Market To Market: Pot Of Gold

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Cannabis, once affiliated with sketchy street corner dealers, has blossomed into a thriving industry with a crop of eager consumers. Cannabis—aka marijuana—is the most widely used substance in the world, according to a UN World Drug Report. Nearly 160 million people around the world use marijuana, and more than 94 million U.S. adults say they have used it more than once.

Grand Review Research projects that by 2027, the global legal marijuana market will reach nearly $74 billion. This growth is largely due to the increasing adoption of cannabis as a pharmaceutical product for treating a range of medical conditions. 

While cannabis is still illegal under federal law, most Americans think it’s high time for that to change. According to Pew Research, nine in 10 U.S. adults say marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use, with younger adults (those ages 18 to 29) more likely to support legalization for both types of use. Only eight percent of Americans think marijuana should be illegal in all situations. 

With 29 percent of Americans living in a state where recreational cannabis is legal, marijuana is swiftly going mainstream. Users no longer have to call a guy—they can walk into a dispensary or even have cannabis delivered right to their doorstep. Companies such as Eaze and Puffy Delivery, which has been called the “Amazon of weed,” will courier cannabis directly to consumers. 

The cannabis market has hit a high during the COVID-19 quarantine, when many people looked for ways to mellow out and pass the time. For example, in Michigan, recreational sales skyrocketed more than 20 percent during the week of March 16, surging from $4.7 million to $5.8 million, according to the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. During this same time, medical sales rose 27 percent, from $6.2 million to $7.9 million. 

California saw retail marijuana sales surge by 159 percent in March, while sales in Washington State swelled 100 percent and sales in Colorado grew 46 percent, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. 

While most cannabis users (56 percent) consumed the same amount as usual while under quarantine, nearly one in four said they used more cannabis, according to data from New Frontier. 

It’s clear that pot is having a pivotal moment. In this “green rush,” what many call the burgeoning cannabis industry, promotional products can help cultivate continued growth. As marijuana legalization expands across the country, the opportunity is ripe for marketing not only to consumers but also to physicians who turn to cannabis to treat myriad conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease and Crohn’s disease, among others. 

When it comes to cannabis promotions, creativity is key. Whether you want to help a dispensary increase foot traffic or get more people to buy cannabis edibles, promotional products can help quash stigmas, attract a broader audience and make brands bloom. 

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When crafting cannabis promotions, consider a unique angle: tourism. After months of mandatory lockdowns, many people are itching to travel. In states where cannabis is legalized, a clever promotion could be just the ticket to attract visitors.

States such as Colorado and Washington have already seen tourism spikes as a result of their cannabis legalization laws. Nearly half of all tourists who visit the Centennial State do so because of the state’s liberal marijuana policies, according to the Colorado Tourism Office.

Promotional products distributors can also focus on the medical cannabis market. About three in four U.S. adults (64 percent) believe cannabis has medical benefits, according to BDS Analytics. Among those who use over-the-counter medication or prescription drugs, 41 percent have reduced their use as a result of cannabis.

Adults who want to steer clear of pharmaceuticals but may need help with sore muscles, insomnia or anxiety can often turn to cannabis. With promotional products, brands can get in front of these consumers with a more affordable, prescription-free solution to their problem.

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Hazy about the difference between marijuana, hemp, THC and CBD? Here’s a pot primer:


Marijuana (aka cannabis) refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds of the cannabis plant. It contains both mind-altering and non-mind-altering compounds.


CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound derived from the cannabis or hemp plant. CBD can only be used in cosmetic products if it contains less than 0.3-percent THC.

 
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is another compound derived from the cannabis plant, but this one has psychoactive properties that alter the mind.


Hemp is a non-drug variety of the cannabis plant that has many uses.

Source: Healthline

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Liberals (24 percent) are six times more likely to use cannabis than conservatives (four percent), and twice as likely as moderates (12 percent).

Men (15 percent) use marijuana more than women (nine percent).

Between 13 and 16 percent of adults across the East, Midwest and West smoke marijuana, versus seven percent in the South.

Source: July 2019 Gallup poll

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Twenty years ago, marijuana was illegal in every state. Today, 33 states and the District of Columbia allow for marijuana use in some form. Before you kick off a cannabis promo, know where each state stands.


As of January 2020, adults can legally use marijuana recreationally and medicinally in:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.


