Author – Christina Ketchum
Edited by Noah Persin & Jon Russell
November 3rd, 1998 was when Oregon passed its Medical Marijuana Bill approving the possession of 6 mature plants, 18 seedlings and 24 ounces to anyone with a signed recommendation from their physician stating that cannabis could “mitigate” any debilitating symptoms. Between 1998 and 2016 the market value, number of patients and perceived value of cannabis has not only changed drastically but has come out from the shadows of social taboo. Over the past year, we’ve seen much of this rapid change. Below we discuss 4 lessons from Oregon’s Medical Marijuana market there were some of the most pivotal transitions this market turned industry has gone through.
1. Packaging Matters
Prior to the recreational market opening up to OHA back in 2015, we saw edible products being produced in small batches in someone’s (hopefully) clean kitchen, arriving at the dispensaries hand wrapped in cellophane with a hand written or printer printed label. Extracts available were folded into parchment paper and, if you were lucky, had strain and/or potency information written on the parchment. Beginning January 2016 we saw a huge shift in companies taking priority in more professional packaging. Part of this shift was due to an increase in regulation and legislation. However, a larger factor for this progress was due to an increase in recreational customers who were completely new to the products on the shelf.
When faced with new products, consumers have been shown to choose a product that has the most professional looking and attractive packaging and branding. This pushed manufacturer’s to take a look at what their packaging, or lack thereof was communicating to the end customer.
2. Branding Matters
The once tried and true word-of-mouth method for a good brand name used in OHA’s smaller medical market did not, and could not hold up to the larger, more ravenous recreational market. All at once the market was forced to address a new breed of consumer; one that had little to no history with cannabis or its derived products. Brand strategy has become a necessity in an increasingly competitive market, where market forces such as seasonal shifts, demographic changes and product fads have now come into play more than ever. Branding is a part of any company’s success or failure. Branding communicates identity and value while setting the stage for customer recognition and loyalty. This is a crucial consideration for any company starting out in a new industry.
3. It’s not all about price per THC mg
When the legal recreational use of cannabis opened up, we found a huge difference in the potency needs and desires of consumers. Medical patients can be on a regime of taking anywhere between 1 gram to 5 grams a day or more depending on the medical condition being treated. The group Oregon’s Responsible Edibles Council released a “Try 5” campaign (Try5 refers to 5 milligrams of THC. To keep this in perspective there are 1000 milligrams in a gram) aimed at those new users who have little to no knowledge of their personal THC tolerance. Although you can not overdose on cannabis, over-consumption can undoubtedly be an unpleasant experience and make for a few uncomfortable hours.
The legal recreational market brought another type of customer – the connoisseur, complete with monocle and top hat in hand. A smaller niche market, these customers are not new to cannabis. They likely have a high tolerance and are seeking a “cannabis lifestyle” experience. Edibles made with fair trade chocolate may be more important to them then the cheaper high-fructose corn syrup hard candies.
Quality over quantity is their motto. After all, this is considered medicine and you can bet they’ve done their research. Come to find out, it’s more about the entourage effect than a skyrocketing amount of THC and they’ll be the first to tell you all about it.
4. Professionalism Matters
The professionalism that has evolved in such a short amount of time is incredibly encouraging. We’re all familiar with the stoner archetype, and I feel as though I can confidently speak for most in the industry when I say we find it comical at very best. We’ve seen fewer and fewer growers coming into dispensaries with dirty nails and the smell of fish fertilizer on their clothes. Bud tenders are interested in cannabis education and involvement in the community. Dispensaries are brighter, cleaner and inviting. As a whole, the cannabis movement is growing towards an industry with higher standards than one would expect, but we have more than stigma working against us. The unprepared, disorganized and unkempt will be increasingly pushed out.
(If you’re passionate about cannabis but need some guidance on some professional basics, check out GreenSea’s article, “5 Ways to Prepare for Your First Cannabis Meeting” here.)
In conclusion, the Oregon cannabis industry is rapidly growing. GreenSea has found the need for professionalism in presence, branding, packaging and marketing is crucial for a successful business venture. GreenSea offers everything from web design to marketing, branding and compliance consulting to keep you professional and compliant from the start.