a cannabis leaf used to illustrate cannabis news

Our Best Ideas for Pitching Your Cannabis Business Story to the Media

Placing stories about your cannabis business in the news is a powerful means of amplification that can’t be underestimated. It’s something businesses need to do regularly to get the word out and further normalize cannabis for the public.

We know that mainstream media is shrinking, and local newsrooms and outlets are harder to find. Yet, the impact of a well-placed cannabis business news story will have a positive effect on your business that is hard to duplicate. Depending on where you are, your local media will always have more readers, viewers and listeners than you will ever have on your social media site or in your enews subscriptions. And with the big cannabis hitters like Leafly, Cannabis Now, High Times, Culture or Ganjapreneur reaching new audiences there can be a game changer.

How do you get Your Cannabis Business Into the news?

It takes a combination of strategy, planning, being able to react quickly to trends and news and a bit of persuasion. Here’s how we work to make cannabis business news happen.

Build a Solid Relationship.

Having a good relationship with a reporter involves providing accurate, timely and newsworthy information; being available for interviews and being a good source. Sometimes being a good source is helping a reporter with a story that doesn’t involve you or your business, but is within the cannabis industry. Use a silver bullet, not a shotgun when making your pitch. While we like to be seen across the media, in multiple outlets, we write every pitch email personally and customize it to the reporter.

The Fast Pitch.

young woman with a softball to illustrate a pitch to the media of a cannabis business story

Journalists are busy people, and in a big newsroom, we’ve heard that a reporter can get about 200 emails a day. Make your pitch short, helpful and to the point. Don’t spend time on minor details in the pitch. You can stick that in the news release that’s either attached or detailed below the actual pitch. If you’ve succeeded in your pitch, they’ll read further.  If you can keep a pitch to about 150 words, you’re doing great!

Think of Your News With a Headline in Mind.

When you’re thinking about the pitch you’re making, write the headline you envision and use it for the subject of your email.  Anything that’s genuinely new and first makes good potential news stories. But it also must have an impact on the business you’re doing and the audience that the media outlet serves. Building a $2 million cannabis grow facility? That’s news. Are you hiring people in your community? That’s news. Are you bringing a new cannabis product to market? That’s news. Make sure when you use first and new that you have the data and research to back it up.

someone reading a newspaper with a headline about a cannabis business in it

Know Your News.

Some stories are breaking news, some are features, and others are evergreen in nature—that is—time doesn’t matter so much. Craft your pitch for what the news actually is and the media outlet you want to be in; it’s okay to ask a reporter about his or her deadlines. Keep in mind that print magazines often work 2-3 months in advance, weekly publications are working on stories the week or two before, and even daily print publications need some lead time. Breaking stories happen throughout the 24-hour news cycle and those are the opportunities for which you drop what you’re doing and jump in. Make sure for radio you have someone who is a willing and enthusiastic speaker, and for TV you’ll need something visual. For print and online, assets like photography help make a story happen.

Timing Matters.

a clock that illustrates timing when it comes to media for your cannabis business

Tuesdays and Wednesday are best days for pitches, and it appears that between 10 AM and noon are also good. But, if you have real news and are connected to the reporter, don’t wait to make the pitch. You can also use slow media times to your advantage. The week between Christmas and New Year is notoriously quiet in the news business as are other long holiday breaks. Remember if you make a pitch on a Friday, you might end up with a weekend news story, which isn’t all bad. If your pitch isn’t working, it could be your news is an internal update, which might best be shared on social media.

Make the quick decision to jump in and help when there’s a crisis. Established brands are always the first to help when disaster strikes—and your cannabis business can do this, too. If a tornado hits your community, or a flood or a family suffers from a fire—lend a hand and let the media know. Whether it is providing cases of bottled water, helping lead a drive for food or funds or giving people in your business time off to help out, that’s the kind of story the media likes during dark times.

Make Sure You’re Qualified to be on the Bandwagon.

Local news organizations often find some of their news leads from breaking national stories that are happening or even from news in a nearby media market. If it makes sense for you to jump in give your opinion on something or offer advice, then make the pitch. Newsjacking or inserting your company or brand into a breaking story is part of what PR professionals do. Keep up on cannabis news so that you can be part of the story.  Make sure you are educated on the subject and not straying too far from your area of expertise or brand.

In the cannabis community, there’s plenty of competition, but collaboration can move all of us forward as we evolve and grow as an industry. If you need a hand with your cannabis business news generation, Canna Communication can help, just give us a call or send a quick note.

photograph of a camera and writing pad, cannabis communication tools

Boost Your Cannabis Communication Outreach with 9 Free Tools

It’s a harsh world for cannabis businesses. We deal with acceptance issues and stigma, unlike any other industry. It’s hard to finding banking that works, Facebook hates us, Google ignores us and Eventbrite shuts us down. We loathe those arbitrary and capricious community rules that interfere with us doing our work.

a crying baby to illustrate frustration with companies that exclude cannabis
Wah-wah.

