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.

thankful graphic because we are thankful for cannabis legalization in Michigan

Cannabis Legalization in Michigan: A New Day

This piece first appeared in Rapid Growth as a guest blog on November 15, 2018

There are moments in your life when things happen and you always rememdrawing of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, he is mentioned in this article about cannabis legalization in Michiganber where you were and what you were doing. Some memorable events are bad, like the Challenger explosion, the World Trade Center attacks, or the death of Jerry Garcia. And then there are the good, memorable events. I’ll never forget when same-sex marriage was made legal. And most recently when cannabis legalization happened in Michigan with the voter approval of Proposition 1. My business partner and I launched our firm, Canna Communication, in the summer of 2017, knowing we’d be working in medical cannabis for a couple of years, but were focused on the passage of adult-use recreational legalization. I spent election night in Detroit watching voting returns in a Jefferson Avenue law office, consuming cannabis with a few dozen other activists until early in the morning when we were sure we’d won. I proudly wore the heady scent of marijuana the entire next day.

Sometime in early December — ten days after the election results are certified — Prop 1 will begin to be implemented. For those of you that were hoping to go out and buy cannabis in a shop, you’ll have to wait for at least a year; that’s how long the legislature has to review and adopt the law.

The good news is, if you already have cannabis on your person, you’re not a criminal anymore, and that’s the most critical aspect of the passage of this law.

If commerce and tax revenue are the brains of ending prohibition, then decriminalization is its heart.

With the new law, you can grow up to 12 plants on your property without having a caregiver license. You can possess up to 2.5 ounces on your person. You can have up to 10 ounces in your home. None of this is a crime anymore. If you are a non-medical, card-carrying marijuana consumer, you no longer need to worry about trouble with the police if you have cannabis and let’s say, you are stopping for speeding. As long as you are NOT under the influence or using as you’re driving, the small bag of marijuana in your purse or pocket is your own damn business.

For people of color, marijuana law has always been unfair. According to the ACLU, people of color are arrested at a rate 3.7 times greater than white people, though whites, African Americans, and Latinx people use cannabis at the same rate. The war on drugs that we all grew up with was an invention of President Richard Nixon, not based on facts, but on his personal whim. It’s come to light that he moved cannabis to schedule 1 status to repress young war protesters and black people.

Consider this quote from John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy advisor speaking to reporter Dan Baum in Harper’s magazine, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”

How about that 10-ounce possession cap that has taken a few people by surprise?

Cannabis flower is light in weight, and 10 ounces is a lot of product, more than 200 joints depending on how you roll. Critics of the law say that’s too much. But, consider this: there’s no limit to the amount of beer, liquor, or wine you can have in your home, right? If you want a wine cellar with 200 bottles, a well-stocked bar, or a keg of beer in your home, it’s your right as an adult to do that. We need to think about cannabis that way, too. Just because you have you ten ounces, doesn’t mean you’re just sitting around consuming it all at once. Marijuana keeps well in a cool, dark, dry place, just like wine.

Cannabis Legalization in Michigan = Economic Gains.

Cannabis legalization in Michigan brings opportunities for businesses and jobs here and not just selling the plant. Because public consumption (smoking or vaping) isn’t allowed — not on the street, in a place of business, or in your personal vehicle — there should be opportunities for people to create private or membership-style spaces for consumption.

Popular in already-legal states are bud and breakfast accommodations, outdoor patios where people can consume, places for puff n paint events, party buses where people can consume while taking tours of growing operations and provisioning centers. In Colorado, Amsterdam-style coffee shops are popping up. In Aspen, Colorado, cannabis sales outpaced alcohol in 2017. Much of the potential cannabis tourism will be dependent on how Michigan’s legislature digs into the specifics of the law.

Marijuana activists still have work to do post-Prop 1. People need to stay in contact with or begin conversations with elected officials about how the law will be implemented. It’s likely that the legislature will attempt to over-regulate cannabis where it is able to do so. On the local level, we need to watch our city, village, or township meeting agendas for opt-in discussions. Just over 100 municipalities in Michigan are open to medical marijuana businesses at present, and many municipalities were waiting to see if legalization passed. The marijuana opposition has stated that its next effort is to stop opt-ins in communities. If you want to see Prop 1 enacted in your community, you’ll continue to need to make your voice heard. We need to work together, too, for expungement of prior marijuana arrest records and for the release of those serving time for minor marijuana crimes.

