry as much as any other industry struggling to get key components from Point A to Point B, whether it’s the plastic for pre-roll tubes or cannabis flower itself. 

That pain point is contributing to the vertical integration trend, which gives cannabis companies more control over their total supply chain—at least in states where vertical integration is permitted. Expect to see more legal maneuvering as cannabis companies chafe against different states’ supply chain regulations, whether they prefer stand-alone licensing or vertical integration as a response to shifting market conditions.

The Cannabis Industry Is Truly Going Global

Just two years ago, the global cannabis market was worth a whopping $20.47 billion—and that was before continued legalization efforts and the COVID-19 pandemic boosted legal markets worldwide to even greater heights. Fortune Business Insights estimates that the international cannabis market will “grow from $28.266 billion in 2021 to $197.74 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 32.04% in the forecast period, 2021-2028.” But where is that global growth taking place?

In late 2021 it was big news that Germany put legal cannabis on the table. It’s not clear what Germany’s timeline is for joining the United States, Uruguay, Canada and Malta as some of the most populous countries worldwide to end prohibition. But it’s certainly heated up conversations about the multinational future of the cannabis market and how big the largest cannabis companies could scale. 

Elsewhere in Europe, Switzerland and the Netherlands are testing out what legal cannabis could look like in their countries, as are Luxembourg and Macedonia. “If countries like Luxembourg and Germany move forward, it could mean more” momentum for legalized cannabis in Europe, Grasslands client Laura Bianchi, founding partner of national cannabis law firm Bianchi & Brandt, told Benzinga. Meanwhile, cannabis continues to gain strength in South and Central America, where medical and recreational markets are expanding in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Panama and Colombia. 

Expect to See More International Exports and M+A

Low production costs and progressive regulations like those that have allowed Uruguay’s consumption lounges to flourish have helped change cannabis culture across South America. And legislation like Colombia’s decision to permit cannabis exports suggests South and Central America could become major players in the burgeoning global cannabis scene. Indeed, some South American cannabis companies are already making big international moves, like the announcement in late 2021 that Colombian firm Flora Growth would be purchasing the California-based Vessel Brand vape company. 

Flora Growth isn’t the only company to take the consolidation trend that heated up in 2021 to a global scale. Ireland’s Jazz Pharmaceuticals purchased the UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals in a major medical cannabis acquisition last year. Late in 2021, Canada’s Tilray made a move signaling it might be gearing up to make a bid for the US-based MedMen Enterprises when it purchased MedMen’s debt—though that’s a long-term play that depends on the fate of federal legalization in the US.

Want to learn more about trends in the cannabis industry? Read 10 Predictions for Cannabis Marketing Trends and Industry Evolution in 2022 or The Ultimate 2022 Cannabis Industry Roundup.

Why Marketing Automation is A Win for Cannabis Companies

Old-school automated email marketing flooded inboxes with irrelevant sales pitches. But with today’s sophisticated marketing automation, brands instead now send customized happy birthday wishes and news about sales of favorite pre-rolls to customers. The transformation of email marketing and automation has made it an extremely valuable branch of marketing, one powerful for businesses of all types and sizes—but especially for cannabis brands. 

Other avenues for cannabis marketing continue to face significant challenges. With Google’s tight grip on cannabis language restrictions, for example, effective brand promotion may seem impossible. For everybody involved with cannabis marketing, the sinking feeling of a disapproved Google ad is far too familiar. At the same time, it’s just as frustrating watching social media posts get blocked and shadowbanned or even worse—losing entire accounts due to inadvertent violations of the platform’s community guidelines. 

When marketers control single messages that land directly in audience inboxes, however, they say goodbye to the harsh—and unpredictable—restrictions of other major outlets. 

What is Marketing Automation? 

Contemporary email automation invites brands to connect on auto-pilot with audiences, while incorporating personal touches into each communication. In essence, automation targets specific messaging to customers based on their brand interactions. With the right platform and strategy, brands can build systems and processes that automatically react to key actions and activities from potential customers. While planning and executing automation campaigns requires the savvy and expertise of seasoned marketing professionals, once it gets started the tedious manual work is less intense than in the past.

 Marketing automation tactics and technologies might include:

  • Chatbots
  • Welcome email upon subscription
  • Birthday discounts or email acknowledgements
  • Reminder emails to reinforce purchase cadence
  • VIP offers and loyalty rewards
  • Re-engagement offers triggered after a period of inaction
  • Surveys and feedback requests
  • Back-in-stock announcements
  • Review and testimonial requests
  • Product launch e-blasts
  • Shopping cart reminders
  • Event invitations
  • Price drop announcements
  • Lead prioritization, scoring and management
  • Inbound marketing support

The expansion of affordable and powerful automation tools by tech companies stands as a welcome development for email marketers. No longer is savvy email automation reserved just for big enterprises. Today, cannabis businesses of any scale use automation to amplify their B2B or B2C outreach. In fact, the simplest automated marketing efforts often have the biggest impact, especially for highly-regulated industries like cannabis.

Marketing Automation for Cannabis Brands

In an industry filled with fluctuating costs and unpredictable margins, pinpointing exact returns on marketing expenditures is especially important. Where evaluating effectiveness in the past involved a lot of guesswork, now marketing efforts aimed at turning leads into customers can be quantifiably measured by tracking automated, digital and in-person marketing campaigns. From hosting an event to sending out drip campaigns or distributing samples to high-scoring leads, brands today can monitor progress from start to finish with a dollar amount guiding future marketing efforts. 

Marketing automation also allows brands to control the way they show up in front of customers. While PR is an incredibly powerful tool for crafting brand awareness, building media relationships and broadcasting brand stories, it does not operate in a vacuum. Marketing and PR efforts should be combined with automation to create a more integrated, holistic approach that generates big results. 

