How Cannabis Brands Can Harness the Power of Digital Marketing

in LOCAL/Marijuana/Marketing

Sponsored by Veritad Cannabis Friendly Programmic Advertising

More states are moving towards legalization, opening new markets for cannabis brands. However, because of the rigid regulations and restrictions that exist around advertising, many cannabis and CBD companies are throwing all of their ad dollars at billboards and local print, overlooking more powerful channels for exposure and engagement.

Leveraging OOH advertising.

Digital billboards and other screen-based advertisements, known collectively as digital out-of-home (OOH) marketing, are highly visible placements for cannabis brands in addition to the static billboards they’re already buying.

OOH advertising is set to more than double its total market value, reaching $26 billion by 2023, and is open to the cannabis industry. Out-of-home advertising is no longer restricted to billboards. Screens of all shapes and sizes, from mobile to desktop to TV and video billboards, can now be segmented and sequenced for target audiences in real time, at the right moment. These can be integrated to carry out a campaign in numerous places at the same time.

There’s infinitely more creative possibility with OOH compared to a static billboard — from building campaigns that change content, to working in tandem with other technologies, to receiving detailed playback reporting. Digital displays are typically in highly trafficked areas where, unlike at home or with online ads, there’s no way for people to skip through them.

At a time when competition is fierce and marketing options are still rigid, every cannabis brand should be using OOH advertising to make use of its creativity, context and relevance.

on’t overlook the mobile phone.

The mobile phone is one the most powerful portals to reach the consumer directly, particularly at a time of intensive regulatory pressure.

Nearly everyone owns a mobile phone today, and 90 percent of people read their text messages within five minutes of receiving them. Dispensaries can easily use web forms and various calls-to-action on their homepages and in and around their dispensaries to collect customer information for future mobile campaigns.

SMS services that allow you to push content to your target customers directly (provided they’ve opted in, of course) are very effective for getting the word out on discounts and coupons, as well as for sharing updates and news related to  your dispensary. This direct engagement cultivates personal connection, builds trust and, most importantly, keeps people engaged with your brand.

Podcasts are growing, fast.

Whether pitching your brand to an existing podcast or creating your own, podcasts are very effective for engagement and as platforms for education and community building.

According to a study conducted by Statista, radio advertising in the US is expected to remain relatively flat through 2021 while spending on podcast ads is expected to double.As more of the cannacurious among us begin to embrace the myriad benefits of consumption, the industry is slowly merging with health and wellness — an industry rich with podcast opportunities and partnerships.

Your brand is legit, act accordingly.

Cannabis brands no longer have to operate in grey areas in most instances, and your marketing strategy should reflect that fact. Tactics employed by successful direct-to-consumer brands translate well to our industry and its consumers. While the guerilla methods that some companies used in their early days brought in a few consumers, the reality is that it doesn’t align with the aesthetic of most brands. Even though prohibition remains the practice of the largest players in digital advertising and marketing, there are ways to work around them legitimately and connect directly with your target consumer.

Arizona Ice Tea Entering Marijuana Marketing

in Marijuana/Marketing

In news that’s being greeted as inevitable, Arizona Iced Tea has announced it’s getting into the edibles business. It’s doing so through a licensing deal, the Wall Street Journal reports, with Denver’s Dixie Brands, Inc., producers and sellers of weed vapes, candies, drinks, tinctures, and topical creams. It’s a match made in heaven: Who among us has not smoked a joint in basement with two friends while eating two pepperoni pizzas and drinking three to four Zonas?

The deal is still pending the approval of Dixie’s board, but it will give Arizona an opportunity to purchase a stake of $10 million in the edibles manufacturer. The cannabis industry has boomed since states like California began decriminalizing the drug, and while major corporations like Cokehave made moves to profit off the new laws, ordinary people, and particularly people of color, continue to suffer the consequences of criminal records for selling or smoking weed.

