While a dispensary’s internal marketing strategies help get a brand’s messaging out, collaborating with cannabis influencers adds credibility, consumer engagement, and brand recognition.In this listicle, we’ll be featuring influencers dispensaries should be paying attention to. These are the YouTubers, the bloggers, the Instagram personalities, the Facebook feeds, and the podcast hosts who have made a mark for marijuana online, in print, on TV and beyond.
Influencers are not paid by brands to provide a “celebrity shout-out” for more sales – consumers have caught on to this Kardashian-style form of marketing and are frankly a bit tired of it. Influencer marketing is more about collaborating with industry people and platforms to get conversations going, help consumers recognize their options, and widen the reach of dispensaries to a larger audience scope.
Here are 20 cannabis influencers in the industry that enthusiasts and dispensaries alike are paying attention to. This list covers visionaries, producers, researchers, advocates, musicians, and platforms that have stepped up to keep the marijuana business thriving and the dialogue going strong.
Krishna Sai Andavolu
Vice has become a popular platform for all topics both common and controversial, and has certainly not stayed away from marijuana culture. Krishna Sai Andavolu, host of Weediquette on Viceland travels the world telling stories of all walks of life and their experiences with cannabis. His Twitter feed is a wealth of information on a global level, including legalization and the critical role of marijuana on economics, law, health, and society.
Rogan has emerged from his Fear Factor days to become an outspoken, controversial, and sometimes crass advocate for marijuana legalization. He uses his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, as well as social media channels to keep the dialogue alive regarding legalization, decriminalization, and the ways marijuana influences aspects of human health, including fitness and exercise.
He is a no-holds-barred advocate who has no problem pointing out flaws and hypocrisies in the legalization and criminal justice system.
Executive Director of Moms for Marijuana and founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, Cheryl Shumer brings high society to medical marijuana. Referred to by the New York Times as “the Cannabis Queen of Beverly Hills”, and also earning herself other monikers such as “The Martha Stewart of Marijuana” she is one of the most well-connected entrepreneurs in the business, being involved in regular TV, radio and print appearances and contributions.
Her Twitter feed is an up-to-date source of what’s happening not only in the U.S. but abroad in regards to marijuana legislation.
The acceptance and advancement of medical marijuana in California and across the nation has been greatly due to the efforts of Aaron Justis – current owner of Bud & Roses dispensary in Los Angeles. Justis has been essential in helping legislators lay the groundwork for regulation at federal and state levels. He markets himself as a marijuana advocate and pioneer and has an impressive list of businesses under his name from which he can act as an influencer.
Dietrich maximizes what’s possible with technology, social networking, and cannabis. Founder and CEO of MassRoots, an app that helps people meet and share what they’re consuming, Dietrich has done quite a bit to up the ante on spreading strain and product knowledge. His Twitter account explores the ins-and-outs of marijuana, cannabis events, and the latest in the industry while sharing helpful insights.
The talk show host we all know and love introduced his plans for a marijuana brand in 2016, revealing himself as a proud proponent of medical marijuana use, in particular for treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). His new company, Lenitiv Labs, takes a comforting, informative and therapeutic approach to the delivery of medical marijuana products. Williams' personal Instagram feed features a variety of topics and snippets of his life, places a positive spin on health treatments related to MS.
One of the founding members of WomenGrow, a members-only community of inspiring, educative and empowering women leaders, Jane West offers a brand of her own. She brings total sophistication into the market, believing that the smoking experience is essential in advancing the movement. Both her accessories shop and her personal Instagram feed reveal her to be a likable, relatable woman entrepreneur who exudes passion for her work and the cannabis business all while being a dedicated mom.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Dr. Gupta, CNN’s current Chief Medical Correspondent, has been a big part of bringing the dialogue around the medical benefits of cannabis to the mainstream with his CNN special “Weed”.He is a well respected, highly followed and reliable figure who has done a lot to soften the opinions of those who may have been previously ignorant or opposed to understanding the hype about medical marijuana.
Known mostly as a singer-songwriter and rockin’ guitar player, Melissa Etheridge has emerged as another celebrity influencer for cannabis. Since going public with her use of medical marijuana after facing cancer, Etheridge has become a vocal and unapologetic advocate for medical marijuana and has used her fame to advance the societal and cultural acceptance of marijuana use.
She is the owner of Etheridge Farms, an organic farm which announced plans to produce marijuana products last year.
Willie Nelson continues to be one of the most recognizable, and effective figures in the advancement of marijuana.Recently coming out with his own brand, Willie’s Reserve, the living legend maintains a loyal following due to his music and symbolism of Americana while remaining an unapologetic advocate and marijuana enthusiast.
