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Marguerite Arnold

Mainstream Media Picks Up On Cannabis

By Marguerite Arnold
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Marguerite Arnold

The British online newspaper, The Guardian, has just begun to cover cannabis. The regular feature, part of their “society” section, is clearly attempting to cover cannabis a bit more consistently and regularly as the California rec market begins to gain (legal) steam.

The writer now helmed to lead this effort is Alex Halperin, a business journalist in the U.S., who landed the gig apparently on the success of Weedweek – a highly cryptic weekly summary blog of mostly U.S.-based industry events and updates.How the Guardian will cover the industry and related issues will be interesting to follow.

This is also not The Guardian’s first foray into the topic. The media outlet, which got its start in the 1800’s in Northern England and expanded dramatically to reach a global digital audience over the past decade, has covered cannabis legalization on a fairly regular basis for the last four years. This new focus also comes at an interesting time. Apart from events in the U.S., Canada is moving forward with recreational this summer. And in Europe, the medical discussion continues apace. That said, it appears the Guardian is going to focus on the U.S. market, at least initially.

It will be interesting to see if that focus shifts (and if they allow other journalists outside of the U.S. to participate in the expanded coverage). While California might well be the largest state economy in general, the Canadian market is already larger and more developed, being regulated nationally across multiple provinces.

Another Mainstream Media Cannabis Column?

This is hardly news. The Guardian is actually treading on ground established already by most of the big news and business publications – including niche publications, blogs and of course, the trade press.

How the Guardian will cover the industry and related issues will be interesting to follow.

The purpose of the column apparently is to spark an “adult conversation” about cannabis – and how it is “changing modern life.” The initial focus on the U.S. market (and California in particular) may have seemed to make sense to a media outlet looking for outrageous stories. But as everyone knows, the U.S. is only one market – and further one still without federal protection.

However, the Guardian is also now competing with other business and mainstream publications that are already in this space. Main Street, the online business ‘zine helmed by Jim Cramer, created one of the first mainstream specialty cannabis sections almost four years ago with the coincidence of the Colorado rec market. Other notable publications and media outlets have significantly increased their coverage of cannabis as well. CNN has been reporting consistently on cannabis topics like legalization and U.S. federal reform efforts for some time now. Business Insider and Forbes have covered ongoing and growing investments and the financial side of things for several years. The Denver Post has its own entirely cannabis-focused subsidiary, The Cannabist.

And as public companies, in both the U.S. and elsewhere have begun to move through the legal thickets of legalization, business-focussed journals and blogs are even beginning to cover cannabis stocks. Starting with Motley Fool and Seeking Alpha (although again, most of this coverage is of companies outside the United States). Specialty publications are also of course, flourishing online, particularly with the beginning of an advertising market that is also beginning to establish itself, albeit around some still thorny regulatory issues.

In general, although the Guardian has a reputation as critical of the British monarchy, with strong left-leaning tendencies, its coverage of the industry has been fairly mainstream – so far at least.

Will that begin to change? And what will really be tackled and covered? And while the ostensible focus is what is going on in the world of cannabis in California (and presumably other foreign markets) could the Guardian’s ostensible new feature also be geared to drive reform at home? The U.K. has yet to even approach the topic of criminalization.

Top PR Firms in Cannabis of 2017

By Aaron G. Biros, William Sumner
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The end of the year is often a time for reflection when people look back at their accomplishments over the last year; and those in the cannabis industry are no different.

2017 was a year of monumental change for the cannabis industry. Riding high on a wave of electoral victories and changing public sentiment, more states than ever have legalized cannabis in some form or fashion and nations like Canada are headed down the path of full legalization.

Part of the thanks for this seismic shift in public policy and consciousness has to go to the countless women and men who have tirelessly campaigned for cannabis reform for years; but a sizable portion of that thanks must also go towards the unsung heroes of the cannabis industry: the cannabis PR firms.

Fighting on the front-lines of the war for public perception, cannabis PR firms have been essential in the reversing decades of Reefer Madness and, through constant branding and re-branding, have helped make the cannabis industry the billion dollar industry that it is today. While helping their clients achieve the branding and marketing they need, PR firms have also helped considerably in normalizing cannabis and bringing it into the mainstream lens.

So in reflection of this past year, and in thanks of those that made it happen, here’s a look at some of the top PR firms in the cannabis industry for 2017 in no particular order.