By the time of the next election, we’ll have lived with recreational cannabis in Michigan for about a year. There will be some speed bumps and rough patches, I’m sure. But like the West and East coast states that have already blazed the trail, the sky will not fall and Michigan citizens will see the benefit of new businesses, jobs, and taxes, not to mention the easy pleasure of marijuana consumption.

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.

reading glasses and some content for a new marijuana business that might need a cannabis investor

How to Win Over a Cannabis Investor: What Entrepreneurs Need to Know

You’ve got your cannabis startup going: the license is in process, your business plan completed, marketing plan written, site plan done, security and operations are all there. Things are looking good, except for the money part. You need a cannabis investor or two to help make it happen.

Before You’re Ready to go to The Dance, Make Sure You Know The Steps.

We talked with Eric Seifert about the relationship between investors and cannabis entrepreneurs and what startups need to know when seeking an investment partner.

eric siefert connects cannabis entrepreneur with cannabis investorsEric has been working with investors and startups outside of cannabis for a decade at the Michigan SBDC and since leaving the SBDC has been helping bridge the funding gap in the cannabis space. His company, Left Coast Capital works with investors looking for solid businesses, in cannabis and other businesses as well. Here are ten things Eric says cannabis entrepreneurs need to know before opening themselves up to an investor.

1)   If you know how to grow marijuana, but don’t know much about business, find a partner who does. “Investors look for business sense and experience.” Having a passion for cannabis goes a long way, but so does the idea that you will succeed in business. “If you need to, bring in someone to help your business, to supplement what you really don’t know or what you recognize as a weakness. Show how you can mitigate that.”  You need a solid business plan and it’s smart to give an investor several scenarios for outcomes—one that’s modest, another that shows what you believe to be reasonable growth and another that blows the roof off of all expectations of how the business will grow if things go well.

2)   One of the hardest parts for cannabis entrepreneurs is that they don’t have the kind of documentation that other businesses might have as proof of prior success. “Even a caregiver can show what they’ve done already and how they’ve tracked income and expenses. When you’re scaling up a business, you need to point to your past success, even if it is just a year or two.”

3)   Find great legal and accounting representation. “Compliance is going to be a major issue, if you successfully launch, but then are audited and shut down, that will make for a dissatisfied investor. You need to have your attorney draw up investment documents that protect you.”

4)   You’ll want to work with an accredited investor, someone who can produce a signed affidavit that they have at least $1 million in net worth, an annual income of at least $200,000. It documents that they are an SEC accredited investor.

What a Cannabis Investor Wants From You

5)   Every potential cannabis investor is looking for one thing: making more money than they might in the market. “In your business plan and pitch deck, you need to be able to show profits that are greater than the stock market.” Investors want to get their money back in about 3-4 years and they’ll want a portion of the profits beyond the investment. “They want a big return because they’re taking on so much risk.”

6)   Most cannabis investors want something beyond a return on their investment, and you should expect they would negotiate a percentage ownership of your company for the long or short term. “Investors tend to like hard assets, so the first lien on your building might be an option. If there’s a failure, the investor has something to sell to recoup their losses.”

Show the Investor Your Passion for Cannabis

7)   The entrepreneur, rather than the cannabis industry is where an investor will focus his or her attention. “Investors look for people who are in business for something bigger than making money.” They want to see a passion for the medicinal value of the plant, either personally or for a family member, so make sure you have a relatable story.

cannabis investors want to know how you'll handle money, this is an image of a lot of money8)   You must be able to talk about how you’re going to handle cash and mitigate the risk involved with it. “Investors want to know that their investment won’t be lost at gunpoint. Know what you’re doing to handle cash and security.”

9)    Create a great pitch deck and practice your presentation. “No more than 20 minutes from start to finish, followed by 20 minutes of Q&A.” Investors don’t need to hear every detail about your business—don’t drown people in details until they ask for them.” Investors who want more will ask for it. Stick to the regional view when you’re pitching—don’t worry about national picture yet. “Until cannabis is legal across the U.S. there’s not much point in spending time talking about it. You need to get the investor’s attention, high-level summary information.”

10)  Don’t underestimate your knowledge and skill in the cannabis marketplace. “You need to show passion and expertise for the industry.  It’s an 8 or 9 on the scale of importance.”