The Segment of One

By utilizing first party cookies, for example, brands gather data from audiences about their interests and product engagement, both of which allow companies to target customers with specific messaging strategies. Whether launching an award-winning campaign or offering details about a new product, automatically segmented email lists often serve as the best place to share announcements. All of this targeted marketing allows teams to work toward the marketer’s dream: the Segment of One

Segment-of-one marketing tailors marketing efforts to single potential customers by tracking their activities and preferences through their behaviors. With tools like personalization tokens, merge fields, dynamic email content, time-based emails and cart abandonment triggers, the opportunity to get in front of customers at the right place and time becomes exponentially more attainable. 

As segment-of-one marketing narratives boost messaging relevance, so does the importance of having the proper technologies in brand toolkits. The work behind the scenes is far from automated—it takes skilled marketers to understand segment-of-one tools and how to leverage them for potent marketing campaigns. But the days of requiring hands-on, and expensive, attention to every step of a campaign is a thing of that past. 

This is valuable news for all companies, including start-ups. But in the realm of cannabis, where other marketing platforms and strategies are fraught with challenges, it is especially welcome.

Who Gets to Tell Cannabis Stories? Why Journalism and Cannabis Marketing Need Diverse Voices

From the far-reaching consequences that the War on Drugs continues to inflict on minority communities to a lack of diversity that’s particularly pervasive at the most lucrative leadership levels, cannabis has yet to shake a long history of racism. And while media coverage of cannabis has not failed to note the numerous inequalities that the industry continues to face, disparities in journalism, marketing and PR are part of the cannabis industry’s social equity problem, too.

Less often discussed is who gets to tell the story of modern cannabis—and which journalists are actively working to expand our understanding of this plant and its place in America’s legislative, cultural and carceral landscape.

It’s no secret that the Fourth Estate has long been a male-dominated field, from the highest editorial positions to the most entry-level gumshoe reporters. While more women than men currently earn journalism degrees, a 2021 study by the Women’s Media Center found that 65% of bylines and similar credits are attributed to male journalists across print and digital media, wire news and television broadcasts. And according to a 2021 study by the Reuters Institute, the numbers are even starker on racial parity in journalism—just 18% of top editors in the United States identified as non-white in the study sample. 

That has certainly had an impact on the way cannabis has been covered over time—or hasn’t been, in the case of all the countless rejected pitches and spiked stories that never made it into publication. After all, the value of diversity in media and publishing is that a greater variety of stories are told from a wider breadth of experience, as Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spotlighted in her 2009 TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story.”

How different would our understanding of cannabis be if newsrooms were more diverse decades ago? What if more journalists of color had published reports about the effects of the systemically racist War on Drugs and its enforcement in publications with majority-white readership? If we had more cannabis stories told from a perspective rooted in the BIPOC experience, would policy change have occurred sooner? These are impossible questions to answer, but they still spark the speculative imagination.

Cannabis Journalists of Color

There are hints of what could have been. Consider, for example, the Pulitzer Prize-winning multipart series on the international heroin supply chain, to which Black investigative journalist Les Payne contributed for Newsday. In 1975, the same year the series was published as a book-length collection, Payne went on to serve as one of the co-founders of the National Association of Black Journalists, whose members continue to do innovative work reporting on cannabis amongst other beats. 

Or take a look at the work done by the team behind Say Brother, a Boston-based public television program that turned to more national topics after producer John Slade joined the program in the early 1970s. Under his guidance, coverage expanded to explore the impact of U.S. drug policy on Black Americans, and also on how that impact was filtered through the pop-cultural lens in Blaxploitation films like Superfly.

Today, there are many more cannabis journalists of color telling vital stories locally and nationally online, in print, on podcasts and other platforms. Editorial interest has also increased as decriminalization and destigmatization have made it less perilous to hinge one’s career on covering a federally illegal substance. Not only are more journalists like Tauhid Chappell doing necessary, substantive reportage in the cannabis space, they are also working to help other minority journalists build their careers, including work focused on cannabis policy and culture.

Women of BIPOC communities are breaking multiple barriers at once as they step into cannabis journalism, as Lyneisha Watson did when she started the High Folks series for High Times—she’s the first Black woman to have a regular column for the publication. Writers such as Syreeta McFadden are part of a rich tradition of groundbreaking Black female journalists, including Alice Allison Dunnigan, Ida B. Wells and Ethel Payne, all of whom reported on some of the most important Civil Rights issues of their day—from the White House press corps and beyond.

As journalist Errin Haines, who served as the national writer on race for The Associated Press from 2017-2020, once observed on that tradition: “Black women have been telling the truth about America for a long time. As a Black woman in journalism, my obligation is no less than that. And I do that on the shoulders of all of the women who’ve done that work before me and with me now,” as she told Glamour in 2020

The form those diverse cannabis stories take are also more varied than ever, as are the backgrounds of the storytellers. For example, Donnell Alexander has not only built a strong body of cannabis reportage for publications like The Guardian, Insider and Cannabis Law Report, he also served as co-host for the WeedWeek podcast from 2018 to 2020. Hip-hop star Fab Five Freddy dug into the history of prohibition for the Netflix documentary Grass Is Greener in 2019, while rapper Nas executive produced and narrated Smoke: Marijuana + Black America, a news special for the BET network.

Cannabis Storytelling in the Marketing and PR Space

Now cannabis-focused marketing and public relations are providing yet another avenue for public education, community-building and storytelling. And unlike the long history of male voices dominating mainstream journalism, the marketing and PR industries have become female-led sectors. In an about-face from the Mad Men days, public relations now sees some 61.3% of positions filled by women (or 59.7% when you add in statistics from the advertising sector).

However, marketing and PR still have a long way to go on racial parity, with an overwhelming 82.6% of advertising employees identifying as white. That creates even more incentive for diversity in hiring and talent retention, paving the way for further advances in who gets to create and contribute to cannabis messaging in legal markets, from branding strategies to award-winning ad campaigns to PR pitches to thought leadership.

Building a More Inclusive Future for Cannabis Storytelling

While both the media and advertising industries continue working to diversify their ranks, professional development events have been popping up to better educate journalists and PR professionals on how to cover cannabis in a more nuanced and inclusive way. The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, for example, hosted its first cannabis media workshop at WHYY News in 2019. Even the oft-conservative academic realm is digging in, as with the University of California, Berkeley’s cannabis journalism course and a Temple University class titled “Marijuana in the News,” among others. 