Evan Nison, Nison Co.

Evan Nison is the founder & chief executive officer of Nison Co. and Co-Founder of Whoopi & Maya. Nison Co. has over 1,800 active relationships with reporters and reviewers that cover cannabis. In 2017, the company grew to over 30 industry leading cannabis clients and 7 full time staff and 8 part time staff focusing exclusively on the cannabis industry.

Evan Nison, founder & chief executive officer of Nison Co.

Nison is the youngest member of the board of NORML, and sits on the Board of Directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. In 2016 he helped launch Whoopi & Maya, a women-centric medical cannabis company with actress Whoopi Goldberg and edible maker Maya Elisabeth and currently acts as its chief financial officer.

During the 2016 US Presidential Election, Evan pressed Hillary Clinton for her stance on marijuana legalization on Good Morning America during a live town hall event.

Evan has been mentioned in news sources such as the NY Times, Politico, USA Today, NBC New York, Bloomberg TV, Forbes, and has been profiled in the Ithaca Times, Home News Tribune, the Cannabist/Denver Post, and the Sun Times. He also received the 2011 NORML Student Activism Award and High Times Freedom Fighter Award for his advocacy.

Cannabis industry PR achievements worthy of note:

  • Co-founder of Whoopi & Maya
  • Executive Director of NORML NJ, in a state where cannabis could be on the path to legalization shortly.
  • Drug law reform efforts in Students for Sensible Drug Policy, NORML and others.

2017 PR achievements worthy of note:

  • Success with public companies across the cannabis space.
  • Over 1,200 published stories for cannabis clients in 2017
  • Grew to over 30 clients in cannabis, over 1,800 active relationships with reporters and reviewers that cover cannabis

Cynthia Salarizadeh, Salar Media Group

Cynthia Salarizadeh, founder and chief executive officer of Salar Media Group

With more than 15 years in public and media relations, Salarizadeh has made waves in her short time in the cannabis industry and has helped start multiple successful companies and organizations, such as Green Market Report and Industry Power Women.

As the founder and chief executive officer of Salar Media Group, Salarizadeh has worked with some of the top cannabis firms in the industry, including the likes of BiotrackTHC, CannaRegs, Inc., Cannabis Benchmarks, Humboldt’s Finest, MassRoots, Inc., Tikun Olam USA, ebbu, Julian Marley’s JuJu Royal, Frontera, Marijuana Investor Summit, Cannafundr, The Marijuana Show, Weed for Warriors Project, CannaMoms, Robert Hoban and 99 High Tide.

In 2017, Salarizadeh shook both the world of cannabis and fast food when Green Market Report published a study she wrote analyzing the fast food habits of cannabis users. The report became a viral sensation overnight, sent up shares in McDonald’s up by .58% (approximately $3.55) and became the topic of discussion in universities around the country and as well as McDonald’s headquarters. Stories for her clients have been mentioned on CNBC, Fox Business, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Inc, Playboy and Fortune. 

Cannabis industry PR achievements worthy of note:

  • Launched and assisted in managing full scale event execution for the Marijuana Investor Summit 2014 – the first investor summits of its kind for the industry.
  • Launched Cannafundr 2014 (editor and chief of the news section and pr director – acquired by MJIC in 2015).
  • Co-founded Industry Power Women 2017.

2017 PR achievements worthy of note:

  • Managed the launch of Israel’s, and the world’s, original cannabis company Tikun Olam in the USA as the lifestyle brand Tikun.
  • Launched the first brand to be recognized in the media as “America’s Craft Cannabis” out of Humboldt – Humboldt’s Finest .
  • Responsible for one of the largest cannabis news stories of 2017, the McDonald’s-food habits of cannabis consumers campaign, raising their stock price and becoming a viral sensation.

Gaynell Rogers, Bond & Moroch

Twice a cancer survivor, Gaynell Rogers was first recruited into the cannabis industry by Harborside’s Steve DeAngelo in 2009. Since then, she has grown to become recognized as one of the leading voices in the cannabis industry.

As the director and developing partner of Bond & Moroch, Rogers works with veritable list of who’s who in the cannabis industry; including Hoban Law Group, one of the first national law firms to specialize in the cannabis industry.

Gaynell Rogers, director and developing partner of Bond & Moroch

Although Rogers is perhaps best known for securing the creation of the very first cannabis-related reality show, “Weed Wars” on the Discovery Channel, she has also been responsible for countless cover stories de-stigmatizing cannabis that have appeared on the pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, and more.