 

marijuana plants are part of any new marijuana business

Fire Up! PR Musts Your New Marijuana Business Needs

If you are the owner of a new marijuana business, you’re probably thinking about a lot of things: compliance, human resources, inventory, customer service, security and how to handle all those twenty dollar bills! We hope you’ve given some thought to your marketing communication plan, too.  Like most pursuits, taking the first step is the hardest part. To make that first step a bit easier, we suggest getting things underway with these six simple-ish things.

Develop Your Story.

People want to know how and WHY you got into the cannabis business, they want to hear about your vision and values around your business, too. These are vital parts of your company story. You’re in the medical marijuana business and it’s important, outside of making money, to tell people why you’re doing what you’re doing. Some of it’s personal, like fighting cancer or helping a family with an epileptic child; some of it might be business-related, as in you want to create jobs and contribute to the economy. Whatever your reason for being in the cannabis business, start forming a relatable story. Every successful company has a story.

Be an Expert About Cannabis.

marijuana plants are part of any new marijuana businessTake time every day to read/watch/listen to cannabis news, especially regarding Michigan and cannabis as medicine. You expect expertise from businesses you patronize and your customers expect the same from you. You need to be able to help people understand the business of cannabis, too. Be accurate with your information and data, you don’t want to be the source of bad information. This acquired expertise will also help you as you connect with the media where your business is located.

Reach Out to The Media.

Media relations begins with getting to know the media. The newspaper reporters, radio personalities and TV journalists in your own community need to know who you are and what you’re doing in the medical marijuana industry. Reach out to them and make sure they know you are available as a resource for future cannabis stories. When you are awarded your license and start to establish your business make sure the media is the first to know.

Create Content and Be Social.

You’ve probably heard a lot about content lately. New and fresh content drives traffic to your website, and makes people come back for more, it’s the gasoline of SEO or search engine optimization. Content is the words, videos reading glasses and some content for a new marijuana businessand images that you put on your website and on your social media pages. It needs refreshing regularly. High-quality content is an integral part of communication and marketing and while you’re selling something, you’re also helping people understand the why of what you’re doing. If you don’t have social media pages for your company, yet, get them established. You can do this long before your new marijuana business is open. It’s good to get your name out there, connect with people and practice your content posting habits.

Discover Your Niche.

While you want to work with everyone and provide medical marijuana to anyone with a card, there’s good reason to have some of your business be a bit specialized. Having a niche makes you different and will help you stand out from your competitors. To discover your niche, you need a passion about something you can address, you need to deeply know the audience you want to reach, you’ll need to research them and their interests, buying habits and behaviors and craft messages to them. Your niche interest needs to be authentic.

Define Your Brand.

A brand is the outfacing image of your business and its inner personality. It starts with your logo and is part of everything about your company including customer interactions. A brand is the personality of your company, not only who you say you are, but more importantly, what others say about you, too. Your brand is the culmination of YOUR work AND customer relationships. It is formed by the content you create, the story you tell, what you share on social sites and how you respond to a crisis. People outside your company will also determine your brand by their opinions, ideas and reviews, but it’s mostly formed by your content, interactions, voice and how your company behaves in the community.

Interested in learning more? Need help getting started?

We’d love to help you move your new marijuana business forward. Drop us a note and we’ll be in touch.

photo of tiny gummies made micodosing which can be used for sleep

Microdosing Marijuana Medicine for Better Results

Like any medication, marijuana is a personal thing and how much you need and use is a choice, but getting to that place might take a less is more approach. Some people feel the effect of a very small amount quickly and powerfully, while others need to imbibe greater amounts for longer periods of time for the desired effect. Some people like the feeling of being high and locked to the couch, while others prefer to keep it light and remain in total control of their senses. For those who like control and stability, microdosing marijuana medicine is an effective way to relieve pain, anxiety or other symptoms without feeling too high.

Here’s the thing with cannabis and its many strains—what is effective for one person, isn’t necessarily what works for another and a little can go a long way.

Microdosing is a fairly new trend in cannabis consumption and it’s a solid method for determining what works for you and how cannabis makes you feel. It’s a little like learning your tolerance for other substances or a medicine. You might already know how a single glass of wine, a craft beer or a whiskey drink makes you feel and you also probably know that tipping point when you’ve had too much. Cannabis is similar, in that different strains with unique potencies affect people in different ways. This tipping point is called a biphasic effect, biphasic just means having two phases. In the case of cannabis or alcohol— the phases are just enough and too much.