Dixie will produce and sell the products at licensed dispensaries — it distributes in five states — and will probably start with vapes and gummies. It will then explore beverage possibilities, including teas, lemonade, soda, coffee, and seltzer. The possibilities are endless: Cannabis Palmer? Southern Style Reefer Tea? Herbal Tea With Schwag? Arizona’s reasoning is sound. “You’ve got to be willing to try things,” chairman and CEO Don Vultaggio tells the Journal, echoing 14-year-old stoners named Brad everywhere who are just trying to get Mike to take a hit from the Gatorade bong.

Marijuana Extract Industry Growing Fast Says New Studies

in Marijuana

As the cannabis industry continues to mature, consumers are beginning to demand fresh, new products. Traditionally, most consumers smoked cannabis via joints or other paraphernalia. Now, while it still is the most popular method, the number of users simply smoking cannabis is quickly diminishing.

Each year, reports have shown that more users are beginning to use cannabis alternative products such as edibles, concentrates, and extracts. The concentrates and extracts markets are gaining traction particularly quickly.

For instance, when Colorado began its legal adult-use cannabis sales, flower dominated the marketplace. By the end of the first year, flower accounted for 67% of Colorado’s overall cannabis sales, according to BDS Analytics. However, four years later, flower sales plummeted and have accounted for just 44% of total sales. During the same time span, the concentrates market closed the gap as its market share increased from 15% to 31%. Similarly, California witnessed its flower sales falter during the first four months of adult-use sales. California’s flower sales fell from 43% in the beginning to 40%, while concentrates narrowly rose from 30% to 31%. Just like every other global industry, consumer trends change each year and people begin to demand for innovative products.

Consumers within the cannabis market are now demanding more potent and cleaner alternatives to smoking the plant. Furthermore, according to data compiled by Ameri Research, the global legal marijuana market was valued at USD 14.3 Billion in 2016. By 2024, legal marijuana global sales are projected to reach USD 63.5 Billion while exhibiting a CAGR of 21.1% from 2017 to 2024. AREV Brands International Ltd. (OTC: AREVF) (CSE: AREV), Auxly Cannabis Group Inc. (OTC: CBWTF) (TSX-V: XLY), Liberty Health Sciences Inc (OTC: LHSIF) (CSE: LHS), Nightfood Holdings, Inc. (OTC: NGTF), United Cannabis Corporation (OTC: CNAB)

Cannabis concentrates and extracts are basically umbrella terms that harbor products such as vape oils, hash, tinctures, dabs, and CBD oils. They are generally derived from the cannabis flower and then processed into a concentrated form that delivers a potent effect. While a gram of flower is significantly cheaper than extracts, they heavily differ in THC levels. Cannabis buds tend to range anywhere from 10% to 25% THC, while extracts and concentrates fall in the range between 50% to 90%. While the initial purchase can be quite hefty, the major trade off is that consumers receive more THC while using less of the product. Depending on the user, a half gram of oil can last a seldom user for over a couple of weeks. On the other hand, a frequent consumer can finish a half gram in a matter of a day or two, according to Bailey Rahn, Senior Content Manager at Leafly. Additionally, consumers now have a variety of products to select from when choosing an extract. Predominantly, the most popular extracts are budder, butane hash oil, CO2 oil, crumble, rosin, shatter, and wax. Generally, the only difference between these products is the texture and appearance, however, certain products can either be vaped, smoked, or dabbed. “We have markedly more data on flowers…concentrates are still new. Concentrates can get a lot more THC into the bloodstream a lot faster. If you’re supremely nauseated or in a lot of pain or about to panic, this can be a huge advantage. The flavors and aromas are detectably different but subject to personal taste,” said Mitch Earleywine, Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany and a member of the Board of Directors at NORML. 