There’s no sense in crying about what we can’t change, so let’s look at some things we can use to improve our business communication where cannabis isn’t an issue. But we have some great free and inexpensive tools for cannabis communication that work around the speed bumps.

Let’s start with Unsplash, a site where you can find free, high-quality photographs for your website or social media posts. The photos are searchable from tags that the photographer has added and in categories, at the top of the page. Make sure to experiment with searches–we’ve found that cannabis, hemp and marijuana, marijuana flower produce different results. You can use the photos for free and without credit, but it’s great to give credit to the photographer in your blog or on your website.

Another good source for free photos and illustrations is Pixabay. Like Unsplash there are lots of great images, but it adds illustration and graphic art to the mix, which we love to use sometimes. You have the option to buy the artists a cup of coffee (donate to them) which is a great way to keep free art coming.

a hear made from cannabis leaves to show the use of illustration in cannabis communication
Found this sweetie on Pixabay

If you’re a big player and have access to a pay to play media database, you’re lucky. But, if you’re a small business and doing your own PR, how do you build a media database? Getting the emails for local reporters is pretty easy if you read their stories, most of them are available in the byline or on the news source’s webpage. Some are harder to come by, like those in the national cannabis publications. For this, you need Hunter.io Register, and you can find up to 100 emails a month for people and companies you want to connect with. You’ll need the name of the person you wish to contact as in “Clark Kent” and the media outlet as in “Daily Planet” and most times you’ll get a correct email.

Writing headlines that attract the attention of readers is an art, what you think might work well to get someone’s attention might not do the job. How do you know? Well, we use this tool to test our cannabis communication headlines and we’ve done numerous revisions of what we thought were good headers to up our score in Co-Schedule’s Headline Analyzer.

We spend a good deal of our time writing for clients and for our own blog, and we are big fans of Grammarly. It’s a great tool to help you become a better writer. It points out as you write the typos, incorrect word usage and where commas do and don’t belong. You can install an extension on your Mac or PC and it will correct your emails and social media posts, too. It offers a more robust writing analysis than does the standard grammar and spelling that are resident on your computer. Honestly, if you’re uncertain about the correctness of your writing, use it.

Need to make a graphic for a webpage, social media post, an email blast or a printed product but don’t quite need to hire a graphic designer? We use Canva for simple things. It’s a free tool that has hundreds of templates and already sized up uses. Need a profile picture or page cover for Facebook, an Instagram graphic or a slider image for your website? Canva has all the sizes, backgrounds and tools to make something perfect for your cannabis communication. If you don’t have an eye for design, look at their templates and adapt one of them that to what you’re doing.

Ever wonder how your competitor is doing with their digital reach? With SEMRush, you can plug in a domain, and it will show you all of the data about that company’s digital presence. You can look at backlinks, referring domains, search terms and the position of their competitors all done in great charts and bars. It’s free for up to ten searches per month, and you can look at your own site, too and see how you’re doing.

Check out Spark (from Adobe) for making simple videos from photographs. You can add text, add music, determine the length of the slide and brand the slide with your company colors and logo. It isn’t as intuitive as Canva for simple design, but for on-the-fly photos into videos, it’s so easy. Here’s one we did about our company.

screen shot of a Spark video

For email marketing, we use Mail Chimp. There have been some issues in the past with the company shutting down cannabis accounts and that spooks us a bit. We like the flexibility of the platform, the ease of use and the tracking tools. It’s free until your list is over 2000 subscribers and if you do use a paid plan, you get a few more features. To be safe, download your database regularly because if you’re shut down, you might lose it. Email marketing for your cannabis business is effective and easy to work into your annual schedule or plan.

So we’ve shared a few of our secrets about how we get cannabis business communication done. But, these are tools, not a comprehensive strategy and that’s where Canna Communication comes in. We look at the big picture, know the cannabis industry, and we’re experienced at launching a new business or moving an existing one forward.

Need some help getting started? Too busy to develop a communication strategy? Canna Communication is here for you. Just give us a shout and we’ll lend you a hand.

Tools photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

a glass you might use for a cannabis special event, it has a leaf made out of confetti in it

Ten Ways to Spark Your Cannabis Special Event

A cannabis special event is one of the best ways for a business to connect directly with customers. An event gives a business the opportunity to showcase a place, a new product or an idea. A special event can be used to celebrate an anniversary, a grand opening, an expansion, a national holiday like Independence or Veterans Day or the high holiday of 4/20. You don’t need an official reason for hosting an event, it’s all about getting to know your customers.