The biphasic effects of marijuana are similar to alcohol and just as impactful. Low doses of THC can make you feel happy and relaxed, but too much can impais your thinking and produces intense anxiety, paranoia or induces a full-blown panic attack.

Learning what your tolerance is the first step for microdosing marijuana. It takes some experimentation—which can be fun—if you think small first.

photo of tiny gummies made for microdosing marijuana
The tiny gummies (shown here with regular gummies) contain a low dose of THC. They are perfect for microdosing.

Start with a super low dose, 5 mg of THC or even lower if you are able to find a product of that potency. Edibles are one way to experiment because they can be cut up into right-size pieces, but keep in mind it’s about an hour before they take effect and the stated potencies can be inaccurate, especially if you are cutting something down to size from a larger item. If you have access to a well-stocked dispensary, low-dose cannabis can be found in tinctures, elixirs and sublingual sprays. If you smoke or vape, start with one hit and wait 10 minutes before you take another, so you can judge the effect. It could be one is enough, and you might have never stopped at one before! With microdosing marijuana you want to ingest just enough so that you feel like you’re on the verge of getting high—and aren’t quite there yet. You’ll be getting the benefits of the THC and CBD properties of cannabis—but you won’t be stoned.

a chew with 25 mg of THC would need to be divided into 1/8s for microdosing marijuana
This one inch chew contains 25 mg of THC, to microdose you’d need to cut it into 8 pieces.

Once you discover that sweet spot, you’ll want to determine how long the dose lasts and when to have a bit more to keep the symptoms away. By tracking a few things, you’ll be on your way to feeling better and maybe using less cannabis.

It’s important, also, to not drink alcohol when you’re experimenting with microdosing. You should carefully control your environment, so you can fully judge what works for you. It’s important to remember to ingest edibles on a full stomach, too.

Many people, those with chronic pain and inflammation, insomnia, mood regulation and nausea might find benefit from microdosing marijuana throughout the day. With the perfect dose of the right product, it can help improve how you move, how you feel and even how you work.

photo of newspaper articles about canna communication

Public Relations Can Help Grow Your Marijuana Business

Public relations is a powerful force for launching and growing a cannabis business. There are restrictions on advertising for marijuana in many states. Twitter, Facebook and Google are often unfriendly to marijuana businesses even in medical states, so PR is the most effective method for getting the word out about your business.

Public Relations is About Influencing and Engaging People and Building Relationships.

Part of our work as cannabis professionals is educating and informing people about the variety of products available and the health benefits of marijuana. People are hungry to learn about marijuana and the plant has a history rooted in misconception and myth. It’s our responsibility to help make sense of the information that’s out there and provide well-sourced educational content to interested audiences.

Public+Relations

Let’s talk about the public. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no general public. Audiences can be divided and dissected in a variety of ways.

Gender, geography, income, age, role and generation are common demographics markers. Anyone you come into contact with through your business is the public.

The relations part is about education, messaging and influencing. It’s about listening to what people are saying, reacting, reinforcing or reviewing messages and providing continuous accurate information that helps move your cause, effort or business forward.

Cannabis businesses and advocates will need to constantly educate and inform their audiences, whether it is about the efficacy of marijuana as a medicine or debunking the Nixon-era lies. For the near future, we will be educating people about the plant and the legitimacy of our work.

The Public Relations RACE

There’s a formula that’s the basic construct for PR activities. The acronym is RACE and it’ll help you be strategic in your public relations efforts.

  • R is for Research Why research? Because even though you know a lot, you need to validate your assumptions and learn what’s out a young woman reading at the lakethere.This is where you explore your potential audiences, your competition, the landscape of legislation and how people are reacting to what you are doing. You can read articles on a topic you want to know more about, you can ask questions of people who are potential customers; you can do a Survey Monkey or a poll on Twitter or Facebook.
  • A is for Action planning, this is where you (or a professional like Canna Communication) creates a communication plan. It will have concrete goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.
  • C is for Communication, this is the fun part where you can dream up all the cool things that you’re going to do to get the word out and inform people about your product or service. It might be a launch party, a press event or outreach, creating a video, or a printed piece. It could include blog content, a Facebook Live broadcast, a webinar, a social campaign or an open house. Each of these tactics takes time and money, so you need to evaluate which provides the most bang for your buck.
  • E is for Evaluation. After all the work is done you need to take a hard look at what worked and what didn’t; see if you can determine why something was a success or a failure. By doing an evaluation, you’ll know what to do next time and have a record of why you succeeded or failed.