The greater availability of cannabis-specific journalism and marcomms education will help a new generation of students of all identities consider this as a viable and important field on which it’s worth building a career. And if, like more than a few journalists before them, those J-school graduates eventually make the leap into marketing and PR, they’ll come with a richer perspective on how to tell cannabis stories without leaving marginalized communities behind.

Celebrating the Queer History of Cannabis Culture in Pride Month, and All Throughout the Year

As cannabis businesses roll out their Pride Month ad campaigns and sponsorships this June, it might look like just another case of rainbow-washing. After all, companies from all sorts of industries—from fast fashion to food and beverage giants to financial companies—have tried to capitalize on allyship with the queer community, with varying degrees of authenticity. 

But the ties between the cannabis industry and the LGBTQIA+ community go far deeper than rainbow-colored rolling papers or a fresh bowl of Banana Hammock. In fact, we might not have legal medical cannabis in a vast majority of the United States if it weren’t for the work of gay and lesbian activists over the past 50 years.

How LGBTQ Activists Agitated for Medical Cannabis

Missing from much of the discourse about diversity and inclusion in cannabis is the role that LGBTQIA+ activists have played in ending prohibition. Just a year after the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which Pride Month commemorates, the United States outlawed cannabis via the Controlled Substances Act

In 1976, however, a straight man named Robert C. Randall became the first legal medical cannabis patient in the country post-federal prohibition when he successfully won the right to use cannabis to treat his glaucoma. The case directly contributed to setting a precedent for classifying cannabis as a Compassionate IND, or what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration terms the “compassionate use of [an] investigational new drug.” That Compassionate IND designation for medical cannabis would come to the fore just a few years later when a new health crisis emerged in the 1980s—the rise of a deadly disease later identified as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV / AIDS).

As the political and medical establishment turned their backs on the epidemic first identified among gay men, the queer community and its allies developed their own compensatory networks of care, including the distribution of medical cannabis. Smokables and edibles were used to treat everything from HIV symptoms themselves to the side effects of azidothymidine, better known as AZT—an HIV-AIDS medication that was also classified as a Compassionate IND, just like cannabis. 

1991 Castro Street Party © David Prasad / Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Early Medical Cannabis Pioneers

Many of those pioneers who established care networks and made medical cannabis not only legal but accessible were based in San Francisco, one of the most prominent centers of queer culture in the country. Dennis Peron, for example, is sometimes called “the godfather of medical marijuana.” He spent years selling cannabis underground in the Castro District and connecting AIDS patients with medical cannabis, including his late partner, Jonathan West. Later, he went on to found San Francisco’s first public dispensary in the early 1990s and co-authored California’s historic ballot initiative Proposition 215 for medical cannabis use. Prop 215 co-author and San Francisco denizen Mary Jane Rathbun earned the nickname “Brownie Mary” for her clandestine distribution of thousands of infused edibles to those living with HIV and AIDS.

Queer activists led the way in other major California cities, too. Scott Imler, a Methodist pastor and another Prop 215 co-author, opened the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Cooperative, which was the first dispensary in LA County. Los Angeles Black Gay Pride Association founder Paul Scott also served as an early board member of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club and founded the first medical cannabis dispensary in Inglewood.

Couple Michael Koehn and David Goldman also became involved in cannabis advocacy in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis, inspired by Rathbun’s work. They have continued to serve as medical cannabis advocates through the Brownie Mary Democratic Club as well as San Francisco’s Medical Cannabis Task Force

“The genesis of the cannabis movement, gay people served at the heart of it,” Koehn told the The Orange County Register in 2021. Today, Koehn and Goldman are an all-too-rare pair of gay elders who survived the AIDS crisis and have seen plant medicine become legally available across the country, starting with California in 1996. 

LGBTQIA+ Friendly Marketing for Cannabis Companies Year Round

Some early advocates for legal cannabis have been honored with namesake strains, from Jack Herer to Ed Rosenthal and Michka Seelinger-Chatelain. But many of the LGBTQIA+ advocates who helped pave the way for legal cannabis aren’t exactly household names, even in cannabis-friendly circles. 

While there isn’t a hot-selling line of official Brownie Mary edibles or Peron-branded pinners (yet), the queer community continues to influence and intersect with cannabis culture in ways large and small. From drag queens like La Ganja Estranja and YouTube personality The Gay Stoner to the Queer Cannabis Club debut at Aspen Gay Ski Week in 2022 and the founding of publications dedicated to queer cannabis culture like Buds Digest, cannabis has never been so openly queer. 

More and more companies are embracing implicit or explicitly queer branding like Cann, Sonder, Rythm and Kush Queen (the latter even makes Pride-branded CBD lube). Even more are proudly embracing their LGBTQIA+ team members, from Drew Martin and Madame Munchie to Peak Extracts and Boulder Creek Technologies. Still, the cannabis industry can always do more to honor its queer legacy. 

Authentic PR narratives and strategic partnerships are a prime opportunity to celebrate Pride throughout the year and educate new consumers about the role LGBTQIA+ activists continue to play in the fight for federal legalization. San Francisco’s Apothecarium dispensary, for example, proudly features an art gallery dedicated to Mark Estes, one of the victims of the AIDS epidemic who was well known in the Castro in the 1990s. Others like The People’s Dispensary, which operates in California, New Mexico and Illinois, have an explicit mission to create a safe and inclusive space not only for queer cannabis consumers, but also BIPOC and other marginalized groups.

An attendee of a Pride party co-sponsored by Grasslands

Even if a cannabis company isn’t queer-owned or explicitly LGBTQIA+ branded, there are other ways to signal allyship. When in doubt, follow the lead of queer cannabis brands, whether it’s donating a portion of proceeds to organizations which offer support to the queer and trans communities, emphasizing intersectionality or accessibility in messaging, as well as featuring diverse models and inclusive language in collateral. 

Don’t be afraid to celebrate the individual identities of your team members (if everyone involved consents) or promote community events, like parades and fundraisers, in line with your brand’s values. Speak to your customers as they speak to one another and acknowledge what priorities they share with your brand.

