By Chris Walsh
A cannabis company employs a controversial advertising tactic, a lawsuit shows that the mainstream corporate world is finally taking marijuana seriously and an MMJ legalization bill advances in New York.
Here’s a closer look at some of the top business stories in the cannabis industry over the past week:
Questionable Ad Strategy
Earlier this week, we wrote about how a medical marijuana delivery service in Washington State is sending a “mascot” to heavily trafficked areas to promote the company.
Buddy the Bear, as the company’s owner calls him, wears a sandwich board advertising “discreet MMJ delivery” and the website for the business, which is called Chronically-On-Time. The costume is the spitting image of the iconic green bear associated with the Grateful Dead.
This type of advertising doesn’t seem to violate any laws in Washington – in fact, the state doesn’t really have many regulations surrounding medical marijuana businesses at all. (Officials are still developing regulations around advertising for recreational marijuana.)
But as we’ve seen in other states, in-your-face advertising increases scrutiny on the industry, feeds stereotypes and can lead to a local backlash. Denver’s medical marijuana industry learned these lessons the hard way, when the prevalence of sign-spinners and psychedelic billboards promoting cheap weed and free joints led to a ban on outdoor advertising entirely in 2012.
California has grappled with this issue as well, with aggressive advertising no doubt playing a role in some cities’ decision to limit or even ban the businesses entirely.
Perhaps even more importantly, the industry is already under fire in some markets for creating products and advertising that appeal to children. Oregon even tried to ban all sugary medical marijuana edibles, saying they are too attractive to kids. It eventually backed off the ban but still ended up prohibiting brightly colored edibles and infused products sold in the shapes of animals, toys or candies.
The last thing the industry needs right now is even more scrutiny on this end. A furry green bear mascot no doubt appeals to children, whether that’s the intention or not, and invites unwanted attention.
Hershey Targets Edibles Company
Speaking of edibles that appeal to children…
Hershey Co. has sued an infused products company in Colorado, claiming it ripped off the logos and packaging of several popular types of the chocolate giant’s candy (click here and you can be the judge).
Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, the fact that it was even filed is significant. Some edibles producers have been mimicking popular product lines for years, yet for the most part the big companies either didn’t know about it or didn’t care.
With the rise of recreational marijuana and the further growth of the MMJ market, other industries are starting to pay attention – and to take the cannabis business more seriously.
In a weird way, the Hershey lawsuit helps legitimize the the industry – though not exactly for the right reasons.
Ups and Downs in New York
It’s been an emotional roller coaster for supporters of a bill to legalize medical marijuana in New York over the past few days.
Hopes soared when the Assembly passed the measure – called the Compassionate Care Act – and the governor said he would be willing to sign a “common sense” bill with strict regulations. But then the chairman of a Senate committee said he wouldn’t let the measure advance, stoking fears that the proposal was dead in the water.
The story has gotten much more interesting since then: On Thursday, the bill was transferred out of that committee despite the chairman’s objections, reviving hopes that it could come up for a vote in the Senate before the session ends next week. This would be a significant development: The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Diane Savino, is confident she has enough support in the Senate to push it through – if it it’s brought to the floor for a vote.
Yet now there’s another potential snag: The governor came out Thursday saying has serious concerns about the bill, adding that it could turn into a “major negative” for the state.
At this point, it’s impossible to put odds on the chance the bill will pass, given all the back-and-forth. Either way, we’ll have an answer next week.
Hold on to the edge of your seats, as this one should be a nail-biter.