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We're four on 4/20 and we'd like to give you a gift!

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As 4/20 comes at us again, Higher Ground Agency would like to take the time to reflect on a few things.

Firstly, 4/20 is also our anniversary as an agency. Four years ago, on 4/20/15 we opened our doors to a new industry and a new era. What's happened in those four years?

Plenty.

Here's a brief look of what we've seen and what we've learned:

  • The industry's growth is occurring at a break-neck speed, with states increasingly legalizing cannabis.

  • No two states, cities or even counties are the same. Each have their own laws and regs. It's complicated.

  • Many states aren't ready, as elections from the past four years showed us. But many are.

  • Cannabis companies need great branding. The days of using the "next door neighbor's cousin that's a designer" are over. No more DIY. (We can help with that...)

  • Some states (we're looking at you Oregon) have too much product and aren't sure what to do with it.

  • California is battling with the black market, which is doing very well.

  • Some states, like New York, haven't legalized cannabis. (A recent trip to Brooklyn streets revealed that it doesn't matter if it's legal.)

As an agency, we've seen and made some of our own moves. 

Our co-founder Robert O'Shaughnessy is Vice-Chair of NCIA's Marketing & Advertising Committee. He was scheduled to teach a course on cannabis marketing at a major California university, only to have it cancelled at the last minute by their head of legal. (The fear of talking about this billion dollar industry remains quite pervasive, even in California.)

Carol Ruiz, our other co-founder, was featured in Civilized on how she's helping to fight the stigma of cannabis use.

As we head into 4/20 and continue to build our client base, we'd like to celebrate our success with you!

Email us your name, your snail mail, and a quick note on what you think the big cannabis trend will be in 2019. In return, we'll run your answer in an upcoming post-and we'll send you a cool Higher Ground beanie. Sound good?

Happy 4/20 from all of us at Higher Ground Agency!

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 4/12/19

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Not your parent's CFO 
Chief financial officer usually means poring over balance sheets and bank statements. In cannabis? It might be "transporting loads of cash under the watchful eye of big guys carrying lots of guns." Here's a good piece on some of the issues facing the industry surrounding banking.

What's in store for 2019?
Everyone has predictions about the cannabis industry but Seeking Alpha has legit ones. They've got the big three for 2019 and one of them is a real doozy: They believe the U.S. will likely outperform Canada mostly due "to the different regulations and business environment in the two countries." Read the other two here.

One milllllllllion pounds
Oregon is producing more weed than it can sell. Now Oregonians are sitting on more than 1 million pounds of unsold product. This also "implies the solution is simply to produce less cannabis. By producing less cannabis, farmers run the risk of losing their livelihoods." Oy.

CBD Jelly Bellys are (kind of) a thing
After a complex, two-year development process, the creators of the famous Jelly Belly have created a CBD jelly bean. To sell the product, they started a whole new company called Spectrum Confections. What would Ronnie think? (If you don't know what this means, ask your parents.)

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 4/5/19

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Our (sad) cannabis history
From the nineteenth century to the twenty-first, cannabis legislation in America and racism have been inextricably linked. In Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America, a new nonfiction graphic novel, author/illustrator Box Brown sets his sights on a timely topic. We dig history and this digs deep, with cool illustrations.

SF's new cannabis director
Former San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Marisa Rodriguez has been named San Francisco's new director of the Office of Cannabis. As cannabis director, "she'll oversee the permitting process for businesses along each step of the pot trade - from cultivation to distribution to retail sales." If someone had told us just a mere few years ago that SF hired a cannabis director...

Vape recycling or lack of
Vapes aren't going anywhere soon. They're popular, they're clean, and people love them. But are they sustainable? There's not a lot of clarity surrounding recycling them and it's "further complicated by the fact that the regulatory situation varies state by state, and regulations are changing quickly." What's to be done?

Building retail empires, one store at a time
And also very slowly and not being helped by "continued federal prohibition and complicated state and local regulatory schemes present considerable obstacles for setting up one store, much less operating a hundred dispensaries across several states or a geographic region."

