Here's the truth: I do PR for cannabis industry clients and had never been inside a dispensary.
For more than 15 years I've led communications and marketing and brand strategy at diverse startups, agencies, non-profits and established companies. Since relaunching TNTpr in 2015, my primary focus has been on cannabis and medical marijuana industry businesses.
I've gone to see cutting-edge cannabis companies pitch at CanopyBoulder demo days. I went to Gateway Incubator for the accelerator's 2nd Annual Speakeasy Party and one year anniversary; and introduced entrepreneurs from Spain looking to partner with U.S. cannabis companies interested in exploring European operations. I scored placement of Miner & Co. Studio's market research of upscale cannabis consumers in Forbes articles by industry experts Debra Borchardt and Julie Weed as well as coverage by Leafly and other industry publications.
But I'd never stepped foot in a medical marijuana dispensary.
I admit, I was leery of stigmatization even though medical marijuana (MMJ) has been legal in California since voters approved Proposition 215, The California Compassionate Use Act, in 1996. But if I was going to live up to the "Pot PR Guy" nickname colleagues and friends are calling me, I had to get in the game.
The timing was good as I'd been exercising a lot and was having shoulder pain and related sleep trouble. I did research about how to legally obtain a medical marijuana card in California and ultimately chose NuggMD. (Parent company Nugg was founded by fellow USC alumni. Fight On!) I created an online account and answered a few questions before speaking with a licensed cannabis doctor who asked genuine questions about my conditions before certifying my qualifications.
Now with my MMJ card in hand, I am able to visit medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California. And whether or not I actually purchase any cannabis products, having access to dedicated, knowledgeable staff on the front line will enable me to be more proactive in helping cannabis industry leaders, companies and brands tell powerful stories. I will write about these adventures in future blog posts.
In closing, if you're questioning the legitimacy and impact of the cannabis industry, take a look at The State of Legal Marijuana Markets – 5th Edition forecast from The Arcview Group. It is a detailed report of how the legal cannabis industry has accelerated at a remarkable pace, with North American consumers spending $6.7 billion on legal cannabis products in 2016, up 34% from 2015.