Organizing a cannabis special event can be time-consuming, there are real benefits.

  •      It builds customer loyalty.
  •      It builds brand awareness.
  •      It attracts new customers.
  •      It provides space to inform people on a subject or a product      
  •      It provides insight into your customers.
  •      It’s fun.

Putting together a cannabis special event for your business takes time and planning, but it’s worth it.

Outside of the ordinary planning points of a special event, we suggest paying attention to a few things that can truly make a difference to your attendees and the success of your special event.

  1. Choose your date and time carefully. Look at not only what’s happening in your community, but around the world. You don’t want to plan an event and have it fall on Rosh Hashanah, Good Friday, Super Bowl Sunday, the Michigan/Michigan State game day or Martin Luther King Day.
  2. Assign two point people to help “manage” the event. One is the host the other is the troubleshooter. Don’t have the host solving on the ground problems and don’t have the troubleshooter serve as the host. Your guests need attention as much as the problems do.
  3. Be fun, but be legal. Make sure that everything you do when it comespeople having fun at a cannabis special event to marijuana is compliant with local and state laws. You don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize your license, whether that is onsite consumption, giving away product or serving alcohol in your space.
  4. Give people something to do other than stand around. Whether it’s a game like corn hole (assuming you’re outdoors), building something like a jenga tower, a trivia game or even crayons to color on a table cover or provide a photo wall where they can take a selfie.
  5. Collect data on your guests while being a friendly host. When your guests check in, ask for their email and phone and for them to opt-in to your mailing or texting list. Ask them about their favorite way to consume cannabis and about the one thing they want you to carry that you don’t already have.
  6. Establish a hashtag for your event and post it where people can see it. Do your research to make sure it is unique and short. People will use it if they’re on social media and it will help you see what your visitors are saying.
  7. Door prizes, not raffles. Keep in mind that in most states a raffle requires a license, so don’t call your giveaway a raffle. People are pretty much happy to get anything free. Branded swag from your company, like a tee-shirt or a pint glass, is always a good option and big stickers, rolling papers and lighters are always welcome.
  8. Food is an essential part of any event—it should be simple, abundant food for a cannabis special eventand easy to eat. Keep in mind the time of your event, 5-7 PM is the dinner hour and people might expect heavier foods, 7-9 PM might lend itself to desserts and mid-afternoon is great for veggies, cheeses and crackers.  Keep in mind food preferences like vegetarians and allergies like gluten and provide options. Label your food and make sure your troubleshooter knows what’s in the food you’re serving. If you’re serving infused food make sure it’s clearly labeled with potency and that you’re not outside the law.
  9. Music is essential to setting the mood for your event and developing a playlist isn’t an easy task. Keep in mind your audience and the purpose and time of your event and use music that works to meet those goals. If you know someone who really knows music, ask that person to make suggestions for your mix. Using a paid subscription to a music service can provide a party mix without ads.
  10. Thank your attendees. With collected emails or phone numbers, you can send a quick note after the event and let them know how much you appreciated their attendance. It’s also a great time to offer a discount on something you’ve got in stock.

Need a hand with planning your next cannabis special event? Give us a shout and we’ll give you the help you need to make it perfect.

mac on a table, to illustrate writing a cannabis business email

How to Grow Your Cannabis Business One Email at a Time

There are so many good reasons to add email marketing to your cannabis business communication mix. Let’s take a closer look.

In 2016, there were 2.6 billion people using email and its expected that by 2020 email users will top 3 billion. Almost half of the people in the world use email to communicate—and you can be sure a few of them are cannabis business owners or consumers. So, by the numbers alone, email makes sense.

Business runs on email. If you’re a cannabis business wanting to communicate with other companies, email is one of the most certain avenues of communication.

People like getting emails from companies they do business with. About 85 percent of people surveyed said they like getting emails once a month and about 60 percent like weekly emails. And if you’re thinking of sending daily, twice or thrice a week emails, think again—those have approval ratings of about 11 percent. So if someone opts into getting emails from you, you can be sure that sending them once a week isn’t too much.

Another advantage to email marketing is that people are more likely to sign up for and open your email than they are to “like” or comment on a post on Facebook. Email has greater privacy and what goes on in that form of communication is between you and the company.  Check out these some interesting statistics on the value of social media properties like Facebook, Twitter and email. Essentially, if you have 2000 followers on either platform and 2000 email contacts, you’ll get better results from a quality email—expect that just over 400 people will open your email. With Facebook, you’ll have about 120 views and with Twitter 40 people will see your message.

We’re not saying the social platforms aren’t great—they’re good for brand building and news sharing, but you know that Facebook isn’t cannabis-friendly and more than one marijuana business has been shut down or had its reach limited by restrictions. It’s important to select a vendor with policies that allow you to promote whatever cannabis business you have—keeping in mind that selling product is likely to grab the attention of monitors. There are a handful of companies that specialize in cannabis enews distribution, too. With them, you don’t have to be concerned about content issues.