Banking bill gets legs
Is it just us? Last week's news about a bill that would allow banks to provide services to cannabis companies in states where it is legal, barely made a blip. The bill would "provide sought-after clarity to banks across the country that want to do business with the growing industry, where companies have struggled to gain access to the financial system."

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 3/29/19

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How Vegas chefs unwind with cannabis
The restaurant business is grueling. Whether you're the dishwasher, wait staff or chef, the stress the job brings is immense. This piece looks at how famous Vegas chefs deal (and get creative) using cannabis.

Seth Rogen launches cannabis companyFile this one under, "what took him so long?", or "we thought he already had a cannabis company." Regardless, yes, Seth Rogen (with partner Evan Goldberg) is launching Houseplant, a recreational Canadian cannabis company in collaboration with Ontario-based grower Canopy Growth.

Does cannabis make you more creative?It all depends on so many factors. Take a puff, then create great art or watch Season 2 of The Office (for the millionth time)? This piece dips into different research, how the brain works, and ends by suggesting strains that offer an energetic boost and euphoria.

Something in your soup
A NY Times food critic visited a legendary restaurant and, in what is probably the most famous bad review of all time, compared the mushroom bouillon to dirty bong water. So when another food critic from the SF Chronicle recently visited chef Keller's legendary French Laundry, and was served the mushroom bouillon, there was only one response.

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 3/22/19

Our co-founder Robert O’Shaughnessy moderates the branding sesh at  California Cannabis Industry Association ’s Annual Policy Conference with some great folks including  Kiva Confections , Therapy Tonics & Provisions, Flav,  The Arcview Group , SIVA Enterprises, and Zuber Lawler.

Our co-founder Robert O’Shaughnessy moderates the branding sesh at California Cannabis Industry Association’s Annual Policy Conference with some great folks including Kiva Confections, Therapy Tonics & Provisions, Flav, The Arcview Group, SIVA Enterprises, and Zuber Lawler.

CVS? Meet CBD
CVS has started selling products with a derivative of marijuana (their words, not ours). U.S. cannabis retailer Curaleaf Holdings Inc. says that CVS will carry its line of CBD products. CVS also said in an "emailed statement that it has already started to sell CBD products in eight states as of last week, including creams, sprays, roll-ons, lotions and salves."

Cannabis...chew?
The old saying, "Where there's a will, there's a relative," might even apply to cannabis. As in, where there's a product, there's cannabis to be added to it. In this case, chew. Chomp on this interview with the co-founder of Cannadips, "and how it may be a better consumption method than vapes and edibles."

Six women leading cannabis reform
We're lagging on celebrating Women's History Month, so to make up for it here's a solid post on several women politicians who have taken up the task of reforming federal cannabis law and helping drive cannabis reform efforts.

CCIA 2019 4th Annual Policy Conference
We just got back from the California Cannabis Industry Association's 4th Annual Policy Conference in Sacramento. We moderated one of the sessions, "Branding-The Experts Weigh in on What You Need to Know." Insightful, engaging, and some great questions from the audience on how to position their brand, legally. Shout out to the CCIA crew for the time and sweat it takes to pull off such a detailed and informative day. We are honored to be included.

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 3/15/19

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The black market thrives
And here's another downside that isn't talked about too much: "There's simply no way to know what you're buying if it's not coming from a reputable seller, leading to numerous health and safety risks for consumers who are purchasing untested, unregulated cannabis." Yep.

Investing? Know this
Many folks are jumping on the cannabis investing bandwagon. Rightly so. This piece looks at solid tips you should consider. Like, maybe invest in Canada, do your research and invest in real companies (you'll find this out from doing your research).

Cannabis at SF events?
The good news is yes, (well, legally) and probably through permitting with regs that could lead to smoking - and selling- cannabis at San Francisco events. The bad news? It's probably not going to be on the books until after 4/20.