After all, stoner stereotypes—often rooted in white, male, heterosexual humor—are becoming more and more things of the past. As more people try cannabis for the first time or reconnect with weed after years or decades, the number and diversity of people who want to see themselves reflected in this space expands, too. It’s time to bring queer cannabis culture out of the closet and give this overlooked, underground history its due. 

How to Walk the Line With Cannabis Advertising Rules

Learn how to get your brand in front of the right audiences, despite challenging advertising regulations

What is one thing that two-thirds of Americans support (and likely consume), but have never seen or heard traditionally advertised—on TV, radio or most print outlets? If you guessed cannabis, you’re right. 

Even in legal states, the ways that cannabis companies are allowed to advertise their products or services are strictly regulated. 

That certainly presents a challenge for cannabis businesses trying to figure out how to educate consumers about their products and raise brand awareness. But knowledge is power—particularly when it comes to knowing where, when and how cannabis companies can advertise in different markets, without getting into regulatory hot water or wasting resources.

Whatever elements you choose to include in your cannabis marketing plans, know that advertising limits don’t have to be a total bugaboo. Instead, they can inspire your team to be more strategic in connecting with customers who run the gamut from canna-curious to long-time connoisseurs. 

With a solid understanding of cannabis advertising rules, you can craft a marketing strategy that gives you more bounce to the ounce, without ever once putting a picture of bud on a billboard.

What Are Cannabis Advertising Rules? 

The rules for how cannabis companies can advertise vary by state. Here’s a small sampling:

  • Colorado cannabis regulations stipulate: “A Retail Marijuana Business may Advertise in television, radio, a print publication or via the internet only where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be at least the age of 21.” (Massachusetts sets the bar at 85 percent.)
  • In Illinois, you aren’t allowed to show any consumption—from smoking or vaping to popping an edible treat. 
  • Maine marijuana policy, along with several other states, forbids dispensary marketing from including signage or visual advertising within “1,000 feet of the property line of a preexisting public or private school.” 

This skims the surface of the kind of rules that determine how cannabis companies are allowed to get the word out about their products or services. These rules aren’t unlike those applied to other highly regulated industries such as alcohol or tobacco. But there is an additional layer of complication that other industries do not face.

Because cannabis is federally illegal, that means that TV and radio stations beholden to the Federal Communications Commission will most likely refuse ads peddling cannabis, even as you see placements for major liquor and beer brands on prime-time TV. 

So if you aren’t allowed to depict the product or show it being used, or make any overt health or safety claims, and you’re limited in when and where you can advertise on television, radio, the internet and the urban space where your business operates, what’s a cannabis company to do? You get strategic about your marketing efforts. 

Advertising Compliance for Cannabis Brands

Let’s face it—compliance is the name of the game in cannabis. And compliance with advertising regulations is just as important for cannabis brands as following the rules for cultivation, manufacturing and retail. 

Some types of marketing are easier for cannabis brands to navigate than others because there’s less red tape. Content marketing through owned-media channels, for example, provides companies a little more freedom and control over the information they provide and how they communicate their brand values. 

Owned media is only one part of a successful cannabis marketing strategy, however. It’s important to be educated on the advertising regulations in the jurisdictions where you do business and to know exactly what’s necessary to stay in compliance. Advertising regulations at the state and local levels can get very granular, and even certain wording or phrasing in advertising materials can run the risk of fines, having to pull promotional swag, or even the loss of your cannabis license. 

It’s crucial to be fluent in cannabis and to work with partner companies that can say the same—particularly if you’re working with a vendor on marketing and advertising efforts rather than handling them in-house. Having experience in advertising is one thing, but knowing which states might penalize you for making health claims in a blog post is quite another. You need a strong background in both advertising and cannabis to avoid any messaging mishaps.

Alternatives to Traditional Advertising

Cannabis entrepreneurs have always been a creative bunch. For decades they found clever solutions for cultivation and sales before the era of medical and recreational legalization. Now a new generation of cannabis professionals is finding workarounds to reach customers in legal markets despite advertising rules still very much shaped by the War on Drugs.

Just as it’s important to know how to work within the confines of traditional advertising and all its attendant regulations, it’s equally valuable to know when the better opportunity is an alternative advertising channel. Cannabis companies are thinking outside the box and meeting customers where they’re most likely to be hanging out. These days, that meeting place is often online. 

Radio and TV, Meet Podcasts and Vlogging

Just because television, radio and digital advertising are more tightly administered than your company’s website doesn’t take these channels off the table entirely. Or at least, cannabis business owners can find creative workarounds that still produce results. 

Increasingly, cannabis and CBD brands are turning to podcasts instead of terrestrial radio to place audio advertisements. And instead of traditional TV commercials, cannabis brands are turning to other video content, like product reviews and how-tos hosted by vloggers, influencers doing unboxing videos or behind-the-scenes footage that gives consumers a peek at how your company functions.

Advertising Cannabis on Social Media

That said, the digital platforms that host podcasts and video content have their own usage terms and conditions. Social media companies have a notoriously conservative take on cannabis, natural psychedelics and other substances that are illegal at the federal level. 

As a result, the online cannabis community has found creative workarounds to avoid having traffic to their profiles throttled or their accounts shadowbanned or outright suspended on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For example, the hashtag #weed gets flagged by an algorithm but #ouid, #w33d and #st0ner tags or emoji like the tree, broccoli or seedling have less chance of getting negative attention—at least until the bots catch on.

While it’s hard to say for sure where social media platforms will land when cannabis is eventually legalized at the federal level, there may be changes coming sooner than that. Our own Ricardo Baca predicts we’ll start to see a softening of the cannabis-averse guidelines as soon as 2022. Indeed, other big tech companies adjacent to social media such as Apple and Google are starting to loosen their restrictions on cannabis-related apps and paid SEO terms.

Tapping Into Cannabis-Fluent PR

PR, of course, remains a fantastic advertising resource for cannabis brands. Working with cannabis-fluent publicists to reach journalists and consumers through earned media, event marketing and other PR channels is a targeted solution to raising brand awareness. 