AREV Brands International Ltd. (OTC: AREVF) (CSE: AREV) is currently listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the ticker (CSE: AREV). Earlier in May, the Company announced that, “it has contributed DNA samples from select BC Bud Depot genovarsTM to the inaugural batch run on the world’s first BeadArray genotype chip to be designed specifically for the cannabis genome. The Illumina Infinium HTS microarray, designed and wholly owned by Lighthouse Genomics Inc., allows up to 96 samples to be economically tested in a single batch run. Through its holding BC Bud Depot, AREV has entered into a Letter of Intent to undertake genetic quality screening of all BC Bud Depot strains and genovarsTM. This advancement in genomics technology provides BC Bud Depot access to what is now the world’s most efficient and cost-effective method of gathering quality, targeted data from the cannabis genome.

Under the terms of the LOI, BC Bud Depot will receive preferential pricing on Lighthouse sequencing, genotyping and consulting services for a period of one year, subject to renewal upon mutual agreement of both parties. During this period, BC Bud Depot will test and provide consultation on new services or technologies offered by Lighthouse Genomics. Initial services are to focus on mapping genetic diversity of the BC Bud Depot catalogue, creating genetic profiles of unique individuals and co-developing data-handling protocols for BC Bud Depot’s genetic screening and cannabis breeding program.

“The Lighthouse cannabis array provides us an efficient tool for screening a vast number of plants for their genetic value,” stated Matthew Harvey, Founder and Lead Breeder at BC Bud Depot. “We have been anticipating the completed manufacture of this custom cannabis array, as it is specific to our needs of producing genetic intelligence for our breeding programs. It draws our focus to those unique plant genomes holding especially high potential for enhancing the genetic quality and diversity of our cannabis gene pool.”

The Lighthouse array provides 40,000 data points per sample relating to high-interest single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and can be used to determine which samples warrant deeper analysis through the whole genome sequencing program that BC Bud Depot has already initiated, as previously reported. Whole genome sequencing provides accurate data covering approximately 800 Million base pairs of DNA, the entire cannabis genome. With this data, AREV can overlay mass spectrometry data from crops to investigate linkages between plant metabolite profiles and genes associated with the production of specific cannabinoids and terpenes. From there, BC Bud Depot can stabilize a gene by a non-GMO method referred to as haploid breeding.

According to Dr. Gina Conte, Chief Scientific Officer of Lighthouse Genomics, the 40,000 SNPs targeted by the array were selected to include SNPS “annotated to be involved in cannabinoid, terpene or secondary metabolite biosynthesis, as well as genes involved in flower production.” In addition, she notes, the array targets genes “well-distributed across the genome” with a high degree of “PC loading,” or SNP variability, to enable “reliably distinguishing a practically infinite number of varieties.”

Mike Withrow, CEO of AREV Brands, stated “This new technology empowers AREV and BC Bud Depot to investigate the state of cannabinoid and terpene synthase genes, including the likelihood that plants will breed true for genes that regulate the production of compounds used in extractions and oils. Using the most advanced cannabis genotype array known to exist worldwide helps AREV and BC Bud Depot to continue our mandate of leading as pioneers in the development of novel genomes tailored to precise medical needs and consumer experiences.”

Timothy Harvey, CEO of Lighthouse Genomics, stated “This inaugural batch run is an historic moment for Lighthouse. We are extremely pleased that BC Bud Depot has chosen to join us in this venture. The collaboration enables us to customize our bioinformatics software to render genomic data to suit their specific industry needs. That BC Bud Depot is able to use these tools for a competitive advantage is a testament to the diligence and prowess of their breeding programs.”

Five Cool Facts About Marijuana Legalization

in Legal/Marijuana

A majority of Americans support marijuana legalization. About six-in-ten Americans (62%) say the use of marijuana should be legalized, according to a fall 2018 survey. Public opinion on marijuana legalization was essentially the opposite nearly two decades ago: In 2000, a similar majority (63%) said the use of marijuana should be illegal.

