Marketing Thru Marijuana: Differentiate or Die

This is the year that hippie cannabis dies. Woodstock is 50, and has just licensed its name to mega-retailer MedMen.  Hemp is newly de-scheduled and igniting the imaginations of farmers and investors excited about the global opportunity.  Pot Culture has become Pop Culture as legalization has spread coast-to-coast and pushed marijuana into the mainstream.

For grassroots marketers who have been playing in our fragmented American marketplace — where no two states share identical regulations or standards — things have gotten tough in the last year as legal competition from Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, Big Consumer Package Goods and Big Agriculture have transformed the playing field.

“As our nascent industry rockets from grassroots to global, it’s Differentiate or Die time for independent companies hoping to stay relevant in an increasingly noisy landscape.” MJBA Founder and veteran marketer David Rheins told MJNews Network.

“You must be able to stand out from the cacophony.  My advice for the licensed cannabis business and ancillary provider alike, is to focus on defining your brand differentiation.  Find a niche, fill a niche.  Your competition moving forward is Big Industry, which has the money, the technology and the wherewithal to take a product from field or factory to shelf better than the little guy ever will.”

His advice: Build your brand authority.  “Big Industry doesn’t understand emerging markets — who the consumer are, their buying preferences and psychographics,” Rheins said.  “As a small business, you are part of the community. You are making a market — defining the industry and your space in it.  No one understands its needs and attitudes of the new market better than the grassroots marketer.  Build your brand around your values, and the values of your customers and your community.   Establish brand loyalty and authority — with your vendors, and your customers, wether you are b2b or b2c — by lending value.”

Differentiate Or Die

Rheins suggests that the New Year is a good time for all marketers to do a brand review.  As an exercise, he encourages his clients to ask their investors, employees, vendors and customers to answer a couple of questions:

1) Describe our brand value  — what do we stand for — in one sentence.

2) What products/services do we offer.

3) What is our unique selling proposition (USP) — what do we do better than other brands?

“You’d be surprised how much intelligence you’ll gain just by analyzing these questions,” Rheins said.  “It only goes to reinforce that today marketing is not simply an exercise of spending money on paid advertising.  Advertising — particularly targeted placements — can be effective, but savvy marketers today depend on an integrated strategy that includes owned media (your company websites and newsletters) and earned media — social media engagement on public platforms with business communities and groups on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit.

In this dynamic environment, Rheins advises businesses to stay engaged and stay fresh.

Take An Annual Brand Checkup

1) Do A Brand Review: How well do your customers understand your Brand Values and USP? How well do you understand your customer segments?

2) Website Audit: How fresh is your content? Are you SEO optimized? Are you using your website to gather customer feedback?

3) Social Media Audit: How visible is your brand on key social media platforms?  How often do you post content?  How quickly do you respond to queries or brand mentions? Who in your company is responsible for social media?

4) Community Check Up: How engaged is your brand in your community — not just your cannabis community but your local community?  Do you sponsor local events? Do you give to local charities? How well liked is your brand on Main Street?

 

 

Tilray Signs Global Collaboration Agreement With Leading Pharmaceutical Company

CANADA: Tilray Canada, a subsidiary of Tilray, a global pioneer in the production, research, and distribution of medical cannabis, announced today that it entered into a global framework agreement to collaborate with C, a global leader in generic pharmaceuticals and biosimilars and a part of Novartis group, to increase availability of high quality medical cannabis products across the world.

sandoz-logo

An evolution of an existing alliance between Tilray and Sandoz Canada, the Framework Agreement represents the intentions of the two companies to jointly operate in jurisdictions where cannabis is or will be approved for medical purposes.

Tilray, a global pioneer of medical cannabis, has products available in twelve countries and operations in Australia & New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Latin America, and Portugal. This agreement builds on Tilray’s pioneering track-record as a company committed to making pharmaceutical-grade medical cannabis products available to patients in-need. Tilray was the first licensed medical cannabis producer in North America to obtain current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) certification in accordance with the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) standards.

“This agreement represents a major milestone in the movement to provide access to safe, GMP-certified medical cannabis to patients in need across the world,” says Brendan Kennedy, Tilray Chief Executive Officer. “Tilray is a global company and we’re thrilled to build upon the success and momentum from our existing agreement with Sandoz Canada by taking our partnership global. Sandoz AG will be a valuable partner as we work together to improve access to the highest quality medical cannabis products in countries all over the world.”

