Can I Be Blunt?

Can I Be Blunt?

September Medical Marijuana Program Statistics

August Medical Marijuana Program StatisticsThe September Medical Marijuana Program Statistics are provided by DC’s Dept. of Health (DOH). You can see the total number of patients registered, their gender and in which ward they live.  

September Medical Marijuana Program Statistics

4,283 patients and 35 caregivers have registered with DC’s Medical Marijuana Program since 2014. In the last month, DC added 297 new patients, 2 caregivers, and 5 physicians. The number of cultivation centers (7) and dispensaries (5) remains unchanged.

Statistical Insights for Marketers/Business Owners

September’s numbers restored my hope for DC patients, the dispensaries that serve them, and the cultivators and processors that supply the stuff (August reported a 65% drop in registered patients compared to July). If we can rely on the statistical rigor and timeliness of reporting from our DOH, then September’s new registrants account for 42% of all registrants in 2016. Makes you wonder if there’s a correlation between kids going back to school and number of new patients in need of healing with medical cannabis?

Female patients were the largest category gain (8%) this month.

So far this year, 706 additional residents have registered in the program. Another way of looking at it: 6.37 out of every 1,000 DC residents holds a medical marijuana card. According to, an organization tracking the number of “legal medical marijuana patients” in the U.S., the average is 8.06 per thousand statewide residents. California, Colorado, and Washington (state) have more than 19 patients per thousand residents using medical marijuana.



Analysis of earlier months can be found in the archives (helpful for trending data on gender and wards with the greatest number of patients). You can view the two-page report from this month here.

August Medical Marijuana Program Statistics

August Medical Marijuana Program StatisticsThe August Medical Marijuana Program Statistics are provided by DC’s Dept. of Health. You can see the total number of patients registered, their gender and in which ward they live.  

August Medical Marijuana Program Statistics

3,986 patients and 33 caregivers have registered with DC’s Medical Marijuana Program since 2014. In the last month, DC added 43 new patients, 2 caregivers, and 2 physicians. The number of cultivation centers (7) and dispensaries (5) remains unchanged.

Statistical Insights for Marketers/Business Owners

August’s numbers suck, plain and simple — a 65% drop in registered patients compared to the previous month. At this time last year, DC had 4,212 residents with legal access to medical cannabis. (I can only guess that the numbers are dwindling because patients are not renewing their licenses. If you know, please leave a comment.)

Knowing only that I know nothing, I looked for a statistic that would give me a bit of perspective. Perhaps my expectations are too high (among other things) for DC. Turns out, the answer is maybe.


According to, an organization tracking the number of “legal medical marijuana patients” in the U.S., the average is 8.06 per thousand statewide residents. According to this group, the District has 5.12 card-carrying residents per thousand. Like most averages, this is both helpful and misleading; the top 6 states in the U.S. have more than 19 patients per thousand on average. Those states include the obvious: Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington; but there’s also Michigan and Maine. With the exception of California (for now), all of these states also allow for legal recreational use (while not statewide, both Maine and Michigan have cities that legalized REC). One would think that the ratio of MMJ patients per thousand residents would be lower, not higher if everyone has access.

Unfortunately, REC is legal in the District but residents don’t have access to cannabis because it can neither be purchased nor sold. If Congress didn’t mandate this Catch-22, would the number of patients increase like those other states? Or is there another force at play? And I would love your thoughts on this!

Analysis of earlier months can be found in the archives (helpful for trending data on gender and wards with the greatest number of patients). You can view the two-page report from this month here.

Jay Z: The War on Drugs Is an Epic Fail

JayZ illustrates (literally & figuratively) why the War on Drugs is an epic failure. … Why white men got rich while African-Americans got jail. … Why — even though African-Americans make up 13 percent of the United States population — they account for 31% of arrests for drug law violations … even though they use and sell drugs at the same rate as whites. Kudos to the New York Times for expanding our experience with the op-ed, too.

