When it comes to cannabis, there is a fair amount of bad press out there. As a highly-stigmatized industry, it seems that everyone and their mother has an opinion on the legalities of marijuana and how people should be allowed to consume, or if they should be able to consume at all. Supporters of marijuana are hyper-aware of the wonderful qualities of this plant, both medicinal and recreational. But if you’re on the other side of the fence, how would you be able to feel the sense of community that exists? How do those who have never consumed cannabis become supporters of your brand? Can we help turn naysayers into moderate supporters by our own actions?
I was reading an article this morning (check it out here) about the aftermath of the Denver 4/20 celebration in 2017. Organizers have received a 3-year ban due to noise complaints, untimely trash removal, limited security, street closures, and unlicensed food vendors. Although the attorney for the rally is working on appealing the ban, this event’s aftermath results in more bad press for our industry. There are always rowdy fans at events, whether it’s concerts or sporting events or political rallies. So why does the cannabis industry seem like an easier target than most?
In looking over the history of cannabis and how people have used this plant for thousands of years, it seems the first time it became illegal was after it was introduced in the United States, around 100 years ago. The Marihuana Tax Act was a federal law that banned marijuana use and sales in 1937. Since then, government agencies have worked hard to limit and criminalize the consumption and distribution of marijuana. This doesn’t make for good PR, even with the recent leaps and bounds in the opposite direction. With as much history as we have in treating marijuana as a criminal drug, people hold views that are not easily swayed. We have been told for years that marijuana is a gateway drug, that it will land you in jail, that only people with no drive or ambition partake. We in the industry know that of course this is nonsense. But then events like the Denver 4/20 rally come along, and bad press prevails. There are the tiniest positive blurbs online about how some of the rally’s’ proceeds went to feed the homeless, or how the park was cleaned after the event to be even cleaner than before, or how the rally is an exercise in free and peaceful speech. In order to change the norm and destigmatize cannabis, we need these types of events to continue, while finding creative ways to combat the bad press that always seems to follow.
As a dispensary owner, you may think that you don’t have the time or the resources to make a difference in the eyes of others. You may have enough customers and enough support to not really care about if one rally goes awry. But the fact is that all of us collectively represent the cannabis community. And it is easier than you’d think to make a positive impact for both your brand, and for the movement. Here are just a few ways…
Get involved in your community! Summertime is a prime opportunity to get outside and do some good. Search the interwebs for volunteer events in your area, and recruit your team to participate. Take pictures, share your experience on social media and your website, and treat it as not only a way to give back to the community you serve, but also a valuable team-building event. The point is not to flaunt that you volunteer within the community; it’s to make your brand known and seen to those who live in your community. Choose a different activity every quarter, and put some great press out there for your dispensary.
Donate! We are all passionate about something that has nothing to do with money or sales or success. What touches your heart? What is your team passionate about? Choose a charity to support and pledge to donate a portion of your sales to that cause. Ask your customers to help you reach your monetary goal, and post on social media often to keep people engaged and excited about the cause. Supporting a charity outside of your business is a great way to foster goodwill and create a more positive brand image for your business, and the cannabis industry in general. Plus, it feels good!
Throw a party! By throwing a shindig and inviting your customers and their families, you are opening the door to your inside world. Of course, your budtenders are friendly and your customers are treated well. But what else keeps them coming back? Pricing and atmosphere alone may not keep them interested forever. Organizing something as simple as a barbecue allows you to interact with your clients outside of the sales transaction, which is invaluable. People support brands that they feel a connection with, and a fun human interaction goes farther than a coupon ever will. Create a real bond with your clients, and have fun at the same time!
Educate! People have a tendency to fear or reject what they don’t know. Cannabis can be scary if all someone hears about is negative. So be there for your clients. Educate them about how to consume safely, what to expect, and rules people need to follow to consume responsibly and within the law. Create informational videos for your clients to learn on their own. Answer questions on social media, and start a blog to spread the wealth of knowledge you and your staff possess. Education creates understanding and appreciation for the brand and the product.
Can you imagine if every dispensary actively supported their community, and took some steps to be seen in the mainstream as a positive influence? How would the views of cannabis change?
When you’re ready to start your own campaign in your community, we can help! Our team is passionate about the cannabis community, and we are ready to help you make change. Grow with us!