The Framework Agreement outlines the opportunity for the companies to agree to collaborate in different forms:

  • Sandoz AG may support the global commercialization of Tilray’s non-smokable/non-combustible medical cannabis products;
  • Tilray and Sandoz AG may co-brand certain non-smokable/non-combustible products;
  • Tilray may supply non-smokable/ non-combustible medical cannabis products and license rights to and from Sandoz AG in relation to such products; Both companies may also partner to leverage best-in-class knowledge to educate pharmacists and physicians about medical cannabis products;
  • Tilray and Sandoz AG may collaborate to develop new innovative medical cannabis products.

The Industries Most Impacted By The Legalization Of Cannabis

By Trevor McDonald

For an industry that’s still relatively new, we’ve seen some amazing success stories come directly from cannabis sales. In states like Colorado, marijuana is surpassing alcohol in tax revenue, which helps funnel funding to schools and other important programs.

But legalized marijuana also has a broader impact. Its effects can be felt in various industries, but some are impacted more than others.

The following industries have felt the most impact from the legalization of cannabis:

Cryptocurrency
Under federal law, cannabis is still treated like any other controlled substance. As far as the federal government is concerned, cannabis is illegal, regardless of what each individual state has to say about it. This may change with the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, but dispensaries remain cautious. Because of the legal gray area surrounding marijuana, 70 percent of cannabis companies use cryptocurrency instead of traditional banks.

Education
In states where marijuana is legal, we’re seeing a major boost in funding for education. This comes from the increase in tax money collected from cannabis sales.

To drive this point home, let’s look at Colorado as an example. Between 2015 and 2017, the Colorado Department of Education received over $140 million from cannabis revenue alone.

Oregon schools received an extra $40 million in tax revenue in 2016.

Software and Technology
Where cannabis is legal, all states require a seed-to-sale tracking system. Although there are a few companies providing software for the job, two emerge as leaders. METRC is one such company, and they received nearly $900,000 in their first contract with the state of Colorado. MJ Freeway made headlines when it secured a $10.4 million contract with the state of Pennsylvania for their seed-to-sale tracking system.

Alcohol
There are many industries singing the praises of legalized cannabis, but the liquor industry is not one of them. You might have guessed that alcohol sales would take a hit when cannabis became legal, but a few researchers at the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University wanted to see the full picture. As it turns out, alcohol beverage sales fell by 15 percent following the introduction of marijuana sales. With easier access to marijuana, people don’t seem to be drinking as much alcohol.

Big Pharma
The pharmaceutical industry has been fighting marijuana legalization since before it was legal anywhere. This because they stand to lose a lot. As people start taking cannabis and stop taking prescription painkillers for common injuries, big pharma loses. As people choose CBD oil instead of Prozac, big pharma loses. Whenever a prescription medication is replaced with cannabis, it equates to a loss for the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, one report estimates that if the entire nation legalized cannabis, the pharmaceutical industry would lose an estimated $18.5 billion in the span of three years.

Whenever anything of value enters the market, we can expect it to make major waves. Cannabis is no exception. In most industries, its impact is favorable. We’re only seeing a decline in the industries where cannabis replaces something. But based on the long and short-term effects of alcohol and prescription drugs, marijuana’s impact may still be favorable.

The Wink In Weed: Why Seattle Hempfest Is Still Worth Supporting

By David Rheins

It’s been five years since Washington opened its legal cannabis marketplace, and today adult consumers in the Evergreen state have an abundance of high-quality, legal weed available in an impressive array of product configurations at affordable prices.

Seattle Hempfest, taking place this week along the gorgeous Puget Sound, is the nation’s oldest and largest “Protestival.”  It began as forum and platform for activists, patients and pot smokers to gather together to fight for their rights to toke in peace.  Back then, firing up a joint in public had real potential consequences — and could land you with a fine or even jail time.

My fellow Hempfest Volunteers in their Green T-Shirts

Hempfest Volunteers

Today, Washingtonians don’t have to go to the park to spark up. Pot smoking is legal, accepted and somewhat normalized in the Pacific Northwest. Leading some to ask what is the relevance of Seattle Hempfest?

