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How Many More Crises Will It Take For The Cannabis Industry To Realize That It Has An Irrational Structure To Run An Effective Public Affairs Campaign?

I need to revise something I wrote in an article that CBE published on August 7, 2019: “The Cannabis Industry Needs to Rethink the Entire Approach to its Lobbying and Public Affairs Efforts.  Now.”  The first point I asserted was: “If the cannabis industry was a business, the CEO and the Board would fire whoever is responsible for its lobbying and public affairs campaign.”  My revision is simple: they would be fired for cause!

The article cited above listed specific ideas and action steps to strengthen the industry’s public affairs and lobbying efforts.  But the main gist was that there are too many industry associations, competing for the same membership support of activity and money, waging their own lobbying efforts, incurring major cost redundancies and building their own media contacts, diluting their voice in the process.  And all this inefficiency is motivated by pursuit of the same goals. 

One consequence of this structural insanity is that there is no single organization that can step up when needed to define, articulate and promote the industry’s point of view. This means we find ourselves in a situation where we either have confused messaging, contradictory messaging, or no messaging at all.  The void is filled by others who usually have less than a pro-cannabis industry bias. Day-to-day, the situation isn’t very visible and therefore easy to tolerate.  It’s when a crisis arises that the inanity of what we have done to/for our industry becomes clear.  And the industry has a crisis right now over the issues of vaping and purity of product (among others that are not yet peaking so strongly).

Most of the news about vaping focuses on teens and e-cigarettes.  But the cannabis industry is also finding itself under the spotlight, and at a minimum will suffer collateral damage.  If ever there was a time for the industry to speak in one strong voice, this is that time.  We should be articulating a limited number of key messages that have been strategically crafted so that they are intuitively understandable.  Instead, at least three different associations have issued press releases.  Each of them asserts different action steps that they urge should be taken.  Raise your hand if you think that is a more effective approach than having a single organization issue a strong action-oriented statement early in the process in an effort to define the issue and advance the industry’s overall messaging.  

We’re in the cannabis business, so we’re hip.  Right? Well, when it comes to understanding how to use technology to communicate effectively, we’re far from hip. We’re virtually technological Neanderthals.  There is no web site that the consumer knows to visit when they have questions about cannabis issues.  That means they will go to google to find out where to visit.  Maybe they’ll do a search on the phrase: “facts about vaping cannabis.” They’ll see no cannabis industry association cited on the first page of their search results.  Maybe they’ll try: “is vaping cannabis safe?”  No listing for an industry organization for that search either. How hip is that?

In the meantime, all the stories translate into increased interest. There’s lemonade to be made.  We can leverage that interest to attract people to a consumer-friendly industry site that offers all sorts of reasons why they should become part of our organization.  Once at our site, we can promote a few key messages, explain our proposed legislative agenda, and coalesce our visitors into a community we can access with credibility and mobilize for specific purposes on occasion.  Your eighth grade niece would do that as a simple first step in waging an online communications campaign — the main battlefield.

The sad truth is that there is no strong and credible voice for the industry because this industry has failed to realize that there is strength in unity — and weakness in uncoordinated and redundant efforts and expenses.  When is the industry going to realize this?

Do you think this is the last PR crisis the cannabis industry will face?

Do you think the next one will be easier?

Call your peers.  Assemble a summit.

Fix this industry problem.

Do it before it is too late.


Editor’s Note: Two national and at least 1 state association have put out press releases over the last 24-48 hours addressing the “Vape Lung” issue all after CBE contributor Mike Luce of High Yield Insights posted “Reacting to Vape Lung” yesterday morning at 10 AM EST. (See below)

9/10/19 3:30 PM EST

California Cannabis Industry Association

9/11/19 12:40 PM EST

National Cannabis Industry Association Calls on Congress to Regulate Cannabis in Response to Reports of Vaping-Related Illnesses

9/11/19 1:33 PM EST

Cannabis Trade Federation Statement Regarding Reports of an Outbreak of Pulmonary-related Illnesses Associated With the Use of Vaporization Products

As well as President Trump announcing plans to ban of flavored e-cigarettes….

9/11/19 1:28 PM EST

Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes



Doug PoretzDoug Poretz

Doug Poretz

Doug Poretz is a writer and independent public relations consultant, based in the Washington, DC area.  He attempted retirement after a 50-year career of starting, building and selling public relations and communications firms, including one that grew to more than 100 people and was for a time the largest independent PR firm in the region. But retirement didnt work for him, and he initiated an effort to create a national agency for the cannabis business. He decided that such an opportunity wouldnt be viable for his plan unless and until taxes and other issues were fundamentally changed.  Although he left the cannabis industry as a business opportunity, he stayed intrigued by the industry, and when he discovered the Zenabis story he wanted to know more. His interest resulted in this article.
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