When Colorado and Washington legalized the consumption of cannabis, the country was instantly divided. Opponents of marijuana decriminalization spotlight the seedy underground drug trade, while supporters point to statistics showing the medical benefits. As the budding industry grows, investors and entrepreneurs are swarming, searching for ways to make a profit, but the legal gray areas make weed a very risky business. Everyone’s looking for their own piece of the pot, and competition is stiff.
Cannabis is associated with creativity, so whatever your skillset, you can find a place in the industry. I recently met with Nick Adler, Vice President of Business Development at Cashmere Agency, the team behind Snoop Dogg’s marketing campaign, for a blunt discussion on Mary Jane’s move to Main Street, and how an average person can support the wellness of their fellow Americans without running on the wrong side of the law.
While contemporary Tommy Chong has hit a few bumpy roads while charging ahead in the infant cannabis industry, Snoop has taken a more mellow and relaxed path. Although he’s known to heat up any joint (this year, his Wellness Retreat with Wiz Kalifa will be held at the WaMu Theater in Washington on 4/20 Eve, and Red Rocks Theater in Colorado on 4/20), the only product Snoop moves these days is content.
“One of the most popular items on our Snoopify app is the ‘Golden Jay,'” Adler explains. The Golden Jay is a digital sticker of a golden joint with rainbow smoke that fans can download off the Snoopify app on their phones to add to Instagram photos as a social media status symbol. The Golden Jay has been well received by fans looking to add some Doggystyle to their digital lives.
Up in Smoke
If you’re not an app developer, don’t fret – alongside the marijuana industry is the somehow-even-more-stigmatizing eCigarette industry. Cashmere and Snoop have wisely avoided the controversial liquid-based eCigs for a dry, herbal-vaporizing G-Pen. The difference isn’t immediately recognizable to the untrained eye, but it’s a world of difference to law enforcement.
Vegetable glycerin is used in a variety of fast foods, and it’s the base for cough syrup. Adventurous people have already begun experimenting with dissolving any drugs you can think of in vegetable glycerin to vape in liquid-based eCigs. The G-Pen Snoop and Cashmere promote, by comparison, is an electronic hookah, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a major city without a hookah bar. Knowing these minor differences can be the difference between success and jail.
The Wolf of Washington
Although banks have been given the green flag to invest money in the marijuana market, individuals should invest with caution. Many cannabis-based businesses claim to be publicly traded, but that’s impossible until the drug is rescheduled by the Federal government. Until that happens, these snake-oil salesmen are pushing penny stocks on you. If you don’t recognize the term, penny stocks are the highly volatile, high-risk investments Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort pawns off on innocent consumers in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Instead of investing directly in these businesses, again look to the tech world and content providers. Leafly (a marijuana strain guide) and Weed Maps (a dispensary locator/review site) are two tech start-ups that are stirring the pot in Silicon Valley. Established media outlets like Cannabis Cup creator High Times magazine have a leg up on the competition, but legalization in CO and WA spawned a boom in marijuana media and marketing, as lawmakers rush to prohibit unethical marketing practices.
No matter how you feel about marijuana, decriminalization appears inevitable. Rather than fighting it, maybe it’s time we accept that America is a melting pot, smoking pot. With soccer mom brands from Hot Pockets to Overstock embracing Snoop Dogg, it’s safe to say, marijuana has reached full-on mainstream acceptance.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, freelance consultant, and troll. He’s a frequent contributor to The Street, Huffington Post, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company.