“El Paso is the first city in the country to take a stand against the traffic in marihuana, known to be the deadliest drug on the market,” reported the El Paso Morning Times on June 4, 1915.
The article proceeded to assert:
“Marihuana is known to create a lust for human blood in the users and some of the most atrocious crimes committed in the city and elsewhere have been attributed to these fiends.”
Such language was typical of the time. It’s likely the journalist who penned the El Paso Morning Times piece would have been unaware of the significance of their reporting.
Yet here, arguably – on Texan soil – is where the first seeds of prohibition were sown: at least in relation to legislation.
The article is complete with the of-it’s-age hysteria that still plagues the plant. In this instance, a gruesome murder and a “lust for human blood” is blamed not on individual responsibility, or mental health, but on the consumption of cannabis.
More notably, the piece documented a turning point in society and policy. El Paso became the first American city to individually restrict cannabis use.
Fast forward more than a century, and a lot has changed.
The United States has pioneered a global shift in attitudes toward cannabis in recent years.
This month, President Biden enacted reforms to pardon all federal cannabis possession offenses and review how cannabis is classified (it’s currently still a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act).
There’s still much to be done to repair the myriad harms of prohibition. States which have legalized recreational use have done so imperfectly (to put it nicely!). But even when not enacted thoughtfully – and with a long road ahead – we are showing the world what can be done.
Opportunity in the Texan cannabis market
Back to Texas, and in 2022, cannabis laws are essentially in flux – they say one thing, but in practice they mean another. From El Paso in 1915 to the present day – Texas has a long and complicated history with the cannabis plant. So, where are we at?
Texas is generally behind the curve with cannabis legislation. We legalized medical use in 2015 and expanded eligible conditions in 2019. We also attempted to legislate for hemp production and cultivation in 2019. There’s been a sort of de facto decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis in Texas: possession of up to one ounce is a Class C demeanor, but authorities struggle to differentiate between low THC hemp varieties and more potent cannabis strains.
In Texas, we don’t have absolute legislative certainty. What we do have is opportunity – and I’d say there’s bucket loads of it.
While we’re behind other states regarding progressive recreational legislation, the Texan market isn’t yet flooded with huge multi-state operators (MSOs) ready to pounce on customers or outprice small businesses.
Crucially, we have the chance to shape the future of this industry in Texas, on the back of watching and learning from the experiences of our neighbors.
New entrants to the market still have a shot at carving out their corner of the industry. The titans of the future haven’t all been born yet! To me, that’s exciting.
Moreover, weed businesses need weed people. Skilled ones. The Texan cannabis companies of the future and the CBD companies of today need communications professionals and specialists. For digital natives with an understanding of the plant and this industry, it’s a triple-whammy opportunity.
As Shayda Torabi explained on her excellent podcast, To Be Blunt:
“When our world is becoming more technically intertwined, and we have legalization on the horizon, the time is now to be doubling down on digital for cannabis. And not only navigating digital on an equal playing field compared to other leading industries, but actually building tools and solutions to help empower the cannabis industry.”
Cannabis content & SEO professionals
Content writers are probably the most important piece of the puzzle.
We’re only just beginning to understand the true potential of this plant and its components; the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, all of which have individual benefits and characteristics (prohibition not only impeded legal consumption but also research!)
Content writers with an understanding of cannabis can help brands educate and communicate, expand their dialogue and build relationships with their customers.
If you’re part of the cannabis culture or you’re tracking evolving industry trends, your knowledge will be invaluable to this young Texan market.
Of course, as with any industry, specialties like SEO are becoming increasingly important, especially as hemp-related search terms change. As the market expands and more vocabulary becomes available, the way we market our products – and ourselves – must also evolve.
Social media: challenge and opportunity
This moves us on to social media. Whew, it’s the Wild West out there.
Cannabis companies with social media presences are essentially walking a tightrope – one where random buckets of water are chucked over you, and the wire is frayed. The restrictions around what you can say on social (even with a totally legal cannabis business) are worthy of an entire book. But where there are challenges, there is a need for specialists.
A successful social media manager will know which platforms can best serve a brand. They will know how to ensure your account stays as protected as possible (rather than leaving you to the mercy of bots).
In cannabis, social media engineers are truly at the forefront of the market – engaging, educating, and informing communities. Managing and creating for social media is a specialist skill, regardless of industry. But in cannabis, these professionals are truly blazing (!) the trail for everyone else.
Designers, photographers, and videographers
Gone are the days where cannabis design means green weed leaves and neon. Cannabis customers aren’t consigned to a certain demographic or ‘type’. There’s so much potential here to make your mark, change the narrative and be truly creative with design.
Cannabis photographers and videographers with specialist knowledge of how to showcase the plant are in demand, as are web designers. Methods like UX Design are key to helping brands focus on the intended user, and keeping customers on web pages.
My own marketing company, Untangled Web Designs, focuses on UX Design as well as other marketing opportunities such as SEO, email marketing, social media, and more. Broadening your services to fill gaps in the market is a great place to start and then hone in on your specialties.
How to get started in the cannabis industry
So how do you get started in this industry? Where should you begin learning?
Firstly – you can’t just turn up and work in cannabis without supporting the industry.
We need change-makers, people with passion, and people who care. Cannabis is disruptive, it’s emerging, it’s all these sexy words. But it’s about more than just a ticked to-do-list, or balanced spreadsheet. Bring your skills – along with your heart, resilience, and sense of community, too.
The best advice I can give is to learn the history of this industry and stay up to date with current legislation.
NORML is an excellent resource and a great starting point. This long-standing campaign group will keep you up to date with reliable and accurate cannabis news on both national and state levels, and help you make sense of the ever-changing legal barriers.
I particularly like Norml’s newsletter – I’d recommend signing up to get the latest industry updates straight to your inbox.
Get busy on the local and state level. There are a ton of groups to network and learn from, including the Texas Hemp Coalition and the Texas Cannabis Collective. For women, the WEIC Facebook group (Women Empowered in Cannabis) founded by the inimitable Kyra Reed is a must-join.
Green Light Events run excellent in-person events mostly in the Dallas area, while the gang can be found all over the state, educating and promoting local cannabis brands. Don’t sleep on their networking events, which will guarantee you some amazing contacts
If you’re looking to learn about cannabis marketing, Shayda Torabi’s To Be Blunt Podcast (which I quoted earlier) is an excellent starting point. Shayda interviews experts nationwide, and her content is a truly invaluable resource if you’re looking to enter the game. www.theshaydatorabi.com.
I’d advise listening to it in reverse chronological order if you’re looking to quickly get up to date with the most current issues and trends.
Above all – good luck, have fun, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice.
It’s early days here in Texas, but we sure are brewing up a storm. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and I welcome anyone with questions to email me about how to get involved as an advocate or for connections regarding business consulting and marketing in the cannabis industry.