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Cannabis 101
Everything you wanted to know about cannabis but were afraid to ask? This guide, by High Times, is an excellent introduction to anyone looking to "inform themselves about the reality of cannabis."

Beyond the buzz(words)
What exactly does it mean to be a "sustainable and organic" business in the cannabis industry? Leafly sat down with one company that might be achieving both. Learn how.

Women-owned cannabis media co. launches
And, they're aiming to highlight and increase minorities in the legal marijuana industry through their new media company, Estrohaze.

A history lesson of cannabis journalism
A look at the good, bad and ugly of the new cannabis journalism. Of course the opening salvo that sets the stage is Maureen Dowd's piece in 2014. We all remember that one, right?

Headline of the week
'I'm a pot evangelist': meet America's dope queens

Three things: 

1. No one writes a headline like the British.

2. This is actually a solid article about women entrepreneurs fighting the stigma. 

3. That headline certainly made us look. 




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First sanctuary city for cannabis?
The Berkeley City Council voted this week to declare the city a sanctuary for recreational marijuana. The resolution "prohibits Berkeley's agencies and employees from using city resources to assist in enforcing federal marijuana laws or providing information on legal cannabis activities." Wow.

California keeps rolling
California might be the place to get a job "helping marijuana growers, processors, and sellers or work in adjacent services including legal advice, marketing and security for the nascent industry." That's according to ZipRecruiter and Julie Weed's latest piece for Forbes.

They heart cannabis
Early predictions are already pouring in from Wednesday's Valentine's Day (you remembered, right?). Valentine's Day spending by U.S. consumers is projected to reach $19.6 billion in 2018, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics. That's up from $18.2 billion spent last year. Billion. With a "b."

Headline of the week
This Couple's Wedding Included $8,000 Worth of Cannabis

And? It was all donated.




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A true hophead beer?
The parallels between beer and cannabis have been told and retold (by us too) many times. When the two meet, it's always fascinating. In Canada (they're like one step ahead of the U.S., aren't they?), a company has filed a patent for the "world's first beers brewed from the cannabis plant." Sure, there have been beers and wines laced with cannabis but not the whole plant.

Legal spa in Denver
We just wrote a post on why we don't use marijuana or weed when writing about cannabis but we just can't get over the phrase, "weed yoga." Sure, you can always partake then go to a yoga class. However, an application in Denver has been submitted for a social consumption application in hopes of becoming the first "fully licensed, state-legal cannabis spa." Hopefully the city will be flexible with licensing.

Valentine's Day chocolates: Extra Love
If you're panic-buying a cheap heart-shaped box of chocolates on the 14th at the local drugstore, carry on. If you're thinking ahead, live in California, and your significant other is a cannabis aficionado? You might want to check out some of these sophisticated cannabis-infused chocolates. They had us with the packaging.

California ups equity
You no doubt heard that San Francisco announced it's wiping out or reducing sentencing for all cannabis-related crime convictions, misdemeanors, and felonies, dating back to 1975. This must-read piece looks at how "cities across California and other states are upping the racial equity quotient in various ways, in what looks like a race to the top for seeking true racially and economically inclusive outcomes."

NY Times strongest op-ed piece yet
It's titled, Marijuana Can Save Lives and they come out swinging with this nugget: 

Marijuana isn't a gateway drug to opioid addiction; it's a safer alternative to pain medicines. Mr. Sessions's vow to crack down on marijuana will only make the opioid epidemic worse.

Grrrl Power
Here's a cool round-up of woman-owned and based cannabis companies. Of note: Stonedware Company, "design-centric smoking wares for the aesthetically inclined." Beautiful and discreet (and we like the name). 




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It reigned in January
Early January seems so far away, what with the Sessions kerfuffle. So, did it affect sales of cannabis? Not even close. January was the biggest selling month (yet) for legalized cannabis. Shocker: California played a huge role. On January 1st the country's most populous state - and the world's sixth-largest economy - officially launched an entirely new industry within its borders. Bring on February. 

Pack your bags for a trip
Here comes cannabis tours in California. Emerald Farm Tours will allow customers to "reserve spots on a 10-person cannabis club and culture tour of either San Francisco or Berkeley/Oakland." The company is started by our longtime friend (and the guy who launched the Bay Area CMA with me) - you know him, you love him - Victor Pinho ladies and gentlemen. Victor told me, "We're motivated by our love for cannabis, and we are proud to share with you some of the things that make California's cannabis culture remarkably unique." Victor's inspiration? Rick Steves. We are so down with that.