Hail Mary Jane
A long-time cornerstone of the cannabis culture, Hail Mary Jane provides a thorough, yet light and informative commentary on all things cannabis-related through their Facebook page. Not only is the social media page sharing relevant and envelope-pushing articles on marijuana culture, its accompanying website is a one-stop shop for advocates, retailers, entrepreneurs and customers alike with engaging articles and how-to guides. Hail Mary Jane is not only about featuring marijuana products but also keeping up important dialogues across the country.
Wanda James, a former Navy lieutenant and political campaign manager, is the first black woman to own a cannabis dispensary in Colorado. James and her husband/business partner (who is also a cannabis-infused chef), co-own Simply Pure and advocate for changes in America's broken drug policy. She's a prominent figure in the industry and can be found propelling the culture forward online and at conferences around the country.
CEO of cannabis investment and real estate firm The ArcView Group, Troy Dayton has been recognized as one of the most influential people in the cannabis business by Forbes. He is also involved in cannabis research and advocacy through his board work with the Marijuana Policy Project and the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Ricardo Baca is known for being the first full-time marijuana editor for Denver Post's, marijuana blog The Cannabist. He has since left his position at the publication, but still remains one of the most influential figures in the industry.
Co-founder of WomenGrow, Jazmin Hupp has been regarded as a “genius entrepreneur” by Fortune and a top businesswoman in the cannabis industry by Forbes. She is widely respected across the nation for her support and work towards fostering female entrepreneurship in the business. She is currently working to launch her own products.
Ry Prichard, a Denver-based marijuana critic and co-host of “Bong Appetit” on Viceland, was once named “the biggest weed nerd in town” by Rolling Stone and is also known as the Cannabis Encyclopedia.
On top of that, he’s a contributor at The Cannabist and offers consultation services for his strain and concentrate/extract knowledge. His Instagram feed is full of beautiful photography of himself enjoying, and analyzing marijuana and serves as an important and informative portal for all things strain related.
Herzberg, owner of Bud & Bloom Dispensary in Santa Ana, CA has emerged as a media go-to in California and nationally about the legal aspects of marijuana. A long-time practicing attorney, Herzberg was critical in the events leading up to the passing of Proposition 64 and is doing more than his part to advance the dispensary business in California.
Dr. Michelle Ross
Dr. Michelle Ross is dedicated to the advancement of the medical marijuana industry, which is apparent through her approach to educating dispensaries and budtenders.
She is dedicated to always presenting the science behind cannabis and acts as an important voice in the latest discoveries in cannabis medicine. Not only does Dr. Ross provide helpful tips online, she also reviews products from the medical perspective, using insights from her neuroscience background.
Longtime activist and advocate for cannabis reform in the United States, Steve D'Angelo has become one of the most recognizable faces in industry.
He is the founder and CEO of the widely-acclaimed California cannabis dispensary, Harborside Health Center, the author of The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness, and President at The ArcView Group. He has been a vocal figure in the industry, online and on the ground for four decades.
One of the most notorious figures in cannabis culture, Tommy Chong has moved on from his Up in Smoke days to becoming a successful producer of his own brand, Chong's Choice. His online presence is full of both entertaining memes and informative articles about the cannabis industry.
Kicking Off Cannabis Industry Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is all about building relationships rather than asking these influencers to use your product or hashtag in their social media posts. It’s about finding reciprocal ways where you can promote each other’s missions, products, or angle of advocacy, and truly add to the marijuana dialogue, rather than in-your-face marketing.
Here are a few strategies that you can use to bring influencers into your dispensary and increase your reach across the industry.
Be aligned. Make sure your influencer is aligned with your target market. If your demographic is medical marijuana patients, reach out to an influencer who's well-versed in the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Investigate your market and who they find influential, and select your influencers with intention.
Be patient. You can’t expect immediate results the second you connect with an influencer about your product. It takes time to foster a relationship. Begin commenting regularly on their social media so that they notice you as well. In other words, soften up your ask by putting yourself on the radar of that influencer before jumping into any requests for business deals.
Be creative. As we mentioned, influencer marketing isn’t about hashtags and product shout-outs. Influencers can be involved in your dispensary through in-store meet-and-greets or appearances, social media chats, book signings, Instagram takeovers, guest blogging, post-sharing, participation in productions (i.e. documentary, articles, etc), or anything that you can think of to appeal both to your influencer and your target audience.
Influencer marketing is not a new tactic, but can prove to be a profitable way for dispensaries to get noticed by audiences they wouldn’t otherwise reach. Consider some of these influencers, and be on the lookout for emerging personalities and platforms around cannabis and how your dispensary can creatively partner with influencers for mutual exposure.
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