Watch the Video

Competition, Tight Margins, Price Wars

Cannabis Has Come a Long Way, BabyI’m going to talk to my business mavericks for a moment. You are the cornerstone of an industry that is projected to surpass $22 billion by 2020. What do you get in return? More competition, tighter margins and price wars. It’s the kind of excitement I felt when Virginia Slims told me that I’d “come along way, baby.” I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

As discussed in the previous post, the rate at which new cultivators are entering the market has accelerated, greatly increasing the market’s product supply, resulting in downward pressure on prices. Across the board, wherever there’s a legal market for marijuana, prices have been dropping by as much as half. And as the price of cannabis drops so low as to compete with the illegal marijuana market, still more ganjapreneurs join the ranks.

Here’s an idea: stop selling cannabis, and start selling your business.

If you “only” sell cannabis, it’s hard to create value, capture a premium price and attract new customers. But if you’re selling more than a product — some call it “lifestyle” or “experience” (again, a little vomit) — then you’re different. And the more unique you are, the harder it is for anyone else to copy you.

Differentiation must start with your customers in mind. How can you be more relevant to them before, during and after the transaction? Keep reading …

Coming soon: Creating Value Before the Transaction

A Cannabis Canary in the Coal Mine

The price of pot is tumbling in Colorado,” reported a financial paper this week. I hope every business owner is paying attention to this cannabis canary in the coal mine: in less than a year, wholesale prices have been nearly cut in half.

Why? Growers are ramping up production and flooding the market regardless of demand. And the trend isn’t unique to Colorado. Wherever there’s a legal market for marijuana, prices have been dropping.

cannabis canary squaks about surplus supply
Since legal marijuana entered Washington in July 2014, prices have dropped from $25 to $30 per gram to about $10 a gram at the end of 2015. Prices plummeted in Washington as new retailers clog the market.

In short, everyone wants in, seems to be getting in, and the question arises: how do the original industry mavericks stay in? I’ll share some thoughts tomorrow, but leave you with this insight from Seth Godin:

“Marketing creates value, by combining stories, design and care. The product or service is produced in a way that makes engaging with the item better.

“Commodities are in the eye of the producer. If you don’t want to sell something that’s judged merely on price, then don’t.”

Medical Marijuana, Big Business & Political Influence

Today’s Washington Post came back to a story that it ran back in June (“Growing medical marijuana could mean big business in Maryland. Here’s who wants in“) and that I speculated would be problematic here (although for different reasons). The most recent story reporting on Maryland’s medical marijuana business exposes questionable (putting it politely) political dealings that favored wealthy or connected businesses:

Several of the winning applicants have political ties — with major donors or high-ranking officials on their teams — including a company that hired the Maryland lawmaker who was the driving force behind the tightly regulated program.
One of the politically connected companies is Doctor’s Orders. The group hired Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), the legislature’s top sponsor of medical marijuana legislation, to serve as clinical director of an affiliated dispensary.


Maryland’s Medical Marijuana Business: An incestuous sphere of influence

Maryland's medical marijuana business Infographic

Free Advice: Marketing in Four Seth Steps

Seth Godin's Marketing Advice for Cannabis BusinessesYou’re running a business, so you probably don’t have time to follow marketing luminaries, like Seth Godin, but I saw this post this other day and appreciated his concise explanation.

“The first step is to invent a thing worth making, a story worth telling, a contribution worth talking about.”

This is you. Whether you grow, process, bake, dispense, diagnose, defend, or provide a myriad of other goods and services related to cannabis — you are making a contribution worth talking about.

“The second step is to design and build it in a way that people will actually benefit from and care about.”

This is still you, but on a more granular level — where the details distinguish you from other worthy contributors. Examples might include, who you hire, where you source from, who you give back to … endless details that make you unique. You and I might partner at this stage; I might see opportunities for differentiation that you take for granted, but could be optimized. These efforts create a perception of value beyond price, an experience or relationship that’s more than a simple transaction.

“The third one is the one everyone gets all excited about. This is the step where you tell the story to the right people in the right way.”