No One Likes Spam

photo of a red door with no junk mail written on it to illustrate using email for your cannabis business, but not spammingUndoubtedly, you’re wondering about how to get 2000 email addresses, and you are also aware that spamming people is wrong. Is it illegal? It depends on what you are saying, how you came by the email address and your intention. Writing a subject line that is intended to deceive people is spam. Sending an email to someone you met at a networking event isn’t spamming. Using a bot to gather up email addresses and sending something to thousands of people you have no relationship with is spamming. People in your database will have the ability to opt out of your emails, so sending to them is fine. Most providers (like MailChimp) have all the anti-spam requirements built into the software. The FTC has a guide on the subject.

Gathering and growing an email list takes time. Start with your customers and people you network with, create a signup pop up on your website. Ask people on your social pages and give them a link. Offer something for signups like a discount or a perk or just some outstanding content—a guide or other downloadable item that will be of interest. Make sure the sign up is in your email signature and on your site in a popup or other spot.

So, statistically, you know that you know emails aren’t a problem for people and you’ve built a list. Now you’ve got to figure out your content and delivery mechanism. There are a few different kinds of emails that can be sent for your cannabis business. They include:

  • Promotional—where you’re promoting services or products
  • Specials—when you have something new for your customers
  • Welcome—a greeting and hello to people who sign up for your email
  • Educational—telling people something you think they’d like to know
  • Newsletter—what’s going on in your company
  • Advice—helping people understand how to use something you sell or giving them other advice on an issue

Make sure to keep your articles and promotions short and link to your website after the first few sentences. Include images and GIFs that help emphasize your points. Find a style and stick to it—avoid using lots of fonts and colors—you don’t want to distract from your main message.

While We’re on the Subject

photo of a smiley face emoji for this article about using email for your cannabis businessOne of the most important aspects of cannabis business email marketing is the subject line. What are you going to say to get people to open your message and act? Make it short around 65 characters, use emojis carefully and make it intriguing. If you wonder if it will work, do an AB test with your list. Send half of the messages with one subject line (a) the rest with another (b) and see which gets a better open rate.

If you have more questions about email marketing, give us a shout, and we’ll be happy to plan a strategy with you. And if you want to learn more about how communication can grow your cannabis business, take a moment to sign up for Canna Communication’s monthly enews.

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scrabble tiles that say take more photos: for your cannabis business website

Making Content for Your Cannabis Business Website

You’ve heard this before: Content Rules.

New and searchable content is what makes the Internet hum. Fresh content helps improve traffic on your cannabis business website, drives sales and makes your business relevant to search engines.

Content is made up of text, images, video and audio that live on your website.a laptop used to create content for a cannabis business website

When properly optimized for search engines content is more easily findable by people looking for something specific. We won’t get into search engine optimization in this blog, but this video by Neil Patel is pretty useful for getting some basics about why you need to pay attention to this and what to do.

When you plan content creation for your cannabis business website, it needs to accomplish a few of these things. The more of these ideas you can include, the richer your content will be.

  • Educational—tell people something they might not know
  • Compelling—write or show the topic in a way that keeps people’s attention
  • Useful—give practical advice or a “how to” to the reader or viewer
  • Focused—stick to what you know and what your business is about
  • Quality—if you’re writing, make sure your grammar is correct and if you’re making a video, the audio and picture need to be good, too.
  • Relevant—produce content about something that’s happening now
  • Entertaining—use humor and visuals that make your content fun (when appropriate)
  • New—put a new spin on what you’re writing about and try to make it fresh for your web visitors.
  • If possible, make it personal and always be aware of your brand voice.

Creating content takes time and effort. Whether you’re making a video, writing a blog or creating a podcast, you need to do a few things before you jump in.

  • Think about and plan out what you want people to learn or know—what’s the core message? Are there other details and secondary messages that support what you’re saying?
  • Make sure you have enough knowledge and expertise to say or write at least 400 words or create a 90-second video. There will be some topics that come naturally to you and others you’ll struggle to complete.
  • Think visually. How can you show and tell your story? Are there images or video you want to include?
  • Don’t plagiarize! Make sure what you write or say is original to you. Yes, you can read another author’s articles for ideas, validation or outbound links, but don’t steal someone else’s words or images.
  • Create content in small chunks that people can easily skim. Like we did here.
  • Think about the questions people ask about your business or products and use those to generate your content. For instance, we had someone on Linked In ask us about how to get a medical marijuana card in Michigan. While it wasn’t communication-related, we could see there was a need to share this information.