A different kind of powder
Bon Appétit magazine recently launched Healthyish, a site dedicated to simple, healthy recipes. We're huge fans. And, while looking for some sort of Instapot (pun intended) easy, weekday dinner recipe we stumbled across Mondo. Says Healthyish, "one serving of Mondo is nothing like a typical high. It's great for creative energy: bright and peppy." And it comes in a small, attractive glass jar. Cool.

Not using the "M" word
Though it's not our official policy, we've made it a point amongst ourselves to stop using the word "marijuana" when speaking and writing about cannabis. (Don't Google our page, we probably missed a couple. We're trying.) Alex Halperin looks at the history of the word, its racist roots, and if we should still be using it.





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CBD meets autism
A deep, thoughtful look at autism and how cannabidiol (CBD) may help.

Print is not dead
Sure. Magazines aren't the gauntlet they once were but many still thrive. And even more so, those magazines that have found their niche are flourishing (Portland's Kinfolk comes to mind). This piece looks at several entrepreneurs that have started glossy lifestyle magazines dedicated to both educating and celebrating the lifestyle, culture, and people of cannabis. Of course, the design is next level. 

Bigly numbers
The total economic output from legal cannabis will grow 150% from $16 billion in 2017 to $40 billion by 2021, according to the US Legal Cannabis: Driving $40 Billion Economic Output report released earlier this month by Arcview Market Research, in partnership with BDS Analytics. The report examines the economic multiplier effects through which US consumer spending on legal cannabis in 2021 of $20.8 billion will generate $39.6 billion in overall economic impact, 414.000 jobs, and more than $4 billion in tax receipts.

Welcome to the cool kids club, Vermont
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed into law House Bill 511, which legalizes the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and removes penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. The new law will go into effect in July. Of note: Vermont is the first state to pass legalization via a legislature. Watch this for more on next steps. 

Headline of the week
Hedge fund says cannabis stocks will either collapse or we should all move to Canada and grow pot

Well, alllllllrighty then. 




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Hot down under
Australia will allow exports of medicinal cannabis in a bid to dominate a global market set to be worth $55 billion by 2025. Investors have scrambled to buy shares in marijuana companies - pushing several of them, and the sector as a whole, to record highs. However, the gun, as they say, might've been jumped.

NFL and cannabis: It's time
It seems like every week there's an NFL player with head trauma. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive degenerative brain disease linked to blows to the head. It's serious and can lead to death. There's a new study on how cannabis can help out.

Cannabis and food trends
This piece is a deep-dive and fascinating look at food trends but also dips into how cannabis will help change and drive the food industry. Takeaway: a decline in booze consumption and a rise in edibles. 

Cannabis trends for 2018?
The Seattle Weekly weighs in. Some interesting predictions for sure. Like, a decline in smoking cannabis and an increase in vaping, dabbing, and other concentrates. More cannabis companies going public and entering the stock market, and more investing in medicinal marijuana research. 

More California numbers
BDS Analytics has been keeping tabs on cannabis sales in California since January 1. How big were (well, are) sales so far? By week's end of that first week they were confident of their forecast "that overall legal sales in California would grow 22% to $3.7 billion in 2018 would turn out to be, if anything, too conservative." So, yeah, really big.




Higher Ground partners with Berkeley Patients Group on media campaign to celebrate a new cannabis era in Calif

Berkeley Patients Group, Berkeley’s mayor, and community members cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening on January 1, 2018. 

Berkeley Patients Group, Berkeley’s mayor, and community members cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening on January 1, 2018. 

Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) is the nation’s oldest, continuously operating dispensary in the country, and was the first dispensary in the Bay Area to win a temporary retail permit from the California Bureau of Cannabis Control. With the passage of California Proposition 64 in November of 2016, and with over a year of regulatory wrangling, finally, January 1, 2018 was fast approaching and with it the first recreational sales of cannabis in California. This momentous date presented BPG a tremendous opportunity to introduce the dispensary and brand to California’s adult-use marketplace. The plan was deceptively simple: open at 6:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day, make a major splash, and let the world know about it. Easier said than done.

Established in 1999, Berkeley Patients Group has a proud lineage that combines business savvy with bold activism and this proud history guided and guides all the decisions made today. The message about opening the doors for rec use was not simply “hey, we’re here, come on by.” There had to be something said to honor this tradition, to mark the date in a meaningful way. A specific message had to be communicated. Moreover, BPG had hired PR agencies before and found they kept spending and spending but without results. So, as the team considered a PR agency, they knew they needed to communicate a specific message and they also knew they must avoid getting conned by some hack agency.

