Fighting For Legitimacy: Marketing in the Cannabis Industry

Fighting For Legitimacy: Marketing in the Cannabis Industry

Kayla Graham

Using cannabis doesn’t make you a stoner. Shocking—we know. Amber Craig—the Chief Merchandising Officer at FOUR20—admits she dabbled with cannabis when she shouldn’t have. When she decided to go into cannabis marketing full time, it was a weird conversation to have with her dad, even though it was legal. But more and more people who have used it are coming out of the woodwork.

The rate of sales across Canada skyrocketed through 2020. Cannabis has gone to so many levels with many different uses and applications. There are many discreet product formats—drinks, capsules, edibles, etc. There are bath bombs, bath salts, and beauty creams. It’s not just for smoking. They wanted their stores to be somewhere where you can take your mom and grandma and be applicable to all walks of life.

Supply and demand in the cannabis industry

When cannabis was first legalized in Canada, they had 13 producers to buy from—now there are hundreds. The demand for cannabis was sorely underestimated when it was legalized. There was a period where there wasn’t enough supply, and the government wasn’t allowing more stores to open. But new brands and products are launching every week; there’s more than enough to go around.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people were stocking up on toilet paper, wine—and cannabis. They went from being an illegal substance to an essential service. They never had to close their doors. Retailers were shutting down around them, and they could forge ahead. Sales hit their highest levels ever. More people were using it than ever before.

People dealing with stress and anxiety discovered something that could benefit them. People self-medicate with whatever they can. Cannabis is relatively safe if you use it safely. No one has ever died from cannabis use. People were looking for an alternative to what they had access to.

The educational phase of cannabis

People are curious and want an education on cannabis and its uses. FOUR20 has a doctor on their executive team that runs their in-house education. He’s toured the world talking about it. There aren’t many people who have that experience with it because it’s so brand new. A lot of countries are dabbling on the medical side. It will likely keep expanding.

Even help is being sought after in many different ways. People buying cannabis for the first time are like kids in a candy store. One of the most interesting transitions for Amber was being on a domestic flight and getting in trouble because she had water in her bag—not for the mountain of weed.

What makes the industry exciting?

What sold Amber on marketing in the cannabis industry? She compares it to being a part of the liquor industry when the prohibition era ended. It’s a historical time that will never happen again. The entire world is watching to see how things unfold. Canada has upheld strict regulations on product quality and safety.

Dozens of industries have challenges, but nothing compares to cannabis. You’re battling decades of stigmas of a criminalized drug that is now something medically and recreationally acceptable. There isn’t a single product where there is a medical and recreational purpose.

There is every reason to believe that marketing for cannabis will eventually be treated like the beer industry. Amber finds that being a part of the evolution of a brand new industry is exciting. The regulations are hard to get around. Working in this industry forces you to recreate everything you ever learned and be creative.

Getting into the cannabis industry

Amber points out that they’re still only capturing less than 30% of the illegal cannabis market in Canada. People are still going to dealers for certain things. What about when restaurants and bars start selling? What about cannabis lounges? There is still a lot of room to innovate. It takes one person to be a pioneer and take a chance on something that is well thought through. To learn more about how marketing works in the cannabis industry, listen to episode #31 of the Content Callout podcast!