Working with the Media in your Marijuana Business

Public relations work is deeply connected to the news media. Media relations begins with getting to know the reporters in your own community. You can review articles on TV station, newspaper and radio websites and see who’s been covering cannabis and if they have any bias. If they’ve taken a negative stand in the past, perhaps can you help turn that around with better information and establish a relationship with the reporter.

Why the News Media Matters

Even with thousands of social media followers, to some degree, you are a newspaper and a breakfast traypreaching to the choir. The media can be very effective in increasing your exposure to a larger audience and to people who know nothing about your business. A news story will expose you to more people than you could ever acquire on your own, hundreds of thousands vs. just thousands.

Media relations is much more than sending a press release or making a pitch—it’s positioning yourself as an expert in the cannabis business and being available to the media as a trusted source and resource.

Public Relations is a No Spin Zone

PR sometimes gets a bad rap and the word spin gets used a lot. In our communication practice, there is no spin, there are no alternative facts.

To be a good media source, you have to be 100 percent honest, 100 percent of the time.

You can’t claim that cannabis cures anything, but you can provide the media with sources (people) that support your views and product. One person’s story isn’t a factual claim; it’s anecdotal evidence that can be powerful and compelling. And in cannabis, it’s these thousands of real stories that are building the credibility of our industry.

photo of public relations professional Roberta KingWant to learn more about public relations for your cannabis business and how to expand your reach? Let’s talk!
Contact Roberta F. King, APR at Canna Communication.
Her email is roberta@cannacommunication.com

Photo credits:
Reading on the dock: photo by Bethany Laird on Unsplash
Breakfast tray: Photo by Eddie Garcia on Unsplash

sunlight over Yosemite in the State of California where marijuana is legal.

California’s Legal Marijuana: One More Reason to Love the Golden State

As if the stunning light, mountains, rolling ocean waves and wine weren’t reasons enough to love California, now they give us legal marijuana. As you might have heard, the state ended marijuana prohibition on January 1, 2018.

light through the trees in California near the Thomas Aquinas College. California's legal marijuana grows in communities north of this area, which is close to Ojai.

What’s the big deal? There are other states (and districts) where adults can buy cannabis for any reason. They include Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Washington D.C. And it appears that Vermont, New Jersey and Rhode Island are also on the cusp of adult-use legalization, too, with elected officials leading efforts in those states.

In Michigan, our home state, citizens and cannabis advocates are awaiting approval of petition signatures that will bring a vote on adult-use in 2018. News on petition approval is expected at any time. Our border neighbor to the north, Canada is in: cannabis will be available for purchase by adults in mid-summer.

Back to the question above: why is California remarkable?

California Scales Up the Impact of Legal Marijuana

Not only is California a large state geographically, there are a lot of people who live there, 39.5 million, to be specific. The entire country of Canada has 35.1 million. In comparison, Michigan has 9.8 million residents. The legal western states quite simply don’t have the density of population of California. Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Nevada combined have 15 million residents.

The Golden State also boats the sixth largest economy in the world. The contribution of California’s legal marijuana industry will make to the economy is astounding: projections are it will be an industry worth over $5.1 billion this year alone. It is estimated that the existing black market is valued at $13.5 billion.

The state is levying a 15 percent tax on marijuana, collected by provisioning businesses. Cities and towns with those facilities can add their own taxes, too.

drawing of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, a proponent of legal marijuanaIt’s not just California dreamers, hippies and Deadheads that made marijuana legalization happen. Both Pew and Gallup research firms have published opinion research that indicates Americans are much more in favor of legalization than not. Gallup’s most recent survey had favorability at 64 percent. In Michigan, polling by EPIC-MRA in February 2017 showed the 57 percent of Michiganders favored marijuana legalization.

Marijuana Legalization in Michigan isn’t a Sure Thing.

The most recent successful vote in California, Prop. 64 was the second attempt at legalization. A legalization ballot proposal was defeated there in 2010, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent. Michigan will face some of the same opponents in the November election: pharmaceutical companies, healthcare organizations, law enforcement and the alcohol industry have all historically funded anti-cannabis efforts. But, we think public opinion (and a good voter turnout) will be in our favor.

As Goes California, so Goes the Nation.