One of the major advantages of public relations is that it sidesteps advertising regulations. Instead of exposing your brand message to anyone who drives by a particular highway mile or clicks over to a certain channel at a certain time, you can make deeper connections with potential customers. From trade shows to current-events interviews, thought leadership columns, conference presentations and media releases, PR offers a vast array of opportunities for messaging that can reach a wide audience—but one that’s curated too.

To learn more about Grasslands agency services, contact us anytime.

The Undeniable Importance of Strategic Partnerships in Marketing

When I think about the most powerful and impactful strategic partnerships I’ve been lucky enough to experience, my friend and client Bob Hampe is always near the top of that list.

I’ve been fortunate to have some truly meaningful strategic partnerships in the cannabis industry, but with Bob, our content marketing and content strategy work has long been focused outside of cannabis—where Bob’s company, Actall, specializes in real-time location system (RTLS) technology created to thrive in challenging physical environments, such as mental health facilities.

Bob and his team not only create best-in-class technology like RTLS for hospitals, he’s also the kind of inspiring, progressive, forward-looking CEO we prioritize working with at Grasslands. While Actall’s RTLS technology is used in corrections facilities across the U.S. and Canada, Bob spends considerable time encouraging his partners in this space to, as he wrote recently, “think creatively about the ways we can use technology to reduce recidivism and make the transition ‘back to society’ smoother for formerly incarcerated individuals.”

After knowing each other for a decade-plus of rock shows and music festivals, I’ll always remember a conversation Bob and I had over beers one night, right before Actall signed with Grasslands over two years ago. I opened up to Bob about my drive to be a better, more inclusive, more community-minded CEO—and when he started nodding along, it told me that he too was focused on being a more thoughtful leader. 

Bob at the 2021 Actall-Grasslands Pride Party

“Let’s do some of this together,” Bob told me. And that’s when Bob and I’s friendship turned into an agency-client relationship—as well as a significantly deeper strategic partnership.

Before that night was over, Bob and I agreed that our small businesses should co-host a Pride Party together that June. And less than a few months later, Bob was also dedicating resources to help support the first cohort of our agency’s Diversity-in-Marketing Internship Program.

Bob and I speak the same business languages in our official work together. But we also prioritize the same kinds of extracurricular initiatives outside of our day-to-day dealings.

Take the Pride Party as an example. Bob was already hosting a very special renegade Pride Party in the alley behind his house, which was just off what had been the Denver Pride Parade route in normal, non-pandemic years. He always invited his entire community—including family, friends, neighbors and colleagues—and that’s how I ended up there in June 2020. 

When we first talked about Grasslands  supporting his Pride Party the following summer, it was a no-brainer. Our thinking: We could bring our personal and professional networks together, to build more strategic partnerships among our communities—while also creating something that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. I asked Bob how my team and I could help with the event marketing and production. He asked if we could bring a bunch of breakfast burritos and mimosa-makings and rent some infrastructure to accommodate the larger crowds. 

Of course we were happy to—the larger the crowd we could draw, the greater the number of community connections we could cultivate and the more money we could raise for a good cause. We accepted cash tips at the breakfast bar and raised nearly $500 for The Center on Colfax, the largest LGBTQ+ community center in the Rocky Mountain region. 

Ricardo and Bob at the 2020 Actall Pride Party, which originally inspired their collaboration on another Pride party the following summer

As for Bob and Actall’s support of Grasslands’ Diversity-in-Marketing Internship Program, that collaboration was equally organic. Grasslands’ Chief of Staff Debbie McHugh and I developed and implemented the program out of our Indigenous-owned agency’s commitment to attract, develop and retain diverse, high-potential early-career marcom talent. One day, Bob asked me, “How can I help?”

Debbie and I knew that one day we’d develop a framework that would allow our partners and clients to support our DEI-centered internship program—but before we could develop the opportunity deck and put that out to our community, Bob beat us to the punch. And one week later he’d committed to supporting our internship program in a way that would also benefit his business. The Grasslands marketing and PR interns would each work on a project for Actall. That way, Bob and his team could be hands-on with these young professionals whose work would elevate Actall and its mission. 

The collaboration was a win-win for everyone involved, including our interns, who had the opportunity to be client-facing and present projects on which they had taken the lead—and receive feedback on their work from a client who had a vested interest in their success. Thinking back on this powerful collaboration still gives me goosebumps, especially because it was so successful.

Any business leader understands the immense value of these kinds of strategic partnerships—a content marketing client that turns into a creative collaborator and a like-minded, values-driven sounding board. It’s impossible to assign a value to this kind of strategic partner, especially because these kinds of relationships can last a lifetime. 

2022 will be the second summer of Grasslands’ Diversity-in-Marketing Internship program with a cohort of three spectacular young professionals. I wanted to take a brief moment to shout out to Bob Hampe of Actall and others like him. My colleagues and I are all the better for these relationships, and we look forward to more collabs with Bob and his team, and more opportunities with other visionary leaders and bold brands in our network.

The History and Evolution of 420 Marketing

4/20 is widely considered the dankest day of the year, when cannabis enthusiasts celebrate coast to coast and the whole world gets a little hazier. As legalization has spread and stigmatization has decreased, the term 420 has grown from a stoner in-joke to a nationally recognized, if still unofficial, holiday. 

And it remains a huge marketing opportunity, not unlike the commercialization of Pride Parades or the proliferation of Presidents Day sales. 

So how did this curious bit of shorthand that for decades has inspired the theft of 420 mile markers and street signs come to encompass decades of cannabis culture? Of all the historical terms linked to cannabis, from the racially-tinged marijuana to the devil’s lettuce, chronic and fire, how did 420 come to be so widely known and instantly recognizable? And how can cannabis brands capitalize on the enduring power of one of the best-known examples of cannabis culture slang? Here’s the scoop on 420 marketing.