Grower profiles
We can't get enough of interviews with growers and cultivators. This series looks at what challenges growers face, techniques, and legal advice. This Q&Alooks at a sungrown cultivator.

Headline of the week
This Is The Best Way To Store Marijuana For The Apocalypse, According To Science
Attention preppers: Here's how.

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 3/8/19

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Cannabis at college
A growing number of colleges are adding cannabis to their curriculum to prepare graduates for careers cultivating, researching, analyzing and marketing the herb. Higher education indeed.

Hot cannabis products in 2019
 
No huge surprises here. Based on sales, vapes, gummies, CBD tinctures, chocolate, and gummies are hot. In other words, people are "moving away from flower and towards cleaner, more convenient, non-smokable forms of ingestion."

Dirty talk
It's good to see cultivators choosing to go beyond premixed fertilizers and bagged dirt. Some are increasingly moving toward an alternative way to grow healthier plants and save money: living soil. (In other words, planting material that centers on compost with active microbiology and biodiversity, like worms and their castings, protozoa, healthy bacteria, amoebas, kelp extracts, and even glacial rock dust.) 

Is it 2021 yet?
The 2020 presidential campaigns "are very much in their infancy, but one clear winner already is marijuana legalization, which has received wide support from the Democratic candidates." But will "support" translate into "legalization?" Time will tell. 

Team cannabis
The NFL might make "major concessions" regarding its substance abuse policy in the next collective bargaining session with players. There's chatter that the "complete removal of all cannabis use restrictions could be possible." 

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 3/1/19

Go yeast
Scientists have developed a strain of yeast that can be used to brew cannabis extract rather than beer. The scientists say "the process is considerably cheaper, safer and more environmentally friendly than extracting the compounds from marijuana plants." Go science.

Special delivery 
We love entrepreneurs. And in our industry there are many. This piece looks at how one entrepreneur used his knowledge of food delivery to build a cannabis delivery service. It seems so easy, right? (It wasn't). Inspiring piece. Read it.

Tech for the win (again)
This piece comes out swinging: "Technological advances are revolutionizing every sector of the marijuana industry, transforming a market that largely is seen as an agricultural industry." True, true. The list is long and it includes one of our favorite technologies: lighting.

Learning from craft breweries
This interview with a brewery vet looks at the similarities between the two industries and what we can learn from the craft beer folks. Like? Will buyers want cheap mass-produced product over local, craft product? Will smaller, beloved companies sell out to the highest bidder? Will companies care more about making big bucks than making a great product? 

More on that MedMen movie
In last week's Curator, we mentioned Spike Jonez' new film about cannabis he's creating for MedMen. Here's an interview with fellow collaborator Jesse Williams in MedMen's own branded (and completely rad) magazine, Ember. 

Martha, Martha, Martha
Martha Stewart is partnering with Canopy Growth to "develop a line of CBD products." Things are happening fast in 2019, right? 

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 2/22/19

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5 ways you might go extinct
No, not you, your cannabis company. Now that the industry is somewhat starting to shake out, it's not good enough to be a cannabis company with a business plan. Are you compliant with current regs? Have enough capital? Here are five ways you can go extinct.

Beauty and the green 
This piece looks at beauty products  with CBD making their way onto shelves in major retailers. It's more than a trend. The beauty industry could boost the overall CBD market to potentially be worth $50 billion to $100 billion.

Old mills, new life
Once, long ago, Massachusetts was filled with thriving textile and paper mills that were then abandoned by the middle of last century. Now, some are being retrofitted for condos, breweries and yep, now cannabis companies.

Combating the black market in California
California has announced an expansion of efforts by the California National Guard to work with federal officials to target the cannabis black market, including unlicensed cultivators in Northern California operated by international drug cartels.

File under, cool
Spike Jonze (videos by Weezer, the Beastie Boys, Fatboy Slim and too many films to mention) has been tapped by the upscale cannabis producer and retailerMedMen to direct a short film on cannabis history. We'll be first in line. 