While more of a party these days than a protestival, Seattle Hempfest is still a must-attend annual gathering of the cannabis tribes.  Our Green Revolution is a broad tent, with a diverse set of communities.  We are advocates, patients, farmers, business professionals, parents, teachers and caregivers, all united under the belief that Federal Prohibition, and the War on Drugs — and Drugs Users — must end. There is something powerful and undeniable about seeing a hundred thousand pot smokers gather together to celebrate community.

There is still much legal reform that needs to happen before cannabis consumption is fully normalized — and it is encouraging to see the momentum behind the STATES ACT and the Marijuana Justice Act as Congress has finally gotten the word that the American public — on both sides of the aisle — are through with prohibition.  The 2018 Farm Bill, with its Hemp Farming provision, will de-schedule industrial hemp and open the way for explosive growth in hemp-based products, including consumer goods, industrial materials, foods, fuels and medicines.

We are in a fight for the control of our legal cannabis industry.  Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, Big Agriculture and Big Government Regulators are all fighting to establish their places in our new mainstream marijuana marketplace. We must continue to stay involved now as the new regulations and standards of our emerging industry are crafted. I see Hempfest as a natural venue for showcasing the best and most innovative hemp products. Cannabis consumer rights need to be protected to ensure that the legal products are safe, tested and of the highest quality. Legal cannabis businesses have an opportunity to build an industry based on the highest standards of production, marketing and operations.  We need to be fair and equitable in our hiring and compensation practices, and we need to direct the windfall of new marijuana tax revenues towards improving the health and welfare of local communities, particularly those hit hard from the War On Drugs.

CurvedPapersHempfest512x440As our alternative culture takes centerstage, it is important that we stand together for our shared values.  We are witnessing and influencing the end of an era. The post-WWII, better living thru petrochemicals, conspicuous consumption society is unsustainable — and is quickly being replaced by a global, plant-based lifestyle, renewable energy zeitgeist.

MJBA is proud to once again participate as a media sponsor and exhibitor of Seattle Hempfest.  We’re thrilled to be sharing a booth with Curved Papers, with whom we’ve been touring the country on a Cannafest Destiny Tour.  We’ll be showing off our NORML 100% Hemp rolling papers, and showcasing our latest poster by Michael Guttsen, and doing social media blasts with MJBA Ambassador At Large Jake Dimmock.  Please join us at Booth #323 across from the Hemposium.

Michael O'Malley, David Hynes Michael O'Malley David Rheins

It has never been more important to stand up and be counted.  Please come out to Myrtle Edwards park this weekend, listen to the speakers, dance to the music and support the many food and merchandise vendors.  Be sure to drop a few bucks in the donation bucket:  Seattle Hempfest is an all-volunteer effort, and it depends on the support of its Vendors, Sponsors and Attendees to survive.

 

 

FDA Approves First Cannabis-Based Epilepsy Drug

MARYLAND: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients two years of age and older. This is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana. It is also the first FDA approval of a drug for the treatment of patients with Dravet syndrome.

CBD is a chemical component of the Cannabis sativa plant, more commonly known as marijuana. However, CBD does not cause intoxication or euphoria (the “high”) that comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is THC (and not CBD) that is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana.

“This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies. And, the FDA is committed to this kind of careful scientific research and drug development,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “Controlled clinical trials testing the safety and efficacy of a drug, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process, is the most appropriate way to bring marijuana-derived treatments to patients. Because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery that support appropriate dosing needed for treating patients with these complex and serious epilepsy syndromes. We’ll continue to support rigorous scientific research on the potential medical uses of marijuana-derived products and work with product developers who are interested in bringing patients safe and effective, high quality products. But, at the same time, we are prepared to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with serious, unproven medical claims. Marketing unapproved products, with uncertain dosages and formulations can keep patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.”

Dravet syndrome is a rare genetic condition that appears during the first year of life with frequent fever-related seizures (febrile seizures). Later, other types of seizures typically arise, including myoclonic seizures (involuntary muscle spasms). Additionally, status epilepticus, a potentially life-threatening state of continuous seizure activity requiring emergency medical care, may occur. Children with Dravet syndrome typically experience poor development of language and motor skills, hyperactivity and difficulty relating to others.

Lennox-Gastaut syndrome begins in childhood. It is characterized by multiple types of seizures. People with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome begin having frequent seizures in early childhood, usually between ages 3 and 5. More than three-quarters of affected individuals have tonic seizures, which cause the muscles to contract uncontrollably. Almost all children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome develop learning problems and intellectual disability. Many also have delayed development of motor skills such as sitting and crawling. Most people with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome require help with usual activities of daily living.

