Chart: What’s in a cannabis company name? Not as much slang

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By Eli McVey

The marijuana industry has been in a perpetual struggle to shake the “stoner” stereotype many hold of its consumers, and the businesses that comprise the industry are leading the charge against it.

An analysis of 3,318 state-licensed cannabis companies in the Marijuana Business License Directory shows that wellness-oriented words such as “organic” or “herbal” appear far more frequently in business names than slang terms such as “ganja,” “420” and “pot.”

The relatively minimal use of slang exemplifies the industry’s emergence from the black market into the mainstream, a push to ease the stigma surrounding cannabis and the desire of companies to win state licenses by using names that are palatable to regulators and the public.

Marijuana businesses operating in states that do not issue licenses at the state level, such as California and Michigan, were excluded from the analysis.

While one would expect medical marijuana businesses to refrain from using terms like ganja and pot, that hasn’t always been the case. In the early days of the MMJ industry – when many businesses were unregulated – it was common in some areas to see businesses incorporate such words.

More colloquial language is still present in business names, especially in states that remain unregulated. But their presence is diminished relative to terms promoting physical and mental wellness.

Among all state-state licensed marijuana businesses, the most common words appearing in business names are “green” and “cannabis.”

Eric Layland, president of Canna Ventures, a cannabis marketing and branding agency, believes these terms can cross boundaries, speaking to both new and established consumers without referencing slang terms such as “dank” or “weed.”

But business owners should be aware of the potential disadvantage the use of “green” or “cannabis” in a business name may bring, as it may be more difficult to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market.

Aside from these terms, the most commonly used words in the names of producer/processor businesses is “farm” and “garden”, and among dispensaries it’s “wellness” and “center.”

In the case of producer/processor business names, Layland believes this represents efforts by businesses to align and associate with well-respected roles in society, embracing terminology with an agricultural bent to it.

Though differences in names between businesses that exclusively serve either the recreational or medical market may very well exist, the majority of businesses in states that have legalized MMJ and adult-use cannabis serve both – making it very difficult to accurately compare the two. Thus, the two markets were combined for the purposes of this analysis.

But these business names may be more than just a PR tool.

According to data from the What Cannabis Patients & Consumers Want research report by Marijuana Business Daily, among American adults who use marijuana, just over half (53%) are 50 and older. And of all adults who use marijuana recreationally, only 5% say intoxication is the main reason they consume marijuana.

These statistics contradict the characterization of a typical marijuana user as a young male just looking to get high, and businesses appear to have realized it’s in their best financial interest to eschew the kind of language that might speak to this stereotypical consumer, choosing instead to align their business names with the demands of the market.

In states that have been reluctant or outright hostile toward the idea of marijuana legalization, recognizing that businesses have an incentive to market themselves more like a nutritional supplement store rather than a liquor store may ease some of their concerns.

The marijuana industry continues to evolve at an extremely rapid pace, and business owners should be especially mindful of what their business name communicates to the consumer.

Eli McVey can be reached at