Higher Ground was known to BPG because agency co-founders Robert O’Shaughnessy and Carol Ruiz had worked with BPG’s Marketing Director to host a series of marketing mixers in 2016 and 2017, so it was a natural ask when shopping for a PR firm. And it was also a bold choice. Other companies were spending big money on splashy billboards so making January 1st into a milestone event and inviting the media to cover it was a different, and brave approach.

January 1, 2018 was destined to be a momentous day in California. With characteristic chutzpah, BPG leadership set an ambitious goal: attain up to ten published articles from five or six local sources and three to four national outlets. This was not only a media campaign with specific messaging points to communicate but an overarching brand promise to convey. And to do so, with a few weeks to spare, poker-faced BPG revealed an ace in the hole.

Berkeley Mayor and longtime BPG champion Jesse Arreguin agreed to inaugurate the new post prop 64 era. Every successful PR campaign tells a story and the ingredients were coming together. Longtime pioneer opens doors, with champion and advocate Honorable Jesse Arreguin cutting the ribbon when doors open. The team had 30 days to tell the story, with holiday break looming. The PR team rapidly developed talking points for key BPG leadership, conducted thorough research and developed a robust media list with cannabis and business reporters and began following them on Twitter to track their stories. Talking points were drafted. Key messages internalized. Media wish lists finalized. With esteemed competitors also announcing plans for an early grand opening, every second and every word counted and regular – like daily – outreach was essential.

December 22, 2017. Word goes out about the opening, with mayor Arreguin cutting the ribbon. Twitter blows up. The first article appears. People are getting excited. Its palpable; you can really feel it. The press release drops and pre-pithing begins in earnest to secure interviews with key spokespeople to discuss the impact of legalization on Berkeley and the state of California and nationally. Each phase of media outreach had a different strategy to ensure the team was going after the right media at the right time. The first phone calls went to the Associated Press San Francisco office and the go-to cannabis reporter in the Bay Area at the San Francisco Chronicle, the esteemable David Downs.

One week out, the pre-pitch strategy turned to the event itself. An event advisory was drafted and sent to local print and broadcast media, trade publications and national reporters inviting them to attend and cover the historic event and ribbon cutting ceremony. Then, day of, crowds start showing up at 4 a.m. The line extends. The mayor is there ready to talk about this incredible moment: this great pioneer of cannabis activism is ready for day one. Smiles abound.

Immediately after first pitch was distributed, it was apparent that this campaign was going to be successful.  Within hours, Higher Ground lined up a handful of pre-event interviews with media including NBC Bay Area, the Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Weekly, Daily Californian, CBS Moneywatch, Marijuana Business Daily, CBS KNX 1070 Radio, and coverage that followed days before January 1st and on January 1st included but not limited to Cannabis Now, Forbes, Leafly, San Francisco Examiner, Huffington Post, High Times, Herb Magazine, Berkeley Daily Planet, East Bay Times and SFBay.

Additionally, many outlets like San Francisco Chronicle and Marijuana Business Daily ran more than one article which tripled the reach. Several Associated Press stories circulated (before, during and after January 1st) with quotes from a BPG spokesperson, which was picked up in dozens of print and online publications and national news organizations including San Jose Mercury News, NBC News, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Berkeleyside, Complex., Los Angeles Times, NPR Radio, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, TIME magazine, CNBC, FOX News, ABC News, CBS, and the Oregonian.

Local TV stations covered the momentous event and aired numerous segments including NBC Bay Area, ABC KOGO and FOX KTVU on January 1st and January 2nd. The grey lady herself showed up; the New York Times requested interviews and ran a story that included this groundbreaking client. In total, the PR efforts generated more than 50 articles (more than five times the high-end benchmark) including local, regional and national print, online and broadcast media. Total coverage generated an estimated – and walloping – 1.5 billion impressions.

Berkeley Patients Group reputation as a leader in the cannabis space is secured, and on a national scale. Higher Ground is honored and humbled to have played a part.





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More Sessions
Last week we shared our thoughts on Jeff Sessions This week, a columnist called him out with this line: "adherence to outdated dogma threatens to deny relief to those Americans who need it most." The publication? The National Review. We'll just leave that there. 

Opening Day
So, how much product did Californians buy on January 1 when California officially began commercial sales of recreational cannabis?  Scads and scads.

Women in PR: Our own Carol Ruiz
Have we mentioned how much we love Civilized? We haven't? Allow us to do so. And, share a link to a piece they did this week. The topic?  Women behind some of the top cannabis PR firms on the triumphs and tribulations of combatting a near-century-old stigma.

Hungry yet?
If you live in San Francisco you probably know food writer Marcia Gagliardi and her culinary adventures and reviews. She's appeared in pretty much every paper and station across SF. Here's her latest piecefrom KQED on underground cannabis dinners in the Bay Area. Yum. 