In 2017, Rogers helped make history when she worked with Hoban Law Group to create the first-ever national cannabis television commercial. Her clients also include the 420 Games, New West Summit, Power Plant Fitness and Harborside.

Cannabis industry PR achievements worthy of note:

  • First national publicist for Arcview Group, Harborside and Steve DeAngelo​.
  • Responsible for a number of major cannabis news stories in The NEw York Times and Washington Post.
  • Secured the creation of the very first cannabis-related reality show, “Weed Wars” on the Discovery Channel

2017 PR achievements worthy of note:

  • Made history with getting the first-ever national cannabis TV commercial on air with the Hoban Law Group.
  • Success of 2017 New West Summit and 420 Games

KCSA Strategic Communications

KCSA Strategic Communications, a fully-integrated communications agency specializing in public relations, investor relations, social media and marketing, has been working with clients in the cannabis space for more than five years, and has deep institutional knowledge as well as access to decision makers, investors, entrepreneurs and analysts who are writing the rules for this new marketplace.

Lewis Goldberg, managing partner at KSCA

As a result, in 2017 KCSA launched a dedicated KCSA-Cannabis website as well as launched “The Green Rush,”a weekly, 30-minute show dedicated to the business of cannabis. Hosts KCSA Managing Partner Lewis Goldberg and Managing Director Anne Donohoe speak with reporters, entrepreneurs, lawmakers, investment bankers, CEOs, and investors.

KCSA represents a dozen public and private cannabis companies, accounting for nearly $1B in market cap and $100M in annual sales across the entire supply chain in WA, NV, NJ, CA and CO. The company will also be moderating the “Cannabis and the Capital Markets” speakers series at the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo events in 2018. Their mix of traditional PR and IR services has helped professionalize communications efforts of many cannabis business players and has helped move the industry forward in the financial sector considerably.

Cannabis Industry PR Achievements worthy of note:

  • IR Work with Terra Tech
  • Key clients also include: Kush Bottles, 4Front Ventures, Medicine Man Technologies and Golden Leaf Holdings
  • Their client base grew to span the entire supply chain, from growers, refiners and dispensaries, to ancillary product companies and consulting firms.

2017 PR achievements worthy of note:

  • Launched “The Green Rush” Podcast
  • Terra Tech’s marked success in expanding the cannabis segment of their business, accounting for 86% of total revenues in the third quarter of 2017.
  • They have helped their clients secure speaking slots at the major conferences and trade shows.

The Rosen Group

Established in 1984 and headquartered in New York City, The Rosen Group has been working in cannabis since the inception of adult-use in Colorado to bring cannabis messaging to the national stage, collaborating with mainstream and industry media outlets and working with brands to cement positioning as thought leaders.

Shawna McGregor, senior vice president, The Rosen Group

TRG partners with brands to expand into emerging markets while educating target audiences and conveying critical narratives. Cannabis clients include infused products producers such as Wana Brands and Next Frontier Biosciences, cultivators and dispensaries such as L’Eagle Services, industry associations such as Cannabis Business Alliance and professional services such as Urban-Gro.  

With strong roots in the cannabis, business, technology, agriculture, food & beverage and entrepreneurial sectors, TRG has a tremendous breadth of experience developing and implementing impactful communications plans, strategies and tactics. TRG clients receive customized, personal service and strategic initiatives specific to their goals and objectives via aggressive, 360-degree communications campaigns to maximize coverage.

Cannabis industry PR achievements worthy of note:

  • Senior Vice President Shawna Seldon McGregor, who founded the Denver office in 2012, was honored with The Cannabist Award for Best Firm in 2016.
  • TRG has helped to position Wana Brands coowner Nancy Whiteman as one of the foremost thought leaders in cannabis. Inc.’s May 2017 issue declared Nancy “The Queen of Legal Weed.”
  • TRG successfully positioned Urban-Gro in front of cannabis producers, potential investors, and industry and mainstream publications through strategic thought leadership, brand messaging and media outreach.

2017 PR achievements worthy of note:

  • TRG helped to position L’Eagle as a leading voice on sustainability for the cannabis industry through speaking engagements and in over 200 features and articles reaching an audience of over 200 million.
  • Since signing on with Next Frontier Biosciences in June 2017, TRG helped get coverage in more than 60 news outlets reaching an audience of over 193 million.
  • For the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC), TRG leveraged the 2nd annual Cannabis Sustainability Symposium to secure more than 40 media placements for the Symposium’s speakers, sponsors and attendees.