Cannabis remains illegal for all uses in:

  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota

Medical marijuana is legal in these states:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

Medical CBD sales only are legal in these states:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Source: Leafly

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Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. – California
iAnthus Capital Holdings, Inc. – New York
Cara Therapeutics, Inc. – Connecticut
GW Pharmaceuticals – Cambridge, United Kingdom
HEXO Corp. – Gatineau, Quebec
OrganiGram Holdings, Inc. – Moncton, New Brunswick
The Green Organic Dutchman – Mississauga, Ontario
Acreage Holdings, Inc. – New York, New York
Canopy Growth Corporation – Smith Falls, Ontario
Aurora Cannabis, Inc. – Vancouver, British Columbia

Source: Yahoo! Finance

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Baby Boomers—those who grew up in the age of flower power—are increasingly using marijuana. In the past four years, use has grown 75 percent among people age 65 and older.

Source: Reuters

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Toni Spizman, owner of distributor 707 Promotions in Santa Rosa, California, focuses about 75 percent of her business on clients in the cannabis market. After working for a supplier for two years, she started her business in 2016—at about the same time the cannabis industry was becoming legal in California. What has surprised her about selling into this market is how few promo products she sells that are specific to cannabis. “I sell a lot of the same things I’d sell to any business: lanyards, sunglasses, bags, fanny packs, t-shirts and hats.” PPB talked with her to glean some other insights on selling into this thriving market.

What should distributors know about this market if they are interested in selling to it?

With the lack of overarching federal regulation, you have to be aware of the state and local regulatory environment. In California, where I am, the state allows a lot of local regulatory overlays. It’s quite a patchwork that seriously affects how the industry is structured and where the bottlenecks are. 

 What kind of businesses within the cannabis market do you sell to?

I used to joke that my clients were in dirt, fertilizer and lights. I’m near the Emerald Triangle, so there is a big growing community. One of my biggest clients distributes garden products. Another big client is a cannabis manufacturer and I have some smaller manufacturers on my client list as well. I also have a laboratory, a couple of delivery services and a couple of hydroponics shops. 

What marketing or promotional needs do these businesses usually have?

The type of business matters a lot. I’m always asking about the target audience. The end users are important, and we might do giveaways for dispensary customer events and other event sponsorships, like music festivals. (I did a lot of sunglasses last summer.) An important channel are the budtenders who are often recommending products. [A budtender is an employee in a dispensary or store where medical or recreational cannabis is sold. Their job is to offer suggestions to customers, answer questions, handle products and showcase products.] T-shirts are important and we go through lanyards fast. My dirt companies are selling to growers—my first recommendation is hats. Nice drinkware is also good, and they work for the laboratories, too. One of my hydro shops designed a t-shirt they love and we have reprinted it so many times that I’ve lost count.

What do you think has made you successful with this market?

I have no idea—I have never figured out how I sell. I just do. My husband says it’s because I care.

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Get in front of cannabis connoisseurs with something useful: rolling papers. These fully customizable booklets are eco-friendly and made from renewable resources. Each includes 40 papers in a choice of hemp, rice, and bleached or unbleached wood pulp. 

Cannabis Promotions  /  PPAI 755476, S1  /  www.cannabispromotions.com

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Not all cannabis is alike. With the hardcover guided Cannabis Strain Tracker Journal, users can learn how to use certain products for specific situations to customize effects. There’s room to record the brand, strain, dispensary, potency, taste, mood and more. 

The Book Company  /  PPAI 218850, S6  /  www.thebookco.com

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Pet owners can help their dogs with discomfort, anxiety and other ailments with CBD isolate dog treats. These beef-flavored and veterinarian-formulated chews are made with the purest, non-psychoactive and non-toxic hemp oil.   

Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912, S10  /  www.incentiveconcepts.com

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The clipper lighter makes a potent giveaway for cannabis brands. This refillable lighter features a detachable flint arm that can be used as a packing tool.  

The Proinnovative Line  /  PPAI 111156, S6  /  www.proinnovative.com

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Dispensaries can add a box of fudgy Belgian chocolate brownies to orders for a personalized touch. Each treat is individually wrapped for freshness. 

Fairytale Brownies  /  PPAI 317978, S4  /  www.fairytalepromos.com

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In a time when people hold good hygiene in especially high regard, CBD Worx hand sanitizer makes a welcome gift. This hand sanitizer combines CBD isolate with 62-percent ethyl alcohol and aloe vera to sterilize and moisturize hands. 

Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912, S10  /  www.incentiveconcepts.com

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CounterPoint’s Origin’L Fabric® Heavy Duty Fabric Counter Mats are a highly visible, cost-effective way to deliver messages on countertops everywhere. The antimicrobial surface provides a soft, cushioned display and demo surface that’s ideal for glass countertops and sensitive products like glass water pipes. Your client’s art is dyed permanently into the 11-inch by 17-inch mat and won’t crack or peel. Made in the USA using American-made materials. 

Visstun  /  PPAI 339893, S6  /  www.visstun.com

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Audrey Sellers is a Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas-area based writer and former associate editor of PPB.

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