Money & Business

Seeing Green: Marijuana Shops Try Making Black Friday Their Own

By / Nov 25, 2014 The Grass Station, which is holding a Black Friday-style door-buster sale at its Denver location. (Facebook photo)

Colorado’s legal marijuana industry may still be in its infancy and facing tough marketing restrictions, but that hasn’t stopped retailers from employing ambitious tactics to get customers in the door, especially as the holiday buying season approaches.

Of all the industries placing bets on a successful holiday season, it might be the budding marijuana industry in Colorado that proves the most fascinating to watch.

The industry is looking closely at Black Friday for an opportunity to raise its profile—and its sales. Bloomberg reports that a few marijuana sellers have even taken to calling the retail holiday “Green Friday.”

“We have really high expectations,” Grass Station owner Ryan Fox told Bloomberg. “Now we’ve got the legal means for people to give marijuana as a gift, and that’s never really been something that was feasible in the past.”

Among the efforts the industry is using to market itself this holiday season:

One Denver dispensary is holding a marijuana “door buster” on Black Friday, selling an ounce of weed for $50—about a fifth of the normal price, the Associated Press reports.

Some shops have taken to using gift cards as a way to get around the onerous financial regulations that have troubled the industry over the past year, the AP notes. One such tool, CannaCash, even has web and Android apps, along with a membership program.

And some manufacturers of marijuana-derived products are using creative packaging to appeal to upscale and trend-setting consumers. A company called Dixie, for example, sells a line of beverages along the lines of fancy bottled water or juice you might find at Whole Foods. “Ideally, I would like to see the 21- to 35-year-old taking a four-pack of these to a barbecue,” Dixie Chief Marketing Officer Joe Hodas told The Huffington Post.

These efforts show an impressive sophistication for an industry that is less than a year old, but marketers are proceeding with care. There are limits on how marijuana retailers can market themselves—good luck buying a billboard or a TV ad for a cannabis snack or product laced with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“We haven’t spent much time thinking about the holidays,” Marijuana Industry Group Executive Director Mike Elliott told Bloomberg Politics. “We spend our time focusing on compliance.”

Public opinion matters nearly as much as compliance. That’s why manufacturers and industry groups are promoting responsible consumption. Dixie, for example, plays up a list of tips for those trying marijuana for the first time. (The key point: Start small.) And the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-pot group, launched an advertising campaign focused on responsible use.

“The eyes of the world are on us right now, and how we handle that spotlight will go a long way in shaping public opinion about legal marijuana,” National Cannabis Industry Association Deputy Director Taylor West told The Huffington Post. “Our businesses and our people are committed to building an industry we can be proud of. That means no shortcuts and none of the leeway that plenty of other industries out there get.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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