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 2/15/19

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Big step in cannabis banking?
A House committee hearing on Wednesday urged lawmakers to pass a proposal that would allow cannabis businesses "to access loans, lines of credit and other banking services, while sheltering financial institutions from prosecution for handling pot money." It's a big win for our industry. Why? The proposal made it in front of the hearing committee. That's a huge step and one we hope will eventually lead to increased open banking.

New deals with Canada
Despite the legal hassles to partner with our northern neighbors, two major Bay Area cannabis companies announced this week to join "forces with Canadian partners to build and expand their brands here at home." Oakland's Harborside and San Francisco's Apothecarium announced deals with Canadian investors. Open up the flood gates? Read more here.

Big pharma vs. reality?
Person 1: The legal cannabis industry is nothing but drug pushers! We need more research on how harmful cannabis is!

Person 2: We could change the laws or support new funding then to see?

Person 1: Nope. 

So much stigma, and identifying who the real pushers are. Read it all here.

Luxury cannabis
Like, really luxe. Barneys New York announced it will become the first major retailer to open a luxury cannabis lifestyle and wellness concept shop called "The High End." It's in Beverly Hills, natch. They plan to sell accessories and lifestyle products including vaporizer pens and pastilles and CBD products.

Netflix: Their reality vs. your realityWhat does Netflix have to do with cannabis? Plenty, if you get our drift. How many hours and nights have you spent scrolling Netflix in search of something to watch but settling on The Office (again)? This handy chart from Civilized spells out the Netflix experience brilliantly. Sure we still love Netflix but these really nail it. Our favorite:
Expectation: Easily browse between the genres you love.
Reality: Four movies listed across eight genres.
Heh. 

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CANNABUSINESS CURATOR: 2/8/19

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Who will be the big winners?
When, not if, cannabis and products with THC become legal across the country by the Feds, what companies will be on top? According to this piece, it's up in the air but the Canadians are primed to rock and or roll. Big U.S. brands have certainly established themselves but it "leaves a big hole for Canadian operators." And, speaking of Canada, we've been hearing increased chatter on legit Canadian businesses being banned from the U.S. Wow. 

Flower vs. extract
You've got flower people and extraction people. Each like the way their choice of partaking performs, tastes, or acts. But there are factors looming on the market: extract is on the rise while flowers might be shrinking. Here are six reasons why.

California's market, one year later
We had the chance to attend Arcview's International Investor's Forum earlier this week in LA by supporting our client, CanIDeal, and getting to know them better. We also walked away with some super insightful knowledge from the sessions. In fact, we wrote a post on where California is in the industry one year after legalization. Read it here.

Come meet us in Boston!
We're at the Seed to Sale show in Boston next week. We'll be walking the showroom floor, meeting new people, and hopefully meeting YOU. Want to grab a beverage and talk marketing or just hang out? Get in touch!

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California’s cannabis market, one year later

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At Arcview’s International Investor Forum in L.A. this week, we learned so much, supported our client CanIDeal and had a great time getting to know their fun and capable team, and even got the chance to sit in on some fantastic panels as well.

We were struck by one panel In particular, “The California Market: One Year Later,” moderated by the California Cannabis Industry Association’s Executive Director, Lindsay Robinson. Here are some of my quick takeaways from the session, with the key theme of challenges ahead.

It was a challenging first year and the first year that profits fell. Lack of enforcement, high taxes, choke points on the licensing structure, and compliance in distribution will also continue to be factors. Expect new regulations in 2019 which can mean new challenges for those not immersed in the regulatory environment.

Illegal businesses are also causing layoffs with businesses that are playing by the rules and care about compliance, law enforcement and cannabis control are lacking funding, while testing product continues to be confronted by changing testing methodologies and finding labs that give the best results. This is compounded by the fact that ISO-accreditation will soon kick in, requiring a 3rd party to confirm labs have operations that are up to par with requirements.

 However, it’s not all gloom and doom, in fact, these challenges are pretty typical for any new industry (well, new in the legal sense).

 The big takeaway of the session for us? The strong will survive. Onward in 2019!

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