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Marketing online in 2019? Read this.
The internet--you might've heard of it. Kidding aside, Mary Meeker of Bond Capital does an annual report on Internet trends (like marketing). We read it every year and this year we jotted down some takeaways.

Cannabis: Around forever
There's Woodstock old and 1930s prohibition old as far as cannabis usage but this might be the winner in who used cannabis first: The earliest direct evidence for human consumption of cannabis as a drug has been discovered in a 2,500-year-old cemetery in Central Asia. OK, now that's old.

Santa Barbara: The hills are aliveSanta Barbara County's famed wine region, with its giant live oaks and destination tasting rooms, and the quiet beach town of Carpinteria have become the unlikely capital of California's legal cannabis market.

Biggest 'threats' to cannabis industryAccording to a roundtable of CEOs, some of the biggest threats to our industry include the black market, regulation and public policy, and consistency and execution. Sounds about right.

Take the social justice surveyOur very own Robert O'Shaughnessy has been the chair of the NCIA's Marketing & Advertising Committee (MAC), and his term comes to a close this July. The MAC has several subcommittees, including the Social Justice subcommittee, and they've been doing amazing work. The team is developing an approach to social justice for the cannabis industry, our industry, and we need your help! Make your voice heard. Please take this quick 4-question survey. 

Headline of the weekThe Disneyland of Cannabis Stores Is Set to Open... Near Disneyland
So many jokes, so little time.





Mary Meeker of Bond Capital does an annual report on Internet trends that gets a lot of attention and I found it very interesting, and often vindicating. You will find it interesting too I think.

 It is a long (but very informative) presentation so here are some of my key take-aways:

  • Customer acquisition costs are going way up, which is concerning for many because the high costs are surpassing long-term revenue potential for many new companies. Free and unpaid opportunities, therefore, are seeing big increases in popularity. 

  • Mobile is replacing desktop in ad spend

  • The winning formula for digital spending: precise targeting + frequently updating creative + relevance + landing pages = winning

  • Adding targeted content to newsfeeds helps reach prospects

  • Everybody wants video (but podcast is exploding in growth). After many centuries, the written word is dying.  

    • Using video and imagery is how people share stories

    • More than 50 percent of Twitter impressions now involve posts with images, video or other media (Twitter used to be text-only).

  • People say they are ever more concerned about privacy, but their online choices (including active use of social media) means they actually do not care very much at all about privacy.

  • Use of remote offices, and tools like Slack and Zoom that support remote workers, surging.

  • Americans are spending more time with digital media than ever: adults spend an average 6.3 hours a day, up 7 percent from the year before. Most of that growth is coming from mobile.

 Happy to discuss in more depth if you would like to schedule a call. Get in touch!




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How big is CBD going to be?
CBD is in the spotlight, believed by many to be miraculous, and while the FDA deliberates, entrepreneurs are rushing into the CBD space. So, how high can sales climb? That's the key question facing companies in the CBD game.

Boehner is going to be loaded
Tobacco has always been the smokable plant most closely associated with Former House Speaker John Boehner. But that's changing. Boehner, now one of the nation's most prominent marijuana pitchmen, is poised to make millions from the potential sale of Acreage Holdings. Good for him, we guess?

Fighting Zuck
Nonprofit trade group Hemp Industries Association, has partnered with cannabis industry stakeholders Hoban Law Group, CBD product company Bluebird Botanicals, and farm supplier Bish Enterprises to launch Hemp is Legal campaign addressing social media platform Facebook's current policy of prohibiting hemp promotion and advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. We wish them all the luck!

I would use cannabis to ...
new survey says that one in three (34%) U.S. adults aged 21 and up is interested in using legalized cannabis. Their reason? Pain treatment and other wellness-related reasons. Also of note: A majority of those surveyed said they'd use cannabis for an ailment they're already treating through over-the-counter or prescription medication. (We read this as: possibly skip the pharmacist in the future?)

We'd buy it
Artist Richard Prince has unveiled  "vivid, faux-primitive paintings and drawings" called High Times and a line of branded joints and cannabis vape pens in packaging adorned with his art called Katz + Dogg. We love when art and our industry intersect.




Beer bites back
Oregon brewer Deschutes Brewery has released a campaign that features a Martha Stewart-like TV cannabis host that whips out a six-pack and claims that "it's the super dank refreshment when you're not toking the reefer." Funny ads. (We'll see how effective they are.)

Cannabis the new coffee?
Interesting (and pretty powerful) take: Cannabis won't become the next alcohol (you're safe beer!) but the next coffee. Here's a snippet: "The future of cannabis will be for artists. It will be for PTA presidents. It will be for the corner office. Cannabis will be for everyone when it becomes as gentle and comforting as a morning cup of coffee." 

The 'O' word
We're talking organic. As legalization drives down the prices, cannabis companies are "increasingly marketing premium products with the same kinds of language used by Whole Foods or winemakers, invoking sunny fields of plants tended by smiling famers." But will consumers buy it?

The 'Bacardi of cannabis'
Fact: Cannabis entrepreneurs hoping to succeed need to understand the power of brands. For Vertical Cos., a California-based cannabis company with some big ambitions including a plan to take its wellness unit public, it's a no-brainer: it's like every other packaged-good category. 




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Here comes Texas
Cannabis advocates were handed an unlikely victory after the Texas Senate advanced a bill greatly expanding the list of debilitating medical conditions that can legally be treated by cannabis oil in the state.

