Editor’s Note: “Black and Khaki” is a column written by Enlighten Chairman Jeremy Jacobs. It’s name is derived from what has been dubbed as Jeremy’s “uniform” — a khaki hat, black shirt, khaki pants. Jeremy wears this combination daily and we felt it was only right to name his column after his signature style.

By Jeremy Jacobs 

My mother told me for years, “Jeremy, you aren’t going to amount to anything if you keep smoking weed.”  Well, Mom, look at me now. And it’s not just me. An entire generation of pioneers in the cannabis industry can tell you a similar story.  It’s indescribable how it feels to finally see a shift in thinking on cannabis. I consider the recent dramatic spike in interest by major brands in the cannabis industry a real sign that we have almost reached the finish line.

Enlighten recently conducted a study to find out which companies were willing to risk going out there and tipping their hat to the cannabis consumer. Our research uncovered over 200 brands that fit this bill.   Earlier this year we saw an enormous number of brands give shout outs to cannabis on 4/20. Spotify ran an ad on Twitter saying “We heard these two things go really well together….420” tying together the love of marijuana and music.  Or Denny’s with their clever wordplay ad citing “Some of our favorite words: baked, cooked, fried, stewed, toasted” The 4/20 shout outs in 2018 were off the charts, but a lot of brands are finding they no longer need to wait until 4/20.

Adolphus Busch V of Anheuser- Busch, recently announced the launch of his own line of disposable vape pens, an endeavor that is being funded by him and his father.   There is no question that they are going to take that same power of branding and marketing that made Anheuser-Busch a success and leverage it into the cannabis industry.  Things like this are proof that this is not something that is going to slow down. Many alcohol companies are already in the planning stages of creating non-alcoholic cannabis infused drinks, which will quickly start to compete with the likes of Dixie Elixirs and Keef Cola.  The interest level is high right now and the cannabis space is growing by double digit compounded annual growth rates rivaled quite literally only by the adoption of the internet

From the perspective of non-endemic advertisers such as Taco Bell or Doritos it’s only smart business to see the logical connections people’s brains make to their products and cannabis.  What we’ve seen over the course of the past year is the level of interest has continued to progress. One of the first companies I personally recall seeing take this leap was Totino’s with an ad they ran for their pizza rolls.  They had an absolutely genius ad showing their pizza rolls and saying “Better when baked”. I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten Totino’s pizza rolls from the microwave, but I would agree with both interpretations of that sentiment.  They are definitely better when baked in all respects. I laughed about that ad and remember thinking how motivating it was to see a brand have the nerve to go there. Since that time, I’ve continued to see this more and more and it’s been really exciting to watch.

In addition to advertising, brands are going to also start creating partnerships within cannabis industry.  One really cool partnership that’s already happened was Jack in the Box partnering with Snoop Dogg’s company, Merri Jane to create the Merri Jane Munchie Meal.  It made perfect sense! I fully anticipate that before long you will see potato chip companies putting coupons inside of vape pen cartridges saying “Here, you will need this in 30 minutes, trust us”  The partnership opportunities between cannabis and mainstream brands are endless and, rest assured, they are going to happen.

I believe this shift has built momentum for a few reasons.  First, the average ticket value for a cannabis customer is close to $45 which is a lot of discretionary income to sling around every couple of weeks.  It may not sound like much but when you multiply that by 55 million cannabis consumers, you will quickly realize that it is. The cannabis industry continues to grow and the money to be made and audience to be targeted is unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time.

Another reason the interest has picked up is that the stigma around cannabis has slowly started to die.  Statics show that nearly 85% of the American population support the use of medical cannabis. And that number is rapidly rising.  Previously, brands were very skeptical and cautious, worried about this other demographic of people who may see an ad associating their brand with cannabis and create negative images of the brand with consumers that did not approve.  But now with an ever diminishing disapproval rate, many companies frankly no longer give a damn.

The final, and what I feel to be the most significant reason we are seeing this shift is because brands are starting to learn who the cannabis consumer is.  Cannabis consumers have been through such a long and difficult fight. Many of them have been at it for the better part of their lives. If you reflect back to the Civil Rights Movement, it was not won because there was some great economic benefit, it was won because it was made up of a group of people that truly cared about the cause.  And that’s precisely what you have at the root of the fight for cannabis. All other benefits of legalization aside, the people fighting this fight care so deeply about this cause, and brands are becoming more aware of that and why it benefits them to join us. And cannabis consumers are loyal to those that are willing to join forces and help us fight this social and political war.  When a brand decides to take that leap I can assure you that when a cannabis consumer is in the store and they see that brand they will say “These guys are on my team, I want to buy and support this product because these guys fought with me.”

To say it’s been an interesting and exciting year for cannabis is an understatement.  There is no doubt in my mind that one day in the near future that excitement I felt when I saw that Totino’s Pizza Roll ad will seem minuscule when I turn on my television see cannabis related ads during prime time televisions shows or even the Super bowl.  We are getting there. It’s been a long, hard fight, but it’s been worth it. And I for one, have high hopes for the future. Pun intended.