Views of marijuana legalization differ by generation and political party, though support has increased across demographic groups over time.Majorities of Millennials (74%), Gen Xers (63%) and Baby Boomers (54%) say the use of marijuana should be legal, up sharply from earlier years. And while a smaller share of the Silent Generation (39%) currently favors legalization, support among these Americans has also increased.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to support the legalization of marijuana (69% vs. 45%). Around two-thirds of independents (68%) also favor legalization. Support has increased among all three groups over the last decade.

Supporters and opponents of marijuana legalization cite different reasons for their views. Americans who favor legalization are most likely to point to the drug’s perceived medical benefits or to say it would free up law enforcement to focus on other types of crime; 86% and 70%, respectively, say these are very important reasons for their support, according to a Gallup survey conducted in spring 2019.

Among Americans who oppose marijuana legalization, 79% say a very important reason is that it would increase the number of car accidents involving drivers who use marijuana. Around seven-in-ten (69%) say a very important reason is that legalization would lead to more people using stronger and more addictive drugs.

Nearly half (48%) of American adults say they have ever used marijuana, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That is lower than the share who say they have ever consumed alcohol (86%) or ever used tobacco products (68%).

While many Americans say they have ever used cannabis, far fewer are current users, according to the same 2017 survey: 15% of U.S. adults say they have used marijuana over the past year, while 10% say they have used the drug over the past month.

Where recreational marijuana is legal in the U.S.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use,according to the National Conference of State LegislaturesCombined, these jurisdictions are home to 29% of adults in the country. (The Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth, also legalized recreational marijuana in 2018.)

Nearly three dozen states (34), as well as D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, have approved some form of a medical marijuana program. Numerous states have also enacted laws reducing criminal penalties for certain marijuana-related convictions or allowing past convictions to be expunged.

Dispensary Threatens to Sue Maine over Residency Requirements

in LOCAL/Maine/Marijuana

Maine’s biggest marijuana company, Wellness Connection, is threatening to sue Maine if it doesn’t change proposed residency requirements that would shut it out of the state’s emerging recreational marijuana market.

“We’re very concerned that the residency requirement in current form would provide a serious obstacle to Wellness’ entry into the adult-use market,” attorney Dan Walker said during testimony to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Monday.

The hearing was likely to be the last on the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy’s proposed adult-use cannabis regulations. The committee will review the department’s revised rules as early as Tuesday in hopes of sending them to the full Legislature for a vote before it is scheduled to recess for the summer on June 19.

Wellness said it doesn’t want to sue, but would have no choice if the rules shut it out of a market that it has been planning to enter for years, Walker said. The proposed recreational marijuana regulations should not prevent good corporate citizens such as Wellness from participating in the new market, he said.

NYS Marijuana Arrests As High as 44% of all Arrests in some Counties.

in LOCAL/Marijuana/New York

As New York State’s lawmakers contemplate making recreational marijuana legal, new Federal Bureau of Investigations data shows nearly 5% of all arrests in New York are for possession of marijuana.

Will NYS Legalize Soon?

As is the case across the country, there’s wide disparity among New York’s counties when it comes to marijuana possession arrests, reflecting differing levels of enforcement. Medical use has been legal in the state since 2014.

Here are the top five counties for marijuana possession arrests in New York:

Hamilton County

This 1,808 square-mile county in north-central New York tops the state’s marijuana arrest list. Nearly half — 44% — of all arrests in the county in 2016 were for possession of the drug. Hamilton’s numbers are the second-highest in the nation, coming behind only Dooley County, Georgia, where 55% of all arrests were for marijuana possession.

Columbia County 

In this 63,000-resident county in the Hudson Valley, marijuana possession arrests accounted for about 23% of all arrests in 2016. Of 1,729 total arrests that year, 378 were for possessing cannabis.

Washington County

In this rural Capital District county bordering Vermont — where recreational marijuana became legal last summer — nearly 18% of arrests in 2016 were for possession. 

