Cannabusiness: Marketing Marijuana

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April 24, 2015
Marketing

Cannabusiness, ganjapreneur, cannaromatherapy, pot sommelier. There’s a good chance you haven’t heard or seen these terms before—unless you’re in the (legal) business of selling marijuana. Buzzwords like these are popping up all over the Internet to describe—and rebrand—the increasingly legitimate business of selling marijuana and THC-infused products.

And when I use the adverb ‘increasingly,’ I mean it. According to a recent Gallup poll, 51% of Americans support legalizing the use of marijuana. Granted, it’s a slim majority, but a majority nonetheless—and it’s growing. In 2003, only 34% of Americans approved of the jolly green plant’s legalization. Now, 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing citizens to use medical marijuana, and 14 of them have sought to decriminalize it to varying degrees.

In Colorado—the most amenable and accepting of states so far—the sale, possession, use, production, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana is legal. If the trend continues as it has, more states will likely follow Colorado’s lead, increasing the availability of legal cannabis—and the revenue it generates.

Cannabis Sales are Up (in Smoke)

The word ‘lucrative’ doesn’t even begin to describe how, well, lucrative forecasted revenues from marijuana sales will be. It’s hard to come up with any per-capita specifics, but, if the numbers coming out of Colorado are any indication, the market’s increasing tremendously.

According to a few recent write ups on the intersection of marijuana and marketing, legal cannabis sales in Colorado amounted to $700 million in 2014. This makes the state happy. Very happy. Why? Between January and July of that same year, recreational users alone accounted for 80% of the $25 million in taxes generated by marijuana sales. Astonishingly, Colorado lawmakers expect that number to increase to $134 million in the next fiscal year—a prediction testifying to the ever-increasing market for all things marijuana.

The Many Faces of Marijuana

As the legality of marijuana has changed, so too has the manner in which it’s sold. When it was largely criminalized, purveyors of marijuana used to sell it in small baggies on street corners, or in dark alleys, shielded by shadows from the long arm of the law. Now, legal marijuana dispensaries and small businesses sell the plant—specifically its psychoactive ingredient, THC—in a variety of forms. The proliferation of real cannabis-based products like ice tea, mints, chocolate bars, and even bath soaks demonstrates how marketable marijuana really is.

What’s the Cannamarket Look Like?

So, how do ‘ganjapreneurs’ break down the demographics of potential customers? The answer isn’t as simple as you’d think. With increasing legal legitimacy—at least at the state level—and more social acceptance, cannabusiness is finding space to grow. And its consumer base? They’re diversifying, too.

Gone are the days when the average purchaser of marijuana was an over-the-hill Dead Head, or a pimply teen wearing a Phish shirt. Now, the line between hip users and squares is blurring. Getting a hold on consumer demographics is a bit more complex than you’d think, and the obvious distinction between medical and recreational users is a bit too simplistic. Recent market research in Colorado—my favorite state to mine for examples—actually shows 4 demographic segments: recreational, medicinal, independent growers, and illegal buyers. If the upwardly trending social and legal acceptance of marijuana is any indication, these segments are set to diversify even further.

New Business Solutions

The expanding consumer base of marijuana also necessitates new ways of doing business. As cannabis slowly comes out from the shade of illegal markets, ganjapreneurs need to legitimize their companies to reel in potential customers. Like any business, they’re branding themselves, creating marketable identities with well-designed logos and websites. They’re also making use of new technologies like the cloud, and outsourcing their bookkeeping to stay financially agile.

The increasing legality of marijuana has also changed the way business owners use marketing; it’s no longer a tool to persuade consumers to buy a product or service. Marketing is now an educational medium ganjapreneurs can use to teach potential customers about the health benefits, uses, and ever-changing legal status of cannabis. Armed with more information, consumers can make educated decisions about the legalization of marijuana, and how cannabis-based products fit into their lives.

Will we ever see an Apple or Amazon of cannabis? Only time will tell. One thing, however, is certain: high times for marijuana are just around the corner.

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