The Origins of 420

As the legend goes, it all started in 1971 after school let out one fall afternoon in the Bay Area city of San Rafael, California. A group of friends who called themselves The Waldos shared a toke before heading out to Point Reyes in search of a clandestine weed crop that, according to local rumor, had been planted by a member of the ​​U.S. Coast Guard. The private code they used to remind one another to meet up for the mission at 4:20 p.m. became an inside joke passed back and forth in letters, in the school yearbook and even emblazoned on an art class batik banner. 

After The Waldos graduated, they continued to run in the broader Bay Area social scene of the 1970s, crossing paths with members of the Grateful Dead and their fans while working backstage at various gigs. The 420 joke trickled out of their friend group and into the lingo of the regional scene. In the years since, it took on a life of its own with a wide variety of telephone-game origin stories, like the popular theory that 420 was a law enforcement code for marijuana offenses. Eventually, 420 became baked into cannabis culture far beyond California, even as the larger myth obscured The Waldos’ role in starting what would become the ultimate stoner meme. 

The Power of Modern 420 Branding

Over five decades later, 420 has taken on a life of its own. The shortest of shorthands has gone from a time of day to puff-puff-pass with your buddies to an international holiday on April 20, when cannabis enthusiasts across the planet celebrate their favorite plant. 420 legalization rallies, parties, festivals and smoke-ins pop up every year in cities from San Francisco to Denver to Vancouver to Amsterdam. Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t dim 420’s shine, with many marketing events and community gatherings going online as state health officials discouraged large public gatherings. 

And while 420 fervor certainly hits a crescendo each April, the euphemism extends far beyond the cannabis realm. 

The 420 advertising campaigns and branding with mainstream products are everywhere: You’ll find it in dank-smelling, hoppy beers like Declaration Brewing’s massive 420 Freedom Pack or Sweetwater’s 420 Extra Pale Ale— not to mention their annual Sweetwater 420 Music Festival. The term is plastered on t-shirts, socks, stickers and water bottles. 420 even made the cover of cookbooks, lifestyle guides and adult coloring books

It’s a term embraced by companies big and small, both in and outside of the cannabis industry. Fast-food restaurants like Carl’s Jr. and snack brands like Totino’s embrace the meme. For a while at least, if you showed your receipt from the Canabliss Dispensary next door at Straight from New York Pizza in Portland, Oregon, they’d give you a slice and a soda for $4.20. Melt Cosmetics put out a 420 makeup palette in smoke sesh-inspired hues, and Arizona-based FourTwenty infused its skincare line with CBD and THC. Vacation rentals on sites like AirBnB, VRBO, and BudandBreakfast.com denote which properties are “420-friendly,” indicating on-site consumption is A-OK. 420 is the name of a canna-tourism group in Denver, a hotel package in Portland; and even a piece of cannabis legislation in California.

Why 420 Branding and Marketing Still Works

So why did 420 take off as a meme in the cannabis space decades before widespread legalization? And why has it endured in the era of big cannabis marketing budgets and a pop culture landscape increasingly driven by rapid-fire microtrends? Understanding why 420 has been such a durable meme is key to understanding what makes for effective 420 product launches. 

Essentially, 420 is a short, instantly recognizable phrase that still has the whiff of a secret or an inside joke. That’s the kind of snappy, larger-than-life tagline that marketers hunt for like prized truffles. The term signifies not just the overall appeal of cannabis, but also the pre-legalization era that evokes nostalgia for a lot of people who partake. Even if you never scarfed down a magic brownie in the parking lot of a Marin County Dead show, it’s hard to put a price on that kind of sentimentality. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the dispensary or happen to see a 420 street address, it always generates a “heh” moment.

420 is also flexible and adaptable, as any durable meme should be. Just look at the sheer variety of companies that have incorporated this catchphrase into their branding. These are just a few of the reasons why the week of April 20 remains one of the best times to launch cannabis products, and the days leading up to it feel a little like Black Friday.

420 Marketing Today

Despite being invented well before the internet went mainstream, 420 was perfectly adaptable perfectly to use as a hashtag and shorthand in the social media era too. It’s not often you find a piece of cultural ephemera that can be folded into new trends in the cannabis industry without losing its old-school flavor. Naturally, marketers still want to tap into that longstanding association. 

420’s decades-long staying power contributes to the meme’s unique ethos as well. Even years after the Waldos first met up at 4:20 p.m., the term still suggests that it’s time to enjoy yourself— the bud equivalent of “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” 420 still powerfully recalls The Waldos’ communal belief in putting a pause on obligations to take some time together and in the social nature of savoring weed

Of course brands of all sorts, whether in the cannabis industry or adjacent to it, would want to make that potent ethos their own. That’s especially true now that legal recreational and medical cannabis are bringing more people together than ever. While cannabis culture might be evolving beyond old stoner stereotypes, 420 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

5 More Key Cannabis Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Brand (Part 2)

Three cannabis marketing professionals are in a conference room, one seated with a laptop at a table and two standing at a white board gesturing at elements of a marketing strategy

In the crowded cannabis space, everyone’s jockeying for brand awareness. But coming out first in the race for customer attention requires some savvy planning. It also requires deep familiarity with regulated cannabis markets and cannabis advertising regulations that impact both digital marketing and offline strategies.

Getting your team aligned on your marketing goals is the first step. Here’s how to start the conversation on your cannabis marketing strategy:

1) Meet Your Target Audience With Market Research

To build trust and get your well-defined brand out there, you first have to reach your target audience. This is a two-fold process.

Meeting your customers where they’re at means dialing in on who exactly fits into your brand’s target audience. These insights happen through quality market research.

It also means knowing where your customers go online and off, so you can make sure your cannabis brand is in the right place at the right time. Cannabis marketing agencies like Grasslands can help you identify and reach your target audiences through earned and owned media channels, advertising and event marketing.

2) Stay Informed on Cannabis Marketing Rules

Because cannabis is such a highly regulated industry, it’s important to ensure the content strategy you’re executing on earned, owned and paid media channels is in line with current state and federal cannabis marketing laws and adheres to marketing policies set forth by private advertising platforms. Cannabis businesses face all sorts of marketing obstacles  that companies in other fields do not—from restrictions on financial transactions to stringent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) advertising rules to social media network policies on the promotion of drugs. Don’t waste your time and budget on advertising strategies that you won’t be able to legally execute on or that could lead to the need for crisis management services.