Every cannabis business website has some easy wins for content that are necessary. Team or leadership biographies and a robust about us section are essential. People like to see and know about who is behind the product or service they are using. It’s also a great place to share your brand personality and voice. Keep in mind the “why” of your business and use that for content, too. The reason you started growing, processing, testing, transporting or provisioning cannabis is something people like to know. If it’s personal, let that shine.photo of people who might be featured on a cannabis business website

It’s important to create content that moves your cannabis business forward and looks to bring people to you for your expertise in cannabis.

When appropriate use a call to action like this: for help creating content give us a nudge. We’d be happy to work with you.

Cannabis Business and Communication: Focus on What You Know

I’m a pretty good backyard gardener. I grow heirloom tomatoes from seeds, we built a little greenhouse to better acclimate the seedlings to Michigan’s weather and to have fruit in early July instead of August. I use good organic soil and nutrients and I’ve heard that growing cannabis is like growing tomatoes.

But, I don’t grow cannabis and here’s why.

It’s a complex plant that needs a lot of ongoing attention to produce a high-quality flower. It needs light and then at the right time it needs darkness. It a green cannabis plant, cannabis communication is essential to business successneeds circulated air, specific food at certain times. You don’t want it to cross-pollinate with other plants and it’s vulnerable to a variety of issues that can ruin it. Killing a plant that is as valuable as cannabis is a mistake no grower wants to make. Growers also don’t want to create a sub-par flower. That’s a lot of pressure!

Good growers follow a plan and have developed a process that ensures success. It’s the same for cannabis business communication.

And that’s why when it comes to communication—your website and its content, social media, media-related publicity and stories, your brand, special events and your marketing you need an expert.

Not your nephew. Not your kid. Not you. Unless you (or they) are an experienced cannabis communication professional.

Here’s why it’s important to work with someone in communication who has a level of expertise that meets your needs. Communication isn’t just one thing. It’s an integrated system of strategic activities that need attention, innovative ideas and message continuity.

Think about the brands/companies you respect and how they are steady in their personality. Sure, some changes happen in a brand, but overall the best companies display the same attributes and keep the same character. For instance, Target is fresh, fun and playful. It is inclusive and emotional in its voice. Nike is bold and strong. It believes that all people are athletes and when it takes a stand it means something.

While these companies are probably not your cannabis company right now, it could be you in the future. That’s why developing your brand personality is vital. It’s part of why consistent and strategic communication is essential in the early stages of your business development matters. You don’t want to have to undo something that doesn’t fit the business you’ve carefully developed.

As you are aware, mistakes and missteps go viral and can destroy a company’s reputation, so it’s crucial that you consider your communication efforts carefully. Communication must be regarded as thoughtfully as your plant selection, growing methods, the creation of your edibles and the people that you hire. Don’t take the risk of allowing communication to be in the backseat of the overall strategy of your cannabis business.

One of our clients is a law firm that cares about its brand and is active in its communication pursuits. The attorneys don’t spend time on social media posting or concerning themselves with media exposure, that’s left to the professionals (us). They provide expert legal advice for marijuana businesses. We offer the firm advice and counsel on their messages and media relations and manage the day to day communication. They utilize Canna Communication’s input and ideas in the same way their legal clients turn to them for help.

The question need to consider is: do you have the time, interest and expertise to manage the daily communication needs of your business? Or would you rather be in with the plants, your employees and your customers?  

Let us help manage the details of your brand communication while you grow your business.

postcard that was mailed to voters

Voting YES for Medical Marijuana Zoning

A Canna Communication Case Study

Early last summer we were contacted by a cannabis entrepreneur that was facing opposition to a medical marijuana grow business in Egelston Township, Michigan. He realized he needed professional communication assistance with this issue and we jumped right in.

Background:
The elected officials in Egelston Township opted-in for medical marijuana businesses in late 2017. Soon after opting in, the entrepreneur/grower who had already purchased property in the township started construction on buildings for greenhouses and a provisioning center. In the spring of 2018, a resident of the municipality who is also a developer that owns a subdivision adjacent to the two greenhouses under construction began circulating a petition to upend medical marijuana zoning in the community. The petitions were validated by the township clerk, and the proposal would appear on the mid-term ballot. If the vote didn’t go the grower’s way, he would lose the opportunity to have any cannabis business in the township.

We were asked to create a campaign to persuade voters to keep medical marijuana zoning in the township.

We provided the client with a full political campaign proposal and he chose to rely on web, social media, direct mail, and yard signs. Our messaging focused on providing accurate information and guiding conversations while helping people understand two issues: zoning and medical marijuana.

Strategy:
After a discovery meeting with the client, his horticulturist, attorney and a business colleague we wrote a set of key messages that went to the heart of the zoning issue.

