Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wait a minute....wasnt it just yesterday?

(EDITORS NOTE: I started this blog post two weeks ago and just finalized/posted today).

Wow.  Has it really been six months since my last entry? As I rapidly approached the one year mark of my new adventure in cannabis marketing, I became more and more intimidated by the thought of trying to encapsulate all that has taken place in order to get myself “caught up” on this blog. 

Everything from the two tragedies and the famous Dowd incident that it seemed would define my new business,  to the surreal experience of 420/Cannabis cup events, completing construction of our new building, participating in countless meetings about packaging and dosing, launching one of the first “low dose” products in the industry after being told by budtenders and dispensaries that it would never work (it did…).  The list could be about as long as the stacks of cash my company is forced to deposit into ATMs because the industry still has no banking—an issue we are pushing to be at the forefront of. But as I said, that seemed a bit intimidating and not likely to make for good reading as a blog post. But as I sit on a flight on the way back from Seattle and a visit with Leafly (more to come on them), this seemed like as good a week as any to just jump in and provide a snapshot of this interesting ride Ive taken.

This is not a special week. Or a different week. This is just the a-typical typical week. It began with quite a bit of follow up from the prior week’s events in Las Vegas for the National Marijuana Business conference where our CEO spoke (twice actually) to an audience of over 1,000 about both the future of cannabis and some best practices for expanding into other markets. This year’s event was sold out and included over 2800 attendees. To put that in context, this is the third year of the event. I heard that the first one, which barely made it into existence, drew a few hundred…maybe. Sufficed to say, we spent a tornadic four days in Vegas talking to hundreds of people about Dixie, entertaining offers/requests to carry our products, appearing on CNBC, talking to Fast Company, looking at possible packaging partners, eyeing potential competitors (and somewhat scoffing at a few who just had no clue what it meant to be in the business of large scale infused products production), and realizing that in a short ten months I have gotten to know the “who’s who” of the burgeoning cannabis industry. These are people who are colleagues but also people I now look forward to seeing and call friends. We hosted a party at Chateau nightclub that, in my humble opinion, became the most sought after ticket of the event, with lines to get in, tickets being forged and even a visit/performance by Jaberwokeez.  Though note to self…if you are going to host an MJ industry event, perhaps do it at a place that doesn’t have an issue with marijuana consumption.

But on to the week that followed. This week actually began on Sunday evening as we found out the Colorado Dept. of Public Health (CDPHE) was going to make a recommendation at the HB 1366 meeting the following day in regards to setting up a committee to “approve” all edibles products. CBS4 called and asked if was willing to do an interview Sunday night. Exhausted from Vegas, I wasn’t in the mood to…until he told me that they had interviewed one of the SMART Moms, who have become my arch nemesis. As a rational parent of three, I can say with confidence that their goal is to spread misinformation and fear under the guise of “but its for the children!” The “rumor” is that they are funded by big Pharma. Not sure. But makes for great conspiracy theory fodder.  Then, on Monday it was four mind numbing hours of discussion at the HB 1366 meeting. Our marketing director represented the industry well in a group debate that included the aforementioned SMART Moms, as well as the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), Childrens Hospital, poison control, CDPHE, law enforcement and legislators.  No consensus was to be had. I wont go into the details as to the specifics of HB 1366 but if you're interested, click here.

The highlight of the next day was participating as a member of a committee chosen by the CDPHE to help roll out the State’s $4M+ general education/youth prevention campaign. This is a very tangible confirmation to me that  I made the right decision. I have been begging everyone I know in government to let me/Dixie/the industry have a voice in how we roll out this critical piece of the experimental puzzle. The RFP process for an agency took place a few months ago and my former agency submitted, but didn’t win. I mention that not for their lack of a win…that happens in agencies. I mention it because one of the reasons I got into this business was a feeling that I could either sit on the outside and armchair quarterback what was taking place, or I could help affect changes from the inside out. Ten months later, I find myself fulfilling on that goal by serving on the committee that will have direct influence over the implementation of the program vs. lamenting that my agency didn’t win the bid for whatever reason.

Then there was 60 Minutes. Yep. In the past two weeks, 60 Minutes was in the house with host Bill Whitaker as was CNBC and Harry Smith. We were asked to participate on behalf of the governor’s office, so we gladly hosted the Governors Drug Czar, a great young bureaucrat named Andrew Freedman, as well as Bill and about a half dozen camera guys. This came on the heels of an hour long interview with Harry Smith of CNBC just a few weeks prior. And this coming week we will be on CNBC again as well as MSNBC, as teasers for the upcoming 6 part docu-series, “Pot Barons” that has been filming with us for the past six months.(NOTE: Pot Barons launched this week!)

Did I mention that we launched a new product into the market this week—our awakening and relaxing mints. New packaging, low dose5MG mints that meet all of the new requirements for packaging and product dosage. This is the first in a series of new products we will roll out over the coming months to meet the State's new requirements by Feb. 1. We had to completely re-engineer all of our packaging and rethink all of our products--in six months.

Next, I was on a plane to Seattle where Leafly (mentioned earlier) had invited me to participate in a day long marketing summit (they picked up the tab for flight, hotel etc.). Leafly is this amazing tech company that is the self-described "Yelp of Marijuana." Incredible young and passionate talent from places like Microsoft, Kelly Blue Book, AT&T..and they have the same vision for legitimizing this industry as Dixie does. In fact, they were the first and so far only MJ company to buy a full page ad in the NY Times. Made quite a splash. The marketing summit was amazing. To be at a table with thought leaders from around the country (CO, CA, AZ, WA) discussing the marketing and industry challenges we all face--it was a tremendous day of relationship and knowledge building, followed by a great dinner and some fun.

And finally, back to the office on a 530 AM flight out of Washington so I could make it back in time for a 1030 offsite session at Dixie where we hammered out a Mission, Vision and Values session. We gathered about a dozen folks from different departments and really came together around where we want this company to go and what we stand for. While we have been around for 5 yrs, and we are moving at the speed of light, we have never had this foundation to hang on to. It was a great day, with people who were passionate about the company and the industry and our future.

And if you are still reading this blog likely feel about as tired and dizzy as I do at the end of every day. But, this pretty much captures the feeling of being on the inside.  Thanks for reading...and I would welcome any thoughts or questions you have. And I hope to get back to posting more regularly so I dont barf out another post this long. But I just couldn't help myself because there is just so much to share. And believe me--I was just scratching the surface.