3) Leverage Local and Regional Marketing Opportunities

Dreaming big is important—after all, what business owner doesn’t want their brand to take the biggest market share possible, growing to national or even global proportions? It’s equally important to dream small, though. And by that, we mean that it’s critical for most cannabis businesses to leverage and secure their local markets before attempting to grow on a broader scale.

Because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, many cannabusinesses focus first on developing their business strategy and market presence in a single post-prohibition state. That can look like using geo-targeted ads and social media posts, locally-focused SEO keywords, and leveraging regional networks and partnerships.

The power of a solid local and regional presence is another reason to partner with a cannabis marketing agency that has deep ties in your target market and is already well connected with local journalists, media outlets and other cannabusinesses that can help you reach your target audiences.

4) Cultivate Community Through Event Marketing

Digital marketing is integral to any cannabis marketing strategy. But don’t discount the importance of real, live events to bring people together, including potential customers. Whether you’re hosting a mixer or reception at a larger conference like the NoCo Hemp Expo or MjBizCon or a happy hour in your own backyard, event marketing is a great fit for cannabis companies for several reasons.

For one, cannabis products are inherently fun to enjoy with other people. And even if people can’t consume at your event, you know your guests will vibe over their shared interest.

For another, there’s nothing like getting people together in person to generate buzz and word of mouth—a key product of any marketing strategy that is worth its weight in gold (or green). Events are also a great way to build a sense of community. That’s invaluable in and of itself, but particularly so in an industry that is working to change decades of bad press and drug war stigma. Chances are your target audience wants to feel like they’re a part of something. Event marketing is a way for your brand to make that wish come true.

5) Don’t Get Lost in the Weeds

It’s an easy pun to make but an important lesson to remember. You’re bound to find yourself getting deep down in the details of building your business—especially in an industry that’s changing as fast and growing as big as cannabis. But while you’re building your brand’s digital market presence and getting face time with your neighbors offline, don’t forget to have fun.

At the end of the day, marketing cannabis products and services is all about helping people feel their best and connect with one another. Even if your brand tends toward a no-nonsense voice with more buttoned-up messaging,  it’s important to stay in touch with the positive, driving spirit at the heart of the cannabis industry. Maybe that’s just easy for us to say because at Grasslands, we really love what we do. But it will help you stay in touch with the core needs of your customers, too.

Want to learn more? Read our first post in this two part series: Five Key Strategies for Marketing Your Cannabusiness. 

Got a marketing question? Reach out to the Grasslands team anytime.

What the Best Cannabis PR Firms Have Learned About Clio-Winning Marketing Campaigns

Grasslands founder Ricardo Baca stands in the agency office holding the Bronze Clio trophy surrounded by staff members seated in a circle around the room

Who doesn’t love being recognized for hard work? To say we were stoked to win a Clio Award for our agency’s PR campaign for the United States Cannabis Council’s national brand launch is a huge understatement.

Founded in 1959, the Clio Awards showcase the power of marketing in shaping our social consciousness and are a coveted mark of distinction. And since 2019, the Clio program has included a special category for best-in-class cannabis marketing and PR, celebrating the innovative work that’s changing public perception of the industry and legitimizing creators’ dynamic vision in the field.

Bringing home a Clio bronze trophy for USCC’s highly successful 2021 brand launch is the culmination of years of experience learning what makes a Clio Award-winning campaign. The Grasslands team has earned unique insight into what constitutes the kind of boundary-pushing work the Clio jurors look for each year:

Prior to joining Grasslands as our Chief Marketing Officer, Jesse Burns won gold for product design in 2019, the inaugural year of the Clios Cannabis category. The following year, Grasslands CEO Ricardo Baca was invited to serve on the 2020 Clio jury. And one year after that, Baca also contributed voice-acting work to a 2021 Clio-winning episode of Hemp In History produced by The Nug Nation, appearing as the talking-joint narrator.

“I’ve always known that the PR and marketing work we produce inside these four walls is best in class and can hang with the work coming from any other agency,” Baca said. “It’s an honor to have that hypothesis tested by the world’s leader in celebrating creativity in marketing and advertising.”

CREATIVE STORYTELLING, THE GRASSLANDS WAY

So what exactly goes into crafting Clio-worthy cannabis PR campaigns? Today’s cannabis brands are looking to push the envelope with their marketing-communications and PR efforts, setting a goal beyond simple brand recognition to create truly innovative campaigns that advance the industry as a whole. 

But winning a Clio means more than producing smart, appealing collateral. It also requires knowing how to create a submission that effectively tells the story of the work your team has done and the impact it made. 

Sean Billisitz, a Brand Storyteller at Grasslands, said planning ahead is key: “Submitting something for the Clio campaigns is as much about the quality of your submission as the quality of the work your submission is telling a story about. You want to show how the work you’re describing was accomplished.” 

So we made a behind-the-scenes video about it. 

Opting to go the extra mile and creating a video for the submission is in fact a winning strategy that taps into the power of rich media storytelling.

THE SECRET SAUCE OF CLIO-WORTHY CANNABIS MARKETING

And what does the Clio jury want from the submissions it receives? 

“The Clios aren’t a popularity contest, and most jurors recognize that this is a tremendous responsibility they are carrying on their shoulders,” Baca said. “A Clio is something that runs in somebody’s obituary when they die. It carries the weight of an Oscar or a Grammy. It’s not art, per se, but it is artful commerce. Everything for the Clios comes down to bold, courageous creativity.”

The submitted presentation has to connect with a jury composed of creative and marketing professionals from many different facets of the industry. The work that goes before them sets the standard for a nascent and growing field. Impactful cannabis marketing must also function as an ambassadorial effort in some way, connecting with the general public across an uneven landscape of differing social norms. 

It’s not just about the work up for an award. It’s also about knowing how to present in such a way that can be metabolized by the public and help them understand where messaging and cannabis culture are at this moment. Baca noted that the year he served as a juror, he wanted to celebrate work that “was something pushing the marketing paradigm forward. Something with a historical perspective. The cannabis narrative is wholly unique because so many people of color were disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. It’s important to not be completely self-centered.”