The messages focused on:

  • The township has done its due diligence in creating medical marijuana zoning and the work should be respected.
  • The township work was done with multiple opportunities for public input and within the open meetings act.
  • Ensuring people knew this was a medical marijuana business issue. Adding to the complexity was that Michigan voters were going to vote on recreational marijuana, too. This was a separate issue, but also on the ballot. This was a point of confusion for people.
  • Voting yes for medical marijuana zoning.

We created a theme for the campaign and began work on developing a website and a Facebook page. We presented Egelston Grows Green as the theme because it spoke to the idea of growth in the township, not only cannabis itself but jobs and tax revenue. We wanted to include the township name in the theme to create a sense of place, identity and pride.

The key messages were used to create website content, to launch the Facebook page and to provide content throughout the summer. As it came closer to election time, we promoted the vote and ended each post with a Vote YES for medical marijuana zoning message.

photo of the egelston grows green facebook page
Facebook cover photograph

Significant challenges and opportunities for execution:
One of the most significant challenges we faced was the convoluted language that was in the petition and on the ballot. We knew that the best thing we could do was to make it simple for voters to understand and accurate to the ballot. We chose: vote yes for medical marijuana zoning.

In May of 2018, Facebook put restrictions on two essential parts of our campaign: political advertising and marijuana pages. The platform required anyone wanting to conduct political advertising to supply a physical mailing address and a copy of a photo ID like a driver’s license. We did this but were thwarted by another new policy that made marijuana pages unsearchable. Cannabis pages and groups that had been easy to find for years had disappeared from the search tool, and Facebook was denying requests to boost to create ads for all marijuana businesses regardless of what they did, i.e., law firms and accountants were being denied promotional space. This made launching the site and promoting content a challenge, especially for a new page. We relied on a network of advocates to share our daily posts and a popular community-centric Facebook page, Wolf Lake World News. We posted our information on that site and engaged in multiple conversations there, too.

We created the website egelstongrowsgreen.com for key messages and details about the growing operation, that people had an interest in. They wanted to know how this business could potentially affect them: everything from the smell, to security, to job creation, to compliance, water use and plant waste. We posted two informational videos to the page as well. All the time we are reinforcing the message about voting yes for medical marijuana.

yard sign about voting yes for medical marijuanaOne month before the election we helped the client with a succinct, clear message for yard signs and designed a postcard for voters. These collateral materials reinforced the singular importance of voting yes for medical marijuana zoning. The postcards were mailed to the 7500 voters in the township. The client also held a yard sign pick-up event with principals on-site to answer questions. 

postcard that was mailed to voters to encourage them to vote yes for medical marijuana
front of the postcard

In the days before the election, one of the business partners secured a video interview with a hyperlocal indie news channel, and we were able to share that interview and clear up some of the misconceptions that the opposition was promoting.

Outcome:
Great news! The voters of Egelston Township approved the zoning ordinance 1921 to 1751 votes.

marijuana legalization in Michigan is approved by voters cannabis flowers like this one pictured will be legal to purchase by people 21 and older

Marijuana Legalization in Michigan: Our FAQs

Because we work in the marijuana business, we get frequent questions from people about what marijuana legalization in Michigan. Here are our thoughts and some data on the topic.

What is on the ballot?
Proposition 1 is a citizen-driven ballot initiative to end cannabis prohibition in Michigan. If you vote yes, it means you want marijuana to be able to be sold to adults 21 and older in Michigan. If you vote no, Michigan will remain a medical-only state.

Why are you supportive of the proposal for marijuana legalization in Michigan?
First, because adults can make decisions for themselves about what they put in their bodies, be it supersized soft drinks, whiskey, craft beer or tobacco or asparagus. We are able to make those decisions for ourselves and we should be able to do that.
Second, the prohibition of cannabis hasn’t worked. It created a large black market that exists to this day. People who don’t have a medical marijuana card can still buy marijuana, and even before medical marijuana became legal 10 years ago, it was always easy to find. Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol and it isn’t working with marijuana, either.
Third, the criminalization of marijuana unfairly targets people of color—as it has since Richard Nixon assigned it to schedule 1 in the 1970s. People of color are arrested at a rate 8 times higher than white people for possession of small amounts of marijuana. According to the ACLU, states spend about $3.6 billion each year enforcing marijuana laws. Nationally, more arrests are made for marijuana possession than all violent crimes combined.

What will Michigan look like after Prop 1, if it is passed?
In additions to pretty beaches, tourists soon might be able to visit Michigan for legal marijuanaSince communities can opt-in or out for medical marijuana, a similar policy applies to recreational marijuana legalization in Michigan. But communities will need to opt out. There won’t be provisioning centers in every community—only where zoning has been approved. We’ll probably see a bump in tourism—Michigan will be the first Midwestern state that is legal and there are lots of people who live close to Michigan. Expect that people will come for skiing, beaches, colorful leaves, fudge and cannabis. Under the new law, there will be small boutique growers, which is great for entrepreneurs. This ensures there will be a place for small marijuana businesses in Michigan. Cannabis microbusinesses will be small businesses licensed to grow up to 150 marijuana plants and process, package, and sell marijuana to consumers.