We asked Jeff Hank, the board chair of MILegalize what this means for Michigan.

the mountains and ocean along the pacific coast highway in California where marijuana is legal“With the largest U.S. state now legal, Americans will see cannabis more normalized, and visitors to the Golden State returning home will wonder why they are second-class citizens when it comes to personal liberty and cannabis policy common sense,” Hank said.

“When crafting the MILegalize proposal to regulate marijuana like alcohol, we studied every state including California for best practices. We took what already worked in Michigan and included concepts like the ‘micro-business’ which California also has in a different form, and we included modern regulations to prevent diversion to minors. Big money can dominate the cannabis market, to the exclusion of legacy farmers and shopkeepers. California hasn’t done a very good job managing this. Michigan has the opportunity to end the civil rights crisis of cannabis prohibition, and also ensure upward mobility and market access for caregivers and entrepreneurs. This is critical to eliminate the black market and benefit the general public,” he said.

State by state ballot-driven legalization isn’t the best way to end American cannabis prohibition. But until the federal government comes to terms with its failed drug policies and declassifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, we’ll live with a patchwork of varied state regulations.

We saw how important this is recently when Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo. His action, which threatens legal state marijuana businesses with DEA action, also threatens the legalization movement in states that are trying to end prohibition.

Certainly, those businesses that are making money from cannabis in California and other legal states are coming into Michigan, we’ve seen their presence already in our medical marketplace.

Might it be business, rather than citizens that pushes federal legalization forward? We hope it is a coalition of both and that the change comes soon.

photo of 2017 made by a sparkler

Looking at 2017’s Most Notable Marijuana News Events

It’s hard to say if this was a monumental year in marijuana news, but 2017 felt pretty good to us. There was a lot going on across the U.S. and in Michigan.

Here are our top ten most memorable news events in marijuana for the year.

10) California wildfires destroyed a significant amount of cannabis in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. While all wildfires are heartbreaking and painful for individuals, families and communities, this year’s fire in California was especially tough on cannabis growers. Fires that broke out just before harvest time destroyed or damaged an estimated 34 cannabis farms and tragically the crop is uninsured due to federal regulations. 

9) California, Nevada and Canada begin to implement adult-use legalization.  After voting in November 2016 to end cannabis prohibition, both California and Nevada started working toward creating their legal environments. We love the “get it done” spirit in Nevada—it managed to open dispensaries less than eight months after the vote. Its larger sister state, California will end cannabis prohibition on January 1, 2018. Canadians from Nunavut to Saskatchewan will have access to cannabis starting in the coming summer, thanks to some hard work by the government in 2017.

8) Cheers to 360,000+ Michigan citizens who signed petitions for adult-use cannabis legalization. Volunteers and paid solicitors from MILegalize and the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol secured 100,000 more signatures than required and validation of signatures is underway through the Board of Canvassers. We hope it will clear the board and go to voters in 2018. We expect the vote to be positive.

7) Jeff Sessions was appointed attorney general of the U.S. This is a dark mark on cannabis. The AG is a long-time hater of cannabis and will do what he can to ensure prohibition doesn’t end. The upside of this story is we have a dysfunctional Congress, he has a volatile boss and there are 29 states with some sort of marijuana laws on the books, which is going to make DEA intervention difficult. Public opinion is changing, too. A recent Gallup poll showed that 60 percent of Americans favor cannabis legalization.

6) Colorado marked its 5th year of adult use legalization and the sky didn’t fall. In speaking with the CBC, the head of Colorado’s Department of photo of a colorado map and notebookPublic Health Dr. Larry Wolk said this: “The short answer is we have not seen much. We have not experienced any significant issues as a result of legalization. I think a lot of people think when you legalize you are going from zero to some high use number, but they forget that even when marijuana is not legal, one in four adults and one in five kids are probably using on a somewhat regular basis. What we’ve found since legalization is that those numbers haven’t really changed.”

5) The American Legion came out for cannabis. The venerable veterans organization is requesting further research regarding PTSD and traumatic brain injury and cannabis. Many veterans find cannabis to be a successful alternative to psychotropic drugs. Officials at the national American Legion are asking the federal government to allow Veterans Administration (VA) physicians to speak freely about medical marijuana to their patients. Presently, physicians are prohibited from talking about the plant as an option. The Legion with more than 14,000 posts nationwide has great potential to change public policy.