Higher Ground featured in Civilized

We're huge fans of Civilized. They run articles on culture, travel, and wellness. They're smart, modern, informative, and fun.

When they asked our co-founder, Carol Ruiz, to participate in a piece about women, PR, and the challenges (and opportunities!) of cannabis, we jumped!

One part of the interview Carol was asked to describe why she loves PR so much. Not only does it describe her own philosophy, it also describes how she —and the whole Higher Ground team— work with each other and with our clients: 

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is discovering my clients’ stories. PR is all about storytelling and I’m a storyteller at heart, with a degree in film and television production and a background in documentary filmmaking. I love to find ways to get to the heart of my clients’ stories and tell them in a way that feels authentic and resonates with the press and public. 

Have a great story to tell? Let's talk. Email us here or call us at 866-459-7250.





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California here we come
Let's start with the good news. On January 1st, dispensaries all over California opened their doors to commercial use adult customers and more will be doing so this weekend. One such pioneer, Berkeley Patients Group, is a client. We were so happy for them and the incredible attention and publicity received. At 6:00 a.m., the doors opened to a flurry of activity from customers and invited media. The pitching efforts the previous week paid off and the venerable dispensary -a champion of medical cannabis in Berkeley for decades leading up to Prop. 64-received tons of press - dozens of mentions and hits. We are proud to work with them. 

We're not going away
From Jeff Sessions to the anti-taxation folks, there can be discerned a common thread: we don't want regulated, taxed commercial availability to adults. We want to go back to how things were, in some mythical past. We don't want change. Lots of commentary out there about this. Here's what we had to say specifically on the Sessions thing.

Welcome, Guardian!
We love when new magazines and newspapers launch. We delight when new columns appear. That's why we're stoked to see The Guardian launch a new cannabis advice column, written by vet journalist Alex Halperin.

Science! It's a thing
Scientific American magazine weighs in on how cannabis can help veterans combat PTSD. Though there have been curbs on studies that have limited the understanding of cannabis' therapeutic mechanisms, political pressure and a shift in research could soon shed light.

Headline of the week:

Mike Tyson's Marijuana Ranch Is Going To Be A Giant 'Cannabis Resort'





A few thoughts on the attorney general's announcement

States with legal cannabis employ 149,304 Americans. From October of 2016 to September of 2017, employment in the industry rose 22%

In July of 2017 Colorado announced the state had pulled in $506 million in tax revenue from the regulated sale of legal cannabis. Half a billion dollars. This money was used to educate children, pave roads, and treat the sick.

January 4, 2018. Why today does Attorney General Sessions decide to announce that he is rescinding Obama-era guidelines respecting state laws on cannabis? We can only speculate. Perhaps the motivation is to just do the opposite of what Obama did. That seems to be the answer to many of the “why” questions in the current era. Some speculate the motivation is more sinister. Why do this days after California began legal, regulated, taxes commercial sales? To open the door for attacks against perceived enemies on the west coast?

Who knows.

Representative Keith Ellison speculates that Sessions motivation is to use “the criminal justice system as an instrument of racial and economic control of poor people and brown people.” In 1986, of course, Sessions was blocked from an appointment to the judicial bench because of a series of racial insensitive comments.  Again, Trumpian speculation is often a Rorschach test revealing as much about the reader as anything else. But the reasons to suspect the worst are ample, and mounting.

The call to respect “state rights” cannot be selectively applied. Expecting consistency from President Trump is a fool’s game but it must be repeated that he himself once said that decisions about legal cannabis “should be up to the states, absolutely.” We at Higher Ground agree with that statement. This is a matter that should be up to the states, and although measures like Prop 64 in California are not perfect, it is a start. This plant heals people, creates jobs, and assists cash starved states in providing basic services citizens need.

Cannabis is not just an industry. It is a mission and it is also about social justice. Coming off our most ever successful media campaign to help Berkeley Patients Group launch its legal dispensary in California (and who fought hard to get to where they are) we stand with the pioneers like them who opened the door to where we are today. We will continue to advocate, to speak out, and to seek justice.




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Staying alive
As cannabis goes big (helllllo, California) how will legacy cultivators who curated some of today's most famous strains stay strong? Here's a look at how some plan to stay competitive. 

Positive press
It's subtle but it's there. We're seeing more positive, realistic articles written about topics like the Emerald Cup. In the past, articles were full of clichés and condescension. Nowadays it seems they're written with more substance. Is it just us noticing?

Get small
How do San Diegans that want to grow at home in small spaces cope? There's a company that will help them, all through the grow process.

Headline of the week

Can your dog be arrested for using a cannabis extract?

And we thought leash laws were harsh.