Can the legislature change anything that is passed?
No, that opportunity passed the legislature earlier this year. The proposal, which is about four pages long, stands as the law. We expect though, that how it is regulated will be where the government will step in and make rules.

Marijuana will still be illegal federally. How does that affect business in Michigan is this is passed?
It will still remain an illegal federal substance, so you can’t mail it or take it across state lines. Businesses will struggle with banking, taxes and standard business deductions, which are not allowed.

Will this increase the amount of driving while high?
It is illegal to drive high, as it is illegal to drive drunk. Some people will do it regardless of the law.

Will marijuana legalization increase drug use of other kinds?
The gateway theory has been well refuted and if you’re inclined to try other drugs, you won’t find them in a marijuana dispensary. That’s a black market issue.

Is marijuana addictive?
It has not been clinically proven to be addictive. It can be overused, like anything that gives a human being pleasure. Unlike alcohol or tobacco, it can’t an edible marijuana cookie bar, it will be legal for all adults if Michigan legalizes marijuanakill you. There are no known cases of cannabis overdoses. Overusing it—usually happens when people overconsume edible cannabis. The effect of edibles is slow to be felt and people tend to take a few extra bites and then, BOOM, an uncomfortable feeling comes on. But it won’t kill you. You might think you are dying, but you won’t be.

Can people be fired from a job for using marijuana if the drug is legal?
Yes. Company personnel policies supersede the law when it comes to drug use. If your workplace prohibits it don’t do it. This also applies to medical marijuana patients.

How much taxes will be collected?
Ten percent of all sales in an excise tax and the Michigan sales tax of six percent will be collected. It’s estimated $100-200 million will be raised and while much of it will be used for PTSD and veteran health research, schools, roads and in communities with marijuana businesses.

How much marijuana can a person legally have?
This proposal, if passed will make possession of up to ten ounces legally. You still can’t drive under the influence or use it on the street, on a beach or in any public place. People 21 and older can grow up to 12 plants in their home without running afoul of the law.

Can we learn anything from other states that have legalized?
It isn’t an easy road for any state to implement this kind of a sweeping change and citizens should expect that it will take 18 months to two years to happen. It will still be highly regulated under the rules that guide Michigan’s medical marijuana businesses at present. Those rules demand 24/7 surveillance/security of growing and provisioning stores, seed to sale tracking, secure transport of cannabis and products and identification and proof of age to purchase.

If you care about marijuana legalization in Michigan it is important that you vote on November 6.

pretty cannabis packaging on some chocolate

Be Amazing Inside and Out: Why Cannabis Packaging Matters

There’s nothing more appealing to a consumer than good packaging and fair pricing. Either by accident or intention, cannabis packaging in Michigan tends to fall short of that standard. We’ve seen bad knockoffs of popular candy brands, in both name and design and kid-friendly graphics. If the cannabis industry wants to be taken seriously, we need to present ourselves in a mature manner and product packaging and branding should reflect that.

When Michigan’s licensing entity LARA sent out guidelines recently about cannabis packaging, we were pleased to see that they are serious about making packaging unappealing to children.

Their cannabis packaging rules state:

No edible marihuana product can be in a shape, color, package, or labeled in a manner that it would appeal to minors aged 17 years or younger.

just say no to bad cannabis packaging like this lollipop
An orange lollipop with 35mg of THC.

an orange lollipop without childproof cannabis packaging
Easy to open by a kid or an adult.

No edible marihuana product can be associated with or have cartoons, caricatures, toys, colors, designs, shapes, labels, or package that would appeal to minors.

No edible marihuana product can be easily confused with commercially sold candy. The use of the word candy or candies on the packaging or labeling is prohibited.

An edible marihuana product must be in child-resistant packages or containers.

In Michigan cannabis is still medicine and is sold to adults (or to an adult for a card-holding minor). It needs packaging that acknowledges this but also remains appealing. Think about the over-the-counter drugs you might buy or herbal supplements. Those products have packaging that is professional, serious and not appealing to kids.

some child proof cannabis packagingCannabis edibles are an upscale product, they’re not inexpensive to purchase and the packaging should reflect the quality of the product contained inside. That’s not to say it has to be expensive or over-packaged, but it does need to be thoughtful in its presentation. People make decisions in a provisioning center based on several factors including price, a word of mouth recommendation, advice from the budtender behind the counter and the appearance of a package.