Livingston County

In this Finger Lakes county, which comprises 640 square miles of land and includes the campus of the State University College at Geneseo, about 15% of arrests were for cannabis possession. Livingston County Sheriff Thomas Dougherty has been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, citing significant concerns with public safety.ADVERTISING

“We are in opposition of marijuana,” Dougherty said on behalf of the state Sheriffs and Police Chief’s associations during a press event in February. “We understand that drugs exist and when controlled by a doctor or in a controlled environment, they are useful, but making a recreational drug legal is dangerous for highway safety — and that is the message today.”

Scoharie County

This peripheral Capital District county has a population of about 32,750 people. In 2016, about 15% of 775 arrests made there were for marijuana possession. 

Jumaane Williams, New York City Public Advocate

In NYC, Jumaane Williams the New York City Public Advocate has been pushing for legalization in the city and state, saying that the State “should rapidly move towards the full legalization of marijuana that has been massively successful in other states, expunge the State criminal records of past users, and create a pathway for all New Yorkers to benefit economically from this industry, not just a select few chosen by the Governor.”

Under his guidance, NYC has passed a bill banning most companies from testing job applicants for marijuana.

“Testing isn’t a deterrent to using marijuana, it’s an impediment to opportunity that dates back to the Reagan era — a war on drugs measure that’s now a war on workers,” Williams said in a press release. “Prospective employers don’t test for alcohol so marijuana should be no different.”

Marijuana Use Not Linked to Traffic Deaths

in Legal/Marijuana

Legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes isn’t associated with an uptick in traffic fatalities, according to a new study released this month.

Kansas State University graduate student Andrew Young looked at data on average traffic fatalities over 23 years and used two models to assess the impact of cannabis reform on road safety.

“[L]egalizing marijuana is not found to be a statistically significant predictor of fatality rates,” he concluded. “This finding means that the legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes is not associated with either a reduction or increase in fatalities per 100,000 vehicle miles traveled.”

After conducting a regression analysis that turned up no evidence that state legalization efforts result in an increase or decrease in traffic fatalities, Young used a difference-in-difference model to compare the traffic fatality rates in legal cannabis states and control states. The more tailored analysis covered an eight-year timeline, starting five years before the state in question legalized marijuana.

No concrete trends emerged from that analysis.

In Arizona, where medical cannabis is legal, average traffic fatalities mirrored those of Wyoming and South Dakota, where marijuana is prohibited.

“The results of the analysis suggest that there is no statistically [significant] relationship between marijuana legalization and fatal crashes,” Young wrote. “These findings suggest that concerns of policy makers and the public that legalizing marijuana will worsen road safety are not entirely founded.”

“According to the difference-in-differences model, the recent upward trend of traffic fatality rates nationwide is not a result of medical marijuana legalization. In fact, the legalization of marijuana is not found to be a predictor of traffic fatalities,” he wrote.

The main limitation of the study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, concerns states where cannabis has been legalized for adult use. The small sample size, at least compared to medical marijuana states, means the analysis might not have been able to “fully estimate the impact of recreational cannabis on traffic safety.”

That said, the findings reflect those of several past studies that have also failed to identify a statistically significant relationship between legalization and road safety.

Nevada may be forced to reveal marijuana-license criteria

in Marijuana/Nevada

Nevada faces complaints about secrecy in awarding licenses to sell marijuana in the state’s booming legal marketplace, boiling over into lawsuits and legislation that appear poised to pry open the process.

Several companies have sued the state tax department, arguing that no one knows for sure the criteria officials use to award new licenses. They complain the state releases no information about who seeks and receives permission to sell cannabis to adults, many of them tourists, in the nearly 2-year-old market.

They will ask a judge Monday to freeze the granting of marijuana dispensary licenses, at least temporarily, until the courts decide whether it’s “arbitrary and capricious and violates the constitution,” one lawsuit says.

The hearing will focus on a second wave of dispensaries approved in December to open into an evolving regulatory environment where local lawmakers are considering allowing pot lounges on or near the Las Vegas Strip.

The companies say Nevada unconstitutionally picked winners and losers from 462 applicants for 61 new dispensary, cultivation, laboratory and production licenses.

