The Colorado cannabis industry is impressive for several reasons: the first state to fully legalize cannabis with Amendment 64, the scrappiness and ingenuity with which companies have built brand equity, and the push to professionalize the industry to ensure its future. As the legalization dominoes fall, Colorado’s cannabis leaders have generated some of the most nuanced discussions focusing on the future of the industry, but there are still large swaths of an audience that are either missing the point or being omitted from the conversation in general.
The cannabis industry has an ‘echo chamber’ problem. For every step forward companies take –maturing seed-to-sale logistics, streamlining the retail process, improving user experience – many reporters and media seemed determined to marginalize the conversation. They write or speak to an antiquated image of the core audience, disregarding the incredible strides made by legitimate companies operating without the benefit of a federal cushion.
Fortunately, some are starting to get it. They are beginning to understand that the demographic of a fully realized cannabis industry is no different (and may, in fact, be more diverse) than the demographic of any other consumer-based industry. It is vibrant and verticalized. From health and wellness, to food and beverage, to technology and innovation, consumers and creators of cannabis and CBD products span millions, at least.
Market projections aside – and they are bullish – the challenge of media is to understand the way the cannabis industry is growing from a humanistic perspective and report on it responsibly. These narratives are foundational to any industry, and just as important to cannabis. Cutting through decades of Reefer Madness mush means moving beyond stereotypes and taking a close look at the professionals driving a booming industry teeming with creative problem solvers.
The mythos of a tech startup is, at its core, a bootstrapped mélange of personalities, vision and luck. “Disruptive,” as a product aspiration, maybe be tiresome, but as a verb, it remains critical. For tech startups, media has been an ally, profiling winners and losers alike, elevating methodical madness and betting big on personal philosophies. We’ve seen no corner too dark to peer into with curiosity. The result is a population more technologically literate than ever before, eager to consume news about products, brands and trends.
Imagine if serious reporters generated the same enthusiasm and interest in an industry poised to move faster than any industry we’ve ever seen before? The onus falls first on cannabis companies. Growing and thinking like more than just a cannabis product, promoting healthy business practices, and engaging with audiences that may not be familiar with products or services will help. Pushing to elevate the narrative above the echo chamber will change the game, and the narrative will follow suit.