Studies show that the time slot in which a shelved product can capture the attention of a consumer is very short, one to two seconds. This is why it’s so important for cannabis packaging to be well-designed. You just don’t have that long to get someone’s attention.

good cannabis packaging from Northern LightsToday, brands across every sector are facing an increasingly competitive landscape and an increasingly sophisticated consumer. People tend to disregard mass brand communications in favor of more personalized messaging mediums. Packaging has the power to connect with the consumer to communicate a brand’s message on a physical and individual level.

How many times have you purchased a bottle of wine solely on your attraction to the label? Cannabis products should be thought of similarly. 

Smart packaging design is effective because, more than any other medium, it stays true to the product. It’s the main interface between a brand and consumer. Packaging conveys a host of messages that appeal to different consumers—both young and older, through elements of design such as naming, color, typography, graphics, structure and texture. We think Willie’s Reserve does this right.

cannabis packaging gone wrong, it's too attractive to kidsAn experienced designer can look at the product and create packaging that is sophisticated, appealing and true to the product inside. There’s really no reason that cartoons, colors and childish fonts need to be used in cannabis products. 

Packaging is part of a cannabis brand and being consistent is important.

Branding is one of the most important aspects of your cannabis business—whether you’re large, small, retail or business to business. Your brand is not just a logo, website, corporate identity or marketing collateral. It is your company’s personality. It’s your confidence, passion, action, voice, and set of values that make your company unique. Your brand needs to resonate with audiences in an emotive way. 

Quality cannabis packaging is a necessity.

Packaging design for the cannabis industry needs to be more than simply slapping a pot leaf or joint on a box. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to catch the consumer’s eye as the cannabis marketplace continues to evolve and competition grows.

If you need ideas or assistance with packaging design, Canna Communication can help. We understand the new Michigan rules and we know the art of packaging design.

a photo of women who might work in a cannabis business

Cannabis Businesses: The Future is Female

Last week I attended the MJBizConNEXT conference in New Orleans for cannabis entrepreneurs and professionals. This was my first marijuana
conference and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The structure was the same as other conferences I’ve been to, keynote speakers and specialized sessions, and of course networking. But what made this one different was, I was surrounded by other professionals who are in my industry—cannabis. It gave me much needed context and perspective on what’s going on in North America, other than my microcosm of West Michigan.

One overwhelming topic from the conference was the importance of women in cannabis businesses.

Irie Selkirk

Irie Selkirk, with Emblem Cannabis in Ontario, gave a great presentation about engaging not only female consumers, but female leaders. She thinks it’s crucial that we establish an industry with strong female leaders, and I couldn’t agree more.

According to a 2015 survey from Marijuana Business Daily, women held 36 percent of leadership positions in the cannabis industry. MJBiz conducted an updated survey on the topic in August 2017, and the number of women in leadership roles had dropped to 27 percent of executive roles. Women need to continue to not only represent in this industry, but to lead this industry. And if we don’t want to see continued drops in women leadership we have ensure that women have power and voice in this industry.

Ms. Selkirk reflected on her first cannabis conference and how she and other women there felt left out. They felt more comfortable sitting outside the building to network, than the expo floor. This brought up a great discussion about how women feel outnumbered on the expo floor, and how men (the vast majority of the vendors are men, with a few booth babes) interact with them. Several of the women in the session felt intimidated by the overwhelming presence of men on the expo floor and didn’t interact as much as they normally would. Ms. Selkirk encouraged women to speak up and take control of what you want to accomplish in cannabis. If you can’t find what you want, create it. Can’t find other women in cannabis to network with? Create your own network. Want a more balanced expo floor? Get some booth space. Make your voice heard and lobby for change.

Kevin O’Leary on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (Bob D’Amico)

The keynote speaker was Kevin O’Leary from the hit TV show Shark Tank. Mr. O’Leary, or Mr. Wonderful, as he’s fond of calling himself, said he prefers to invest in women-led businesses because he gets better returns. O’Leary found that about 95 percent of the women-led companies meet their financial targets, compared with just 65 percent for businesses with male leaders.

He has a couple of theories about why female-led businesses outperform male-led ones:

  • Women are better at time management
  • Women set more achievable goals

He also talked about how when goals are achieved, company morale goes up, which can help create a great culture, which obviously leads to less employee turnover.

In short, his largest returns have been from women-led businesses.

Women—we make up over 50 percent of the US population, yet according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, we made only 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.

The cannabis industry represents the future—a chance to enter a growing industry with relatively low barriers. It is an opportunity to help make medicine available to people who desperately need an alternative to opioids and other over-prescribed drugs. And we have a chance to shape the future of this industry into a more equitable and inclusive environment, where women can make their mark, and open doors of opportunity for future generations.

After all, the future is female.