As the "Green Rush" evolves and cannabis entrepreneurship enters the mainstream, the cannabis sphere is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Money is now pouring into the burgeoning industry and cannabis businesses are investing even more in public relations to burnish their image and get their brands noticed.
One of the drivers of the boom in cannabis PR agencies has been the high number of activists entering the industry. This was the trajectory of Evan Nison, the owner of the cannabis PR firm Nison & Co. and a board member for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
For people like Nison—who memorably questioned Hillary Clinton on Good Morning America regarding her stance on legalization—the growth of the industry itself has led to a sophistication in his both his clientele and those who report on and read about cannabis news.
“The industry is maturing, for sure,” Nison told MERRY JANE. “A lot of our clients now are larger and have more capital, whereas a few years ago there were more startups. And the questions that we’re getting from reporters that are coming from the mainstream media come from a much more educated place; we’re no longer educating them on the basics of cannabis and why legalization makes sense.”
Increased sophistication of the industry leads to substantially increased sales and revenues: Colorado, for example, raked in $270 million in only the first quarter of 2016. According to a recent analysis from the Tax Foundation, a nationwide policy of legalization could result in $28 billion in tax revenues.
The skyrocketing figures signal that cannabis businesses are only going to proliferate. From there, with the market becoming more specialized, leading PR firms like Nison’s will likely need to tailor their messages to local audiences.
“I see it maturing to a more local level,” he says. “As more states legalize marijuana, there’s going to be more need for local press for things like dispensary openings and local license applications and those sorts of things. Like for instance in Colorado, obviously, there’s more local reporting going on, so I think eventually there will be more local cannabis PR offices.”
Yet the ever-increasing sales figures do not necessarily indicate that the cannabis industry, and its public relations sphere, will be a slave to the dollar. An industry disproportionately comprised of former activists will always have some watchful eyes on its overall trajectory. Current and former activists like Nison thus play an outsized role in helping ensure businesses and journalists are acting in the industry’s best interests.
“We’ve given advice to our clients that they should be doing things like recycling programs, public education campaigns, and increasing diversity," says Nison. “These are all things that are good for the industry, good for public policy, good for society, and good for you as an individual company. We’re in this together.”
With the cannabis sphere becoming increasingly sophisticated and catering to individual interests, the industry has a limitless number of possibilities in the years ahead. And that’s a PR makeover that’s hard to beat.