4) Northern Michigan University announced a marijuana major. Students wildcat logo for Northern Michigan Universitywill be able to major in medicinal plant chemistry at NMU, which offers America’s only bachelor’s degree in cannabis program. CH420 isn’t a slacker program though, it requires 120 credits of chemistry, biology, soils, genetics accounting and financial management classes. Its grads are bound to be in high demand. Way to go Wildcats!

3) Marijuana as a gateway out of opioid addiction. Opioid overdoses killed more 64,000 Americans in 2016 and that number is expected to increase this year. More and more research is leading the medical profession to look at marijuana as a gateway out of addiction to powerful painkillers. While more research needs to be done, marijuana shows promise in doing less harm and more good for patients with chronic pain. And you can’t overdose on marijuana.

2) Licensing for medical marijuana began in Michigan this year. It was a rough and tumble year in Lansing as LARA, the state’s regulating entity rolled out its rules on issuing licenses for people who want to grow, process, rotunda of the Michigan Capital Building in Lansing test, transport or provision medical marijuana. Dispensaries were threatened with closure by a state board, politicians stepped up to keep them open, liquid capital rates were set, municipalities opted in or out, and application materials were created. The licensing portal opened on December 15 and now we wait to see who will be first to show off their piece of legal paperwork.

1) Projections for cannabis job growth will exceed manufacturing by 2022. It’s an understatement to say that marijuana is a growth industry in that there are already 100,000 to 150,000 marijuana workers and about 90,000 people work in plant touching businesses. Cannabis and its ancillary businesses have created 43,000 full-time jobs in California, 23,000 in Colorado and 22,000 Washington.  Michigan is the second largest medical marijuana state (next to California) and should have similar numbers for jobs when licenses are issued in this spring.

We look forward to the promise of a new year and all that it brings to cannabis-friendly people everywhere!

photo of a bowl with medical cannabis flowers and three well-rolled joints

What’s on Your Cannabis Christmas Wish List? Here’s Ours.

 

Dear Santa,

Here’s our cannabis Christmas wish list for this year.  We know it looks long. But seriously, we’re not bogarting—we’re asking for these things for the good of the world and all of humanity.

Thank you in advance for your kind consideration.

The (nice) Women of Canna Communication

Here’s what we want:
  • America to be more like Canada when it comes to marijuana. Imagine, a whole country (other than Uruguay at present) that doesn’t prohibit cannabis.
  • Just like Martha, Snoop and Anthony Bourdain, everyone should be able to be able to roll a good joint. It’s a skill anyone can master with a image of cannabis flowers and three jointslittle practice. 
  • People to stop calling cannabis a gateway drug. There’s no science to this myth, and truly, cannabis helps people get off of opioids.
  • Michigan citizens to come out in force in November 2018 and vote to end cannabis prohibition in our great state. We’ve been a medical marijuana state for nearly a decade, adult-use legalization is the natural next step.
  • The cannabis industry to stop objectifying women. Stop with the bikinis and boobs. Please. It doesn’t increase the seriousness of our cause.
  • Michigan to expand its criteria for medical marijuana qualification and include autism and PTSD. There’s research showing these conditions deserve inclusion.
  • All our clients to be successful in their endeavor to apply for a medical marijuana facility license.
  • More Michigan municipalities to be open to having marijuana businesses. Patients shouldn’t have to travel across the state for their medicine. There should be a provisioning center in every Michigan county.
  • All cities in Michigan decriminalize marijuana possession. There are far too many people in prison for marijuana charges, and more often than not, they’re people of color.
  • People to regard marijuana entrepreneurs as they do craft brewers. It wasn’t that long ago alcohol was prohibited and now it’s celebrated colorful beer bottle caps on a display boardand brewers are vital to economic growth in some communities.
  • Small cannabis businesses to find a place in Michigan’s new medical marijuana licensing structure, so caregivers can continue to do what they do best.
  • Jeff Sessions to get with the science about marijuana and the people who use it. We are good people.
  • All the puns about marijuana to stop, or at least be limited to one per conversation.
  • Cannabis to be removed from Schedule I classification. This classification dates to the 1970s and the Nixon administration and was created to disrupt the lives of people of color and anti-war protestors.
  • Everyone who uses marijuana or supports people who do, to speak up about the power of the plant and how it has helped improve their health and happiness.

PS: Thanks to everyone who has supported Canna Communication in 2017. We look forward to a great 2018 with you.