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From Ricardo's Desk: Can You Name a Mainstream Cannabis Brand?

Published on
June 10, 2021
As cannabis evolves, so does the potential for a brand to reach mainstream recognition. But not without help.|As cannabis evolves, so does the potential for a brand to reach mainstream recognition. But not without help.  |As cannabis evolves, so does the potential for a brand to reach mainstream recognition. But not without help. |

Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist and cannabis futurist, widely respected in both modern media and drug-policy circles. He was appointed The Denver Post’s first-ever cannabis editor in 2013 and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of the U.S. adult-use cannabis market and related issues around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers

Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency in 2016 to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, from cannabis and psychedelics to spirits and healthcare. In 2023, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed Ricardo to the state’s first-ever Natural Medicine Advisory Board to contribute to policy development around the state’s eventual psychedelics framework.

Named one of Fortune’s 7 Most Powerful People in America’s Marijuana Industry in 2016 and Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work. In addition to his previous journalistic coverage of drug policy, cannabis business and culture, Ricardo continues to host panel discussions at events nationwide and contribute columns for a number of top publications including Rolling Stone. He is also a sought-after thought leader in media, cultural events and podcasts, and has spoken on The Colbert Report, NPR’s All Things Considered, TEDxBoulder, TEDxMarin and multiple years at SXSW.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Denver Post, Vox, The New York Times

Super inspired by: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: The Marshall Project

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Travel. Design. Writing. Feminist. ENFP.

Friends.Let’s start this month’s column with a question: Can you name a single cannabis brand that has achieved national mainstream recognition?Note, we’re talking national mainstream recognition here—i.e., a brand that has broken through the awareness bubble of your family in the Midwest and your not-so-savvy friends on the East Coast.My answer to the above question is no, we have not—because the truth is, we’re just not there yet.That said, we are getting closer!As I discussed in my latest Rolling Stone column, “I believe our first legitimate national cannabis brand could emerge sometime in 2024—exactly 12 years after Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis. This would reinforce the normalization of cannabis and that we, as Americans, are starting to move past a misinformation campaign and 80-year-old stigma that demonized the plant. And because cannabis has been found to be potentially effective in the treatment of common issues such as anxiety, insomnia and inflammation, many American adults stand to benefit.”When this column was first published, I got called out on social media by some for being wrong—and even a hater.But if we’re being real, no plant-touching cannabis brand has fully accessed our collective national psyche. As big as some of these brands are becoming, they have a lot of room to cover before we can legitimately discuss that level of connection, especially when defining this designation in terms of cultural intuition.And that’s what is so compelling to many—myself and my colleagues, included—about the modern cannabis industry. We’re still in the first inning, and the field of play is wide open. You see some cannabis brands stealing second base, and you see others warming up and swinging for that grand slam—and some of them are striking out, while others are connecting in a big, meaningful way.And in the next few years, we will see businesses emerge in such dominating positions that their brand names end up defining entire categories—in the same way we drink Cokes and order Ubers, regardless of the actual specifics.This conversation aligns with our agency’s ethos: “We tell stories, build brands and amplify value.”Of course, there is no marketing—no brand—without a compelling story or narrative. And that’s where Grasslands excels. Our brand-building strategies apply Aristotle’s proven principles of persuasion to Public Relations, Content Marketing, Thought Leadership, Digital Advertising and more. The value that comes from this holistic approach can be measured in a multitude of ways—including a growing cultural intuition.Today, Grasslands already represents some of the most recognized brands and organizations in cannabis—including Cookies, Willie’s Reserve, the United States Cannabis Council and others—and we work tirelessly every day to position our clients in the national zeitgeist.I know a lot of you are passionate about this conversation surrounding the ever-evolving landscape of cannabis brands, and I’d love to hear your thinking on the matter—at Looking forward to the conversations ahead.—Ricardo and The Grasslands Team

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