I know you can talk about your products in great detail, but can you tell a story about your business? A story that, as Seth puts it, resonates with “the right people, the right way”. Customers are the right people, but for specific reasons — you want a story or experience that solidifies repeat business and encourages referrals. Do you have a story that interests people who are looking to purchase cannabis legally or for the first time? Do you know where they go to “learn more”? Are you on those websites (advertising, contributing articles, an expert source for journalists)? Have you spoken with their physicians? Sure, you can talk about the benefits of the product, but you need to include the benefits of doing business with you. I find that dispensaries, in particular, spend too much time talking about the product that “sells itself” and less time talking about why their business is the intuitive choice. You need to think beyond “selection, price, and in-house experts” — these details can describe any dispensary. There’s a bigger story to you, I can help you find it.

“The last step is so often overlooked: The part where you show up, regularly, consistently and generously, for years and years, to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make.”

This needs no explanation, but I want to stress the importance of “regularly” and “consistently”. Predictability and frequency are hallmarks of marketing — it keeps your business “top of mind” and relevant for any one who might be looking. Whether you connect with your customers/constituents through email, newsletters, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — be consistent about it. Again, if you need help developing and communicating content, you can always take the High Road!

Washington Post Got Marijuana Users All Wrong

Over the weekend, Washington Post blogger Christopher Ingraham wrote, “What makes marijuana users different from everyone else?” He says: poor and uneducated. Intended or not, I believe that Mr. Ingraham is resurrecting the script from “Reefer Madness”.

misleading legal marijuana purchaseA picture is worth a 1,000 words (even when it’s inaccurate)

Let’s start with the very misleading photo atop the article (see right), taken in 2015 on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Oregon. Problem is, the “massive study” — the subject of this coverage — looks at illicit “drug use conducted between 2002 and 2013”.

The truth about the “remarkable liberalization of marijuana policies” (hint: not so much)

Here are the first two sentence of the abstract describing the paper published in the Journal of Drug Issues:

The past decade has seen a remarkable liberalization of marijuana policies in many parts of the United States. We analyze data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) for coinciding changes in the marijuana market from 2002 to 2013

Between 2002 and 2013, only Massachusetts and California decriminalized possession and reduced fines. Five (5) states struck down similar laws; the Supreme Court ruled that Congress may criminalize the production and use of homegrown cannabis even if states approve its use for medicinal purposes; and H.R. 2306 (“Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011”) never even got a hearing. [You can jump to the end of this blog post to read a comprehensive list of federal and state legislative “wins and losses”.]

A false premise twice repeated does not get it right

How can these actions taken as a whole be interpreted as the “remarkable liberalization of marijuana policies”? And how can the reporter (especially one who regularly covers drug policy) propagate this false premise by writing, “One interesting finding is that over the past 10 years as many states have liberalized their marijuana policies …”? That is not an interesting “finding”; it would be a fact, unless it wasn’t. The study about which Mr. Ingraham is reporting is not looking at the most recent “last decade” (as one would assume 2005/6 – 2015/16); the study’s scope begins in 2002 and ends in 2013.


You have to ask yourself “why” and “why now”? Ten paragraphs into the article — that up until this point has correlated marijuana smoking to alcohol use, smoking, crime, ignorance, and poverty (read: election hot buttons) — Mr. Ingraham gives the paper’s authors their caveat:

“Our results can in no way be interpreted as evidence toward the successes or failures of marijuana legalization or even medical marijuana laws,” [Davenport and Caulkins] write. However, they say their research presents a number of things to consider as states like California, Arizona and Maine vote on marijuana legalization this fall.

“There is a sharp contrast between what policy is best for the typical user versus what is best for the people who consume most of the marijuana,” Caulkins said.

Professor Caulkins writes a lot about cannabis, but not favorably (see the Winter issue of National Affairs: “The Real Dangers of Marijuana“). This is not to say that his voice is unfairly critical or unwarranted — it is welcome in a complicated debate; however, disclosing his point of view would have given WaPo readers much needed context for his perspective.

Trying to tie (and then deny) data to scare — or, at best, confuse — readers inside the beltway of Washington, D.C.’s powerful policy elites, hints of a suspect PR campaign. As does the photo of “[could be my] kids” buying cannabis (albeit legally).

It’s okay to disagree just as it’s okay to oppose policy, but both sides need to be transparent and (if you don’t mind the plug) take the High Road.

