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Why Weed Is Growing Wildly

This week on FastCompany.com: we go deep into the sticky business of rebranding pot.

Why Weed Is Growing Wildly
[Photo: McNair Evans]

Over three short decades, we zigzagged from a First Lady imploring citizens to “Just Say No,” to a soon-to-be president admitting he smoked pot—and he inhaled.

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That whiplash historical arc is reflective of our country’s fast-changing attitudes toward marijuana and the issues around legalizing the sale and consumption of weed. Today, by some counts, cannabis is a $120 billion global business. (Others, it should be noted, peg it much lower than that.) In 23 states and the District of Columbia, it is legal to purchase marijuana for medical purposes. And in three states—four, come July, when Oregon joins them—recreational cannabis use is no longer a crime. Several more states are considering making recreational use legal this year or next.

The Green Rush, then, is very much on. So now is the perfect time to take stock of this emerging industry–at the very moment it is poised to explode. (Also: 4/20, dudes.) This week on Fast Company, we’ll examine the major players—like the Seattle-based private equity firm Privateer Holdings–funding the cannabis companies whose products are heating the market. Those businesses include: Tilray, a medical cannabis company in British Columbia catering to Canadian patients; Leafly, an online resource to help people find the right marijuana strain, among other utilitarian tools; and Marley Natural, a high-end product line launching later this year, and operated in part by the estate of the late reggae superstar Bob Marley.

Speaking of the cultural front, we’ve identified a new breed of entertainment industry heavyweights, munchies included: The Alpha Stoners. These are folks like Seth Rogen and the hilarious women behind Comedy Central’s hit show Broad City–they are part of a growing band of writers, actors, and creators driving the pop culture conversation between bong rips. Today, Matt Haber sifts this new pot culture movement–and discovers mad productivity. Cheech and Chong did pretty well for themselves back in the day, after all, but neither of them entrenched themselves in Hollywood the way Rogen has.

Over in Boulder, Colorado, Alex Halperin visited the first class of potrepreneurs at Canopy Boulder. Tomorrow, check out Alex’s report on the startup bootcamp that’s positioning itself as the Techstars of weed. And later this week Alex pops into some of the businesses enjoying all this fresh capital–companies like Colorado’s Dixie Elixirs, purveyors of charmingly packaged pot edibles and beverages, aiming to be nothing short of the first national marijuana company, while selling to a growing demo: moms, dads, and even grandparents.

Yes, we’ve come a long, long way from “Just Say No.” Now The Rebranding Of Pot is in full effect. It’s the best of times for the entrepreneurs, innovators, and entertainers leading The Green Rush. There’s no telling how high they can climb.

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