Jennifer Price, Potnt Agency 

Potnt Agency is a public relations and integrated marketing communications agency headquartered in San Francisco, California, with offices in Reno, Nevada and Charlotte, North Carolina. The firm has deep expertise in cannabis and hemp markets with extensive knowledge of cannabis history, products, science, innovations, politics, legal compliance and best business practices.
Jennifer Price, founder and lead communications strategist, Potnt

Potnt is led by Founder and Lead Communications Strategist, Jennifer Price, who has over 24 years of experience in public relations, product promotion and event marketing experience in consumer, tech, B2B and investor relations practices.

Potnt has represented many well-established brands across the cannabis space, including Strainz, a leading national cannabis brand management company, HelloMDGolden Tarp AwardsNew West SummitCannMed, and Pure Analytics.
Cannabis industry PR achievements worthy of note:
  • Facilitated one of the first multi-page features on cannabis in Playboy Magazine, “The White-Collar Future of Weed” -this article included four of Potnt’s clients and was focused on a new generation of entrepreneurs aiming to revolutionize America’s cannabis industry.
  • Worked in partnership with HelloMD and Amanda Reiman, PhD, MSW, former lecturer in the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley, to promote a groundbreaking study on cannabis use as a substitute for opioid and non-opioid based pain medication
2017 PR achievements worthy of note:
  • Assisted in managing full scale event execution for the New West Summit 2017, the first conference to focus exclusively on the disruptive developments in technology, investment and media within the cannabis space.
  • Supporting successful branding campaigns including Strainz, a leading national cannabis brand management company, HelloMDGolden Tarp AwardsNew West SummitCannMed, and Pure Analytics.

These are a handful of some of the most valuable public relations experts the cannabis industry has to offer. There are many more unsung heroes in the cannabis legalization movement that work tirelessly to improve the image of our industry and support businesses in need of exposure. Next time you see a cannabis public relations expert, give them a big thank you.

cannagrow event

CannaGrow: Expert Advice on All Things Cultivation

By Aaron G. Biros
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cannagrow event

As the cannabis marketplace grows and more companies gain interest in this space, so does the need for greater access to networking, expert advice and credible information. Events in the form of conferences with educational sessions and expos provide these tools in one location over a span of several days. Many of the conferences include valuable information regarding everything from cultivation to compliance for established marijuana businesses or those seeking to gain entry into the market. Some noteworthy events include:

 

cannagrow event
Kyle Kushman, president & CEO of VegaMatrix, leading the session, Beyond the Basics: Advanced Cultivation Techniques Plus an Open Q&A

Earlier this year the CannaGrow Expo, run by CannaConnections, took place in Portland, Oregon. This event combined the intimate setting of a hotel conference with valuable educational opportunities on all things cultivation. With presentations ranging in topics from the fundamentals of growing to integrated pest management and growing organically, this event provided information for everyone along the spectrum, including beginner cultivators entering the space and veteran growers who have run legal operations for years.

“We believe in great attendee experiences, which starts with a great education,” says Joseph De Palma, founder at CannaConnections. “This is not a festival or mega-expo; this is an educational conference for professionals. Our agenda is designed around providing attendees with actionable, non-salesy cultivation education.”

Clark Tippin, founder of the Organic Cannabis Growers Society, gave a noteworthy presentation called Growing Organically – Sustainable Practices & High Yields, which highlighted the benefits and technical details of various organic cultivation methods.

illumitex booth
illumitex, an LED grow light greenhouse supply company, and their booth on the expo floor

“Cannabis is a non-homogenous plant that requires extremely consistent and standardized conditions with good production techniques in order to homogenize CBD levels and terpene profiles,” said Autumn Karcey, CEO of CannaVize, Inc., a sustainable full-service consulting and design firm, during her presentation, Commercial Facility Optimization for Pharmaceutical Grade Cannabis. “The consistency of cannabis comes from maintaining these standardized conditions through good manufacturing practices, quality assurance practices and standard operating procedures.”

CannaConnections’ next scheduled event is the DispensaryNext Conference & Expo, which runs February 1-2, 2016 in Portland. The range of topics includes best practices, marketing strategies, and operational management for dispensary owners and managers.