The bronze Clios trophy sits on the counter at the Grasslands agency office as team members sit in groups participating in a team-building exercise

MAKING THE MOST OF CANNABIS PR

When’s the last time you took a moment to think deeply about your brand’s marketing and PR strategy? If you’re ready to level up your messaging, review past Clio-winning submissions—you’ll be inspired by what the best cannabis PR firms have accomplished in the past three years. Dream about where your brand will be in a year. After all, this is a fast-growing industry built on calculated risks. What moves can you make that feel like a leap, even as you stick the landing?

Also review your past marketing and PR efforts with a Clio submission in mind. Even if you don’t have a campaign that feels like the right fit, revisiting your previous work can be a good thought starter: What collateral would illustrate your progress? Are you documenting the results of your campaigns in ways that enable you to effectively tell the story of what your team accomplished? Do you have the right industry partners in your corner to take your brand messaging further?

“It comes down to having the courage to push through an idea, to push through a campaign, to push through a piece of marketing that is risky but is built around meaningful relationships, built around emotion,” Burns said. “It has to transcend the industry itself and go back to the roots of human connection.”

Cannabis is a nascent industry, and the campaigns marketing professionals are putting out to the world are truly transforming cannabis culture. The Clio Awards organizers recognize this and are facilitating—and providing incentive for—brave work that is defining what cannabis culture will become. 

Whether you craft a Clios submission in-house or work with a marketing firm, it’s invigorating to know that your story is contributing to the evolution of the industry—and that your brand might join the likes of PuffCoCharlotte’s WebMartha Stewart and Veritas in the next class of Clio winners. 

The Ultimate 2022 Cannabis Industry Forecast Roundup

Does it feel like everyone is clairvoyant these days? There’s something about the start of a new year that makes everyone want to grab a crystal ball and peer into the beyond. Your inbox might be as full of prognostications for 2022 as ours has been—in fact, one or two of them might be our own 10 predictions for cannabis marketing trends this year or Ricardo Baca’s forecast for where the cannabis industry is headed. But there’s nothing wrong with a little prophecy and divination between friends, especially when you’re trying to make the best decisions possible for your cannabusiness.

On the other hand—we’re all busy and it can be a little overwhelming (perhaps, even slightly annoying) to be inundated with so many different predictions for the year ahead. That’s why we decided to round up the top trending 2022 cannabis predictions we’ve seen so far. From Cannabis Business Times to CNBC, New Frontier Data to The Seattle Times and more, here are the 10 cannabis industry predictions for 2022 that we’ve seen dominating forecast lists:

1. Federal legalization won’t happen this year.

We know, we know—sad trombone. But despite various bills related to cannabis making their way through Congress in 2021, it’s unlikely full federal legalization will move forward this year. Instead, keep your eye on how the House might attempt to push the SAFE Banking Act forward in 2022. Both new legislation and broader political backing for cannabis across the aisle will be necessary for full legalization to gain momentum and get across the finish line in a few years. (Forbes, Ganjapreneur)

2. Unlicensed legacy cannabis producers will continue to compete with legal businesses.

Regulated markets across the country will continue to compete with the unregulated market. Although expanding numbers of licensed dispensaries opening in places like Los Angeles may start tipping the scales in favor of regulated operators, other markets still face challenges like high taxes, too few stores and sheer force of habit. (Forbes, Los Angeles Times)

3. Public consumption lounges will be in demand as part of a larger experiential trend.

As the pandemic winds down and public life resumes with more confidence, cannabis consumers hungry for novelty and togetherness will be seeking out public consumption lounges and wellness experiences that incorporate both CBD and THC. (Forbes, Los Angeles Times)

Grasslands’ own Ricardo Baca also recently shared some thoughts on the public consumption lounge trend with Rolling Stone.

4. Cannabis research will further expand.

Scientists are finally delving deeper into studies on cannabis and its efficacy for a variety of medical and wellness applications. The DEA is allowing a fresh crop of federally authorized cannabis manufacturers to grow plants for research (up until now there’s been a monopoly on such research granted to the University of Mississippi of all places). It will be interesting to see how this new wealth of findings will impact the FDA’s appraisal of CBD, particularly following California’s October legalization of the cannabinoid in cosmetics, dietary supplements, food and beverages. (Veriheal, The Seattle Times, Leafly)

5. Potency cap campaigns will continue to dog the industry.

Industry opponents will continue to fight for regulations that limit the amount of THC that can be sold in any given cannabis product. If they succeed, it could drive more consumers back to legacy cannabis producers in lieu of neutered regulated marijuana products. (WeedWeek, Grasslands)

6. Republicans cozy up to cannabis.

Federal legalization isn’t likely to push through in 2022, but more and more Republicans will publicly back cannabis, beginning with the midterm elections. That will contribute to the overall momentum from both political parties to end federal prohibition sooner rather than later. (Cannabis Business Times, WeedWeek, Marijuana Times)

7. The hemp market will continue to boom.

Hemp will continue to grow as a sector in its own right, especially as demand for products like Delta8 increases—though this could lead to added scrutiny. (CNBC, New Frontier Data, Forbes, Leafly, Ganjaprenuer, Cannabis Business Times)

8. Weed delivery is here to stay.

Cannabis delivery and e-commerce became very popular during the pandemic. These options will continue to be in demand with consumers and offered by more and more dispensaries, even after the latest COVID wave subsides. (Grasslands, Ganjaprenuer)

9. Prepare for interstate commerce.

There are more adjacent legal states than ever, and it’s creating a huge incentive for states to begin preparing for interstate cannabis markets. States with well-established cannabis markets will begin working together to align cannabis regulations across their borders in preparation for eventual federal reform. (WeedWeek, Marijuana Times)

10. The consolidation surge will continue.

Mergers and acquisitions show no signs of slowing down, ushering in an era of even bigger cannabis companies. (Los Angeles Times, Ganjaprenuer, Cannabis Business Times, FlowerHire, MJBiz Daily, Reuters)