420 in the 508: MARCH 2023
The idea for this month’s column came to me while at a dispensary here in the city. I overheard a fellow customer talking about how Twitter will soon let cannabis advertising on their site. The budtender then retorted that they were aware of their company’s role as a major sponsor of another prominent neighborhood business. I feel like I’m not at liberty to mention the specifics of said sponsorship in this forum, but I will say it’s the first of its kind in our area. However, this raises the questions of how much sponsorship is appropriate and how well-prepared should we be for the onslaught of advertisements that are about to bombard our eyeballs?
It took Massachusetts less than a year to get from $3B to $4B in cannabis sales. The state had over 70 cannabis stores openings and the start of 3 courier services and 4 marijuana delivery businesses in 2022, resulting in over $1.4B sales. All this money and competition means that these organizations need to advertise and promote everywhere they can. I get it. And truthfully, I’m cool with billboards and I’m definitely a fan of the advertisements in wonderful magazines like the one you’re reading. The industry has long battled the restrictions put on them on where and what they can spend their money on. Even on the new, cash-hungry version of Twitter, cannabis companies can basically just announce that they exist. They can’t include any specific strains or available items, and there can’t be anything that could be misconstrued by an underage audience. With ad targeting becoming stronger and stronger, we should expect more of the social media blast. The permeation of the spaces and places where we go to escape being sold to, but instead are accosted by flashy lights and gotcha attention grabbers.
What I find especially interesting is that sales data from last year also showed that the state is generating more tax revenue from cannabis than alcohol for the first time. The biggest advertising day of the year was a week ago at the time of writing this. We saw ads from Budweiser, Crown Royal, Heineken and a bunch of other alcohol-based brands. And though we were not allowed to see the ad that Snoop Dogg wanted to air, I feel like it’s really only a matter of time before the Super Bowl is inundated with advertising littered with weed brands. It will also probably be one of those weird subversions of expectation ads where at first glance it looks like it’s a furniture commercial, but it ends up being about weed. Maybe Twitter can lead in this space as well and lift some of the restrictions for their advertisers.
Ultimately, what I’d really like to see happen is more investing in the community from these companies. I get excited about creative companies that are finding ways of supporting music, arts, and culture. Whether it’s as simple as being a presenting sponsor for a cultural event or continuing to spend money with local media companies, every bit helps maintain what we have while destigmatizing the industry.
I’m not suggesting that every venue should have a presenting sponsor, but if they could identify cannabis funding sources, they could end up with a lot of money to enhance their budgets, the stage setup, the lighting, and whatever else could be improved. The same defense may be made for any group of artists, craftspeople, or anybody else working in the community on projects that aren’t just for kids. These companies have money, and they want to support the community. Make it happen.
Be well and happy trails.
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