5 weeks ago, the California cannabis industry was graced by the Hall of Flowers, a licensed, industry only, highly curated B2B trade show specifically designed to facilitate the trade of premium licensed cannabis products. Even though I didn’t score a ticket to Hall of Flowers, I did attend Herban Mixer, a networking event hosted by Supernova Women, on the first evening of the event as well as the official after party at the Flamingo Hotel that same night. Throughout the evening I listened to bright descriptions from multiple industry professionals, their stories all had one thing in common. Everyone I spoke to was thoroughly impressed by the stunning level of branding and retail presentation. California’s top brands were present, also in the building was Gary Vee, renowned author and motivational speaker. He is famous for owning a straight forward, tell it how it is style of communication, I’ll get back to Gary in just a little bit.
Reflecting on Herban Mixer, I remember being inspired by numerous cannabis entrepreneurs of color who continue to defy the odds in our industry. It was there that I hosted industry interviews for Ganjier Smoke Break, a platform I created to cast a positive light on authentic cannabis culture. I interviewed industry Attorney Dominic Ripoli, John Alston Co-Founder James Henry SF, Julie Chiariello Co-Founder Skunk Magazine, and Jetty Extracts Senior Sales Rep Luna Stower. Our conversations were electric, smoking a joint during each interview always does the trick. After completing the interviews I said my goodbyes and drove 15 minutes to the Flamingo Hotel. No sooner had I entered the parking lot that I noticed an incredible amount of people spilling out of the lobby and entrance of the hotel to the sidewalk and lawns surrounding the front doors. I came back around after finding parking and grinned at the amount of people smoking in front of the hotel and also at the two security guards who seemed frustrated at the situation. I did not spot any troublemakers so I figured security was simply not used to turning the other cheek when it came to social consumption.
It wasn’t until I entered the lobby that I realized what I had stepped into. Entering the Flamingo was like leaving a football game as soon as it’s over. And like a football game, there was signs of inebriation among attendees. A particular memory comes to mind. It was after midnight at the Flamingo Hotel when I finished my interviews with Attorney Lauren Mendelsohn Law Offices Omar Figueroa and Nick Bryan owner of Synergy Cannabis Co. and Golden State Banana. I had just ran into Julie Chiariello and she introduced me to her good friend Kat King, a well accomplished, award winning cannabis entrepreneur. We were getting into the swing of our conversation when two well dressed bros and a young woman introduced themselves. The trio showed signs that they had been drinking and regardless of the matter, Kat and I found ourselves chatting with the woman about Hall Of Flowers, normal conversation and such when the inevitable was asked. In a most unimpressive, snarky manner the she asked Kat, “So what do you do?”. Kat calmly replied about her accomplishments in different states but the woman showed no inkling of admiration. Instead she looked for her opportunity to interrupt and proudly told us what she, or rather the company that she works for, is ‘spearheading’ in the cannabis industry. Her language was bloated and exaggerated, the term that comes to mind is paper tiger. It was then that I looked around, took note of the folks around me and noticed that many were clearly intoxicated. My epiphany at that moment was that that the folks who I was looking at had minimal experience in the cannabis industry and a rudimentary understanding of cannabis culture.
Taking a step back, I’m familiar with the powerhouse company that organized Hall of Flowers. I first learned about Y Combinator back in 2013 when I attended Agenda Emerge in Long Beach. Agenda Emerge is a creative and brand building conference featuring today’s most iconic creative directors, industry leaders and entrepreneurs in the youth marketplace. Google Agenda Show to learn more about what one of the main event in the fashion industry. I’m grateful to have understood the importance of culture and branding since ’13 when I sat ringside at Agenda Emerge to listen to legendary fashion industry heavyweight Marc Ecko speak about what it takes to succeed. Fast forward to 2019 and switching gears to the cannabis industry, Gary Vee said it best while speaking at Hall of Flowers. He explained that he talked to many wanna be entrepreneurs earlier that day and emphasized that in his own words, “If you’re shit sucks and your brand’s fucking phenomenal, you’re just going to speed up the process of people figuring out that you’re shit sucks.”
The takeaway is that as our industry takes shape we’re learning that it is our cultural wealth that has long term economic value. Because every company and brand, regardless of their industry, needs to have a strong sense of culture to compete, cannabis products and dispensaries that are culturally sterile are going to have a serious problem as love for the plant goes public. We all identify with and support brands that we love or have an affinity for. In the cannabis industry, it is the love for the plant that is the foundation of our culture. It’s an honest love, not a deceitful one. As an example, Coca Cola’s slogan is Taste The Feeling yet we know that the only feeling you’ll get over time is diabetes.
Always support farms and brands whose love for cannabis is transparent. Spend your money with companies whose values are making a positive impact in their communities. Be on the right side of history by supporting authentic cannabis culture. The Green Renaissance depends on it.
Together we can.