Green fashion
What's the most aesthetically pleasing way to present your stash? Where can you get a pipe that matches your coffee table? Brett Heyman, founder and creative director of luxury handbag brand Edie Parker, is here for you.

new report projects the cannabis market in the United States will reach $22.7 billion in sales by 2023. The estimates in the Brightfield Group report imply a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20 percent over the next four years. Also, attention West Coast: you soon might lose your preeminence to East Coast and Midwestern states.

Welcome to the hotel cannabis
So, where to partake with smoking in public on vacation? Sure, there are already a variety of independent 420-friendly hotels and resorts in legal states and across Canada, where people can stretch out and light up without fear of prosecution. Now, many states are making it even easier. 




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Trump GOP challenger pro cannabis
Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld (he's running against Trump) says he's staying on the board of medical cannabis company Acreage Holdings while on the campaign trail toward a long-shot effort to oust President Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Could a pro-cannabis agenda help Weld make up some ground against President Trump in a possible GOP primary? We shall see.

CBD: The long road to legalizationThis is way more than a glancing look at CBD and how its exploded in popularity in just the last few years (at least here in the U.S.). This in-depth piece looks at the history, the science, the skepticism and the opportunities. There's so much buzz around CBD these days. This piece gives a hard look at what's next.

A new way to work out
recent survey of cannabis users discovered that 81 percent of respondents use cannabis just before or after exercise. Many claim that cannabis "motivated them to work out, improved their recovery after exercise and helped them to enjoy exercise more." The report concluded with "it is possible that cannabis might actually serve as a benefit to exercise engagement."

Future trends: It's gonna get political High Times weighs in with some trends for the future. One huge trend? The 2020 election season. New Frontier Data projects that within two years, states with either adult-use or medical programs will number 40 or more, while public support for cannabis legalization keeps growing in the United States.

State of green
A bill that could eventually allow Oregon to import and export cannabis across state lines, and give the state's cannabis industry a head start when national laws change in the future, passed a vote in the Oregon this week.  It will now move on to the House floor.




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Old places and new cannabis spaces
We love to read stories where commercial real estate and cannabis intersect. This piece starts with a bang, too: "If you would have told me when I started in the real estate capital markets industry that I would be financing a cannabis building, I would have asked you what you were smoking." There's more: After the author closed his first cannabis deal it led him to dozens of other loan and joint-venture equity requests in both the cannabis and hemp spaces.

Read books, get smart
There's no reason not to read books. Free from the library or easy to download, get reading! Here are five solid reads to bulk up your cannabis book collection.

Goodbye Xanax my old friend
new study has found that many patients stopped using benzodiazepine after receiving medical cannabis. The findings have been published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. Many patients also reported decreased daily distress due to medical conditions after being prescribed cannabis.

China gets in the game
Two of China's 34 regions are quietly leading a boom in cultivating cannabis to produce CBD, the "nonintoxicating compound that has become a consumer health and beauty craze in the United States and beyond." For export only, we presume.

Too much of a good thing
You've probably heard that Oregon and Washington have an overabundance of cannabis - enough to last until 2025. That's not great. The cause: laws that weren't ready for the onslaught of growers and probably federal laws that prohibit sales across state lines. Something has to give.




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Jesus is just alright with green
So says one Christian minister. In fact, there's a new website, Christian Cannabis, that sells religiously themed vape pens and CBD balm and caters to devout Christians who love cannabis as much as he does.

Oreo producing cannabis edibles? 
Is it game on or game over? Because if it's true, Oreo just won the game. Mondelez, maker of Oreos, Chips Ahoy cookies and Maynard candies, say they're preparing to start making marijuana edibles. Hold on. 1. They'll be CBD based. 2. They won't commit to anything until the FDA weighs in. Hey, it's a start.

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Cannabis jobs might be at an all-time high, according to a new report. Yes, jobs in the cannabis industry "primarily consist of low-paying agricultural and retail work, but demand for high-paying positions like chemists, software engineers, and nurses have increased."

7 key stats about the legal use of cannabis
We love these kinds of articles. This one looks at 7 statistics entrepreneurs need to know about legal cannabis and CBD. One stat that caught our eye: Age groups are diversifying. Yep. Baby Boomers are one of the fastest growing segments, increasing by 25 percent over the past year.



Netflix nails it, post-420 news, new study: people don't like the smell of smoke

Cannabis samples turning to green?
Things that make us go, hmmmm. In Oregon, thousands of stem cannabis samples were contributed by local growers allowing Phylos Bioscience to "map the genome of cannabis plants, each plant a star in a constellation of weed strains." Then last week Phylos Bioscience announced it was launching its own breeding program. Now these same growers are not very ... stoked.

Netflix releases legit doc
Netflix has been criticized for some of its previous cannabis content (that one sitcom about the dispensary? Woof) but really delivers with the Grass Is Greener. The documentary, directed by Fab 5 Freddy (!!), looks at the history of weed in music and how communities of color have been impacted by racist drug policies. Watch it.

Marketers get clever for 420
Happy post-420! How'd you celebrate? Have fun? Marketers sure did. And we love it. For instance, Lyft offered a $4.20 credit (get it?!) on a single ride in Colorado and in select cities in the U.S. and Canada. Carl's Jr. launched a hamburger infused with CBD. And let's not forget all of the wink-wink tweets from brands. And hey, we did something too! Go here and learn how you can nab a free beanie from us!

Welcome to first-world problems
Just over half of Americans think the smell of weed in public has become a problem, and nearly a quarter of the country say they sincerely "hate" the stench while they're out, according to a major new surveyconducted by PSB Research, Civilized, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, and BuzzFeed News. Seriously?



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


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?


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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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.)





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."