“Licenses that admit a select few to such a lucrative enterprise must be made in a way that is open and transparent,” said attorney Vincent Savarese, who wrote the constitutional challenge on behalf of Serenity Wellness Center and 10 other companies that were turned away.

“The point is to remove the marijuana trade from criminal enterprises, cartels and mobsters and street dealers, and to ensure that they don’t have participation in the legal marijuana industry,” he said.

The court arguments come days after the state Senate unanimously passed a measure to let officials release taxpayer information now labeled confidential. The proposal heads next to the Assembly.

Plans are underway to release the names of all applicants and licensees once the measure becomes law, said Ky Plaskon, spokesman for the state Department of Taxation, which regulates the licensing process.

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday acknowledged “the frustrations of many marijuana license applicants with the current licensing process” and endorsed the legislation that he said “would shed light on the methodology used … in granting licenses.”

Sisolak, a Democrat, was elected last November while calling for a state marijuana regulatory program similar to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which regulates casino licensing. He has an advisory panel studying the formation of a Cannabis Compliance Board.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, and figures show that sales are booming.

In the first year after broad marijuana sales began in July 2017, 61 dispensaries statewide reported nearly $425 million in recreational pot sales. Medical marijuana sales totaled an additional $105 million.

Nevada reaped $42.5 million in taxes on adult sales, with about $27.5 million going to an account for schools.

In the last six months of 2018, all dispensaries reported $884 million in sales and the state took in almost $72 million in taxes on recreational sales, Plaskon said. There are now 65 marijuana stores statewide.

Monday’s court hearing in Clark County District Court is expected to draw attorneys involved in six lawsuits filed against the state Taxation Department on behalf of dozens of companies.

“I’m not saying anybody corruptly got a license,” Savarese said. “But I’m saying that if they had, the process is opaque enough to provide cover for it.”

His 11 clients already won some dispensary licenses in 2017, after Nevada voters in 2016 approved broad access to cannabis, and are seeking more.

Execs Quit MedMen

in Marijuana/Nevada

According to a report from CNBCMedMen (MMNFF) Chief Operating Officer Ben Cook and General Counsel and board member Lisa Sergi Trager have resigned from the company amidst what’s being reported as a “broader employee shakeup.” Unidentified sources tell CNBC that Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Daniel Yi also resigned.

Ben Cook barely lasted a year.

Although MedMen released a statement saying the moves were part of a general executive management update, while announcing Ryan Lissack as their Chief Technology Officer, CNBC writes that the moves come “amid [the] ex-CFO’s claims of financial duress.”

The article, however, makes a tenuous connection between the recent slate of employee exits and the latest troubles over at MedMen. The company’s former chief financial officer, James Parker, recently filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful dismissal.

Parker alleged a culture of racism and misogyny at MedMen, writing in his complaint that the company and its employees created an environment “replete with racial, homophobic and misogynistic epithets and slurs, drug, and alcohol abuse, personal humiliation occasioned by the words and deeds of the CEO and President of the company [and] profligate spending by both the CEO and President.”

MedMen has since denied those allegations. In a statement released by MedMen on Friday, the company praised the exiting employees.

“We appreciate the contributions of all current and former MedMen team members as we work to build the world’s leading cannabis company, and I have the utmost confidence in the management team. Their expertise, skill set, and experience sets the standard of excellence for the industry,” said Adam Bierman, MedMen CEO.

VIDEO: Why Marijuana Businesses Can’t Use Banks

in Legal/Marijuana

Growing and selling marijuana are, like using it, legal under Colorado law. But banks tend to take their cues from the federal government. Not only does selling marijuana violate federal law; handling the proceeds of any marijuana transaction is considered to be money laundering. Very few banks are willing to bear that risk. By the time Behzadzadeh took his Mexican beach vacation, he had already opened checking accounts for his businesses at Wells Fargo and Chase — and then saw them closed when the banks discovered what they were for

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