Marijuana Legislation from 2002 – 2013

  • In 2005, Gonzales v. Raich, ruled in a 6-3 decision that the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution allowed the federal government to ban the use of cannabis, including medical use, federal law strike state law.
  • On November 5, 2002, voters in Nevada rejected Question 9 by 61-39 percent. Question 9 would have legalized possession of cannabis under 3 ounces by adults age 21 and older and would allow cannabis to be regulated, cultivated, sold and taxed. Question 9 would have also made low cost cannabis available for medical cannabis patients and would have created laws against “driving dangerously” under the influence of cannabis.
  • On November 2, 2004, voters in Alaska rejected Measure 2 by 56–44 percent. Measure 2 would have prompted the state legislature to tax and regulate cannabis, and would have removed criminal penalties for cannabis use by adults aged 21 and older.
  • On November 7, 2006, voters in Nevada (again) rejected propositions that would have legalized possession of up to one ounce of cannabis.
  • On May 1, 2008, the New Hampshire Senate voted down a bill that would have reduced the penalty for the possession up to a quarter-ounce of cannabis. This bill had previously passed the N.H. State House of Representatives and had the support of the majority of polled voters.
  • On November 4, 2008, 65% of Massachusetts voters voted ‘yes’ on ballot question 2 known as the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative, which became law on January 2, 2009; it reduced the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of cannabis.
  • On September 30, 2010, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law S.B. 1449, a bill that decriminalizes the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
  • In January 2011, Republican Arizona legislator John Fillmore introduced House Bill 2228. This bill would decriminalize cannabis possession of 2 ounces or less to a petty offense with a penalty of no more than a $100 fine. HB 2228 failed to even receive a legislative hearing from his fellow lawmakers.
  • In June 2011 — Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Ron Paul, and a handful of other courageous Members of Congress introduced the first bill to end federal marijuana prohibition (H.R. 2306); it would treat marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol under federal law and would allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.  It never went up for a vote.

Colorado and Washington did pass legislation on November 6, 2012 that would benefit the cannabis industry, but those did laws wouldn’t go into effect until 2014 — in other words, those “remarkable liberalizations” wouldn’t impact the data collected through 2013.

Marijuana Acquisitions Are Big Business

This week, Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG) purchased Botanicare, an Arizona-based provider of marijuana nutrient and hydroponics products. If you’re a business owner in the cannabis industry, note:

  • Botanicare’s sales price: $40 million
  • SMG stock price: continues to hit its 52-week high (post announcement)
  • SMG stock price: gained nearly $10/share in under a week since its announcement
  • JP Morgan stock analyst: raised SMG’s target stock price by more than 20% and upgraded the stock to “overweight” from “neutral” on the news

marijuana acquisitions Botanicare

And apparently, $40 million is just the tip of the iceberg.

Last year, SMG spent $135 million on two California-based businesses that sell fertilizers, soils and accessories to pot growers. It’s also reported that the company’s dropped another $120 million on a still-undisclosed lighting and hydroponics equipment company in Amsterdam and promises to invest about another $150 million by the end of 2016.

According to SMG’s CEO Jim Hagedorn, he wants to “invest, like, half a billion dollars” in the marijuana industry. “It is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in lawn and garden.”

However you feel about the entrée of corporate behemoths into this industry, they’re coming. Today, it’s ancillary business lines (like Botanicare or Microsoft’s seed-to-sale software partnership with KIND financial), but little-p pharma is putting its toe in the (bong) water. Walgreen’s “Stay Well” Tumblr blog recently espoused the benefits of medical marijuana.

Nearly 60% of Americans support marijuana legalization, according to last year’s Gallup poll, with 71% of respondents ages 18 to 34 supporting legalization. A number of states are slated to vote on legalization ballot initiatives in November — including Florida, Ohio and California, which is deciding on recreational legalization. If the California ballot initiative passes, the state would become one of the largest legal marijuana markets in the world.

We will see more and more local businesses being acquired by larger players. Whether you want to sell to or compete with these larger enterprises requires business planning and a marketing strategy that can help you either way. Let us know if we can help you with that.