“The difficult-to-control seizures that patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome experience have a profound impact on these patients’ quality of life,” said Billy Dunn, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In addition to another important treatment option for Lennox-Gastaut patients, this first-ever approval of a drug specifically for Dravet patients will provide a significant and needed improvement in the therapeutic approach to caring for people with this condition.”

Tilray Forms Strategic Alliance With Leading Pharmaceutical Company In Canada

CANADA: Tilray, a federally licensed producer of medical cannabis, announced today that it has signed a binding letter of intent (LOI) to be the exclusive collaborator of a major pharmaceutical company to accelerate innovation and increase availability of high quality medical cannabis products. Through this LOI and the anticipated definitive agreements, Tilray is allied with Sandoz Canada Inc. (Sandoz Canada), an affiliate of Sandoz International GmbH, a global leader in generic pharmaceuticals and biosimilars and part of the Novartis Group.

This strategic alliance represents another major milestone in the recognition of medical cannabis and cannabinoids as conventional medicine. Tilray is a global pioneer in medical cannabis research, production and distribution, and was the first medical cannabis company to obtain current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) certification in accordance with the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) standards. Tilray currently supplies tens of thousands of patients with high-quality, cGMP-certified products in ten countries spanning five continents.

This agreement builds on Tilray’s pioneering track-record as a company committed to making pharmaceutical-grade medical cannabis products available to patients in need. In addition to the agreement with Sandoz Canada, Tilray has formed strategic partnerships with NOWEDA, one of Germany’s largest pharmaceutical distributors, which distributes Tilray products to more than 20,000 pharmacies across Germany, and Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada’s largest pharmacy chain.

“This agreement is a major milestone on the long road to legitimizing medical cannabis as conventional medicine,” said Brendan Kennedy, Tilray Chief Executive Officer. “Tilray is pleased to be, what we believe is, the first federally licensed producer of medical cannabis to form a strategic alliance with a local affiliate of a global pharmaceutical company to improve the availability and quality of medical cannabis products for Canadian patients in need.”

America’s Drug Companies Are Bankrolling The Crusade Against Legal Weed

As more U.S. states legalize marijuana, special interest groups that have a financial stake in the fight have been pushing back under the guise of fighting drug abuse.

Last week, The Nation published an interesting look at who’s driving the fight against the legalization of marijuana.

Pharmaceutical companies that make billions off painkillers and police unions are two big heavy hitters in the fight against marijuana legalization. They throw their monetary support behind groups that fight legislation that would legalize pot — even medical marijuana — and lobby Congress.

From The Nation:

It’s more than a little odd that [the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America] and the other groups leading the fight against relaxing marijuana laws, including the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America), derive a significant portion of their budget from opioid manufacturers and other pharmaceutical companies. According to critics, this funding has shaped the organization’s policy goals: CADCA takes a softer approach toward prescription-drug abuse, limiting its advocacy to a call for more educational programs, and has failed to join the efforts to change prescription guidelines in order to curb abuse. In contrast, CADCA and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids have adopted a hard-line approach to marijuana, opposing even limited legalization and supporting increased police powers.

Pharmaceutical Companies Don’t Want Marijuana Legalized

I can see why pharmaceutical companies don’t want marijuana legalized. Take a $4 blood pressure pill with a glass of grapefruit juice, and you might get the effects of $1.75 of that medicine. Wow, with a whopping 47% of medicine ineffectiveness, it seems like a giant waste of money for a product that won’t do you any good if you eat certain foods or drink some juices. [Read more…]

Pharmaceutical Companies Don’t Want Marijuana Legalized

I can see why pharmaceutical companies don’t want marijuana legalized. Take a $4 blood pressure pill with a glass of grapefruit juice, and you might get the effects of $1.75 of that medicine. Wow, with a whopping 47% of medicine ineffectiveness, it seems like a giant waste of money for a product that won’t do you any good if you eat certain foods or drink some juices. [Read more…]

NASP Launches Taskforce To Address Management Of Medical Marijuana

VIRGINIA: The National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) has launched a taskforce to investigate the pharmacological management of medical marijuana, a growing issue for Specialty Pharmacists as the number of patients with chronic diseases continue to rise.  [Read more…]