Cannabis is quickly becoming a $3 billion industry, with the potential to grow into a $50 billion industry. The cannabis industry has been plagued by waste and lackluster marketing efforts.



Cannabis legalization seems to be virtually likely to benefit the globe more than damage it. We may ignore the negative consequences while an industry takes form and victims of the drug war get a semblance of restorative justice. The issue of waste continues to be a major problem. 

State-by-state legalization results in an inflow of operators and, in many cases, stringent child-safe packaging requirements. To make things worse, both licensed and unlicensed farms may have substantial negative effects on water, waste, and the environment. So much so that, according to a research conducted by Colorado State University in 2021, the state’s indoor and greenhouse agriculture generated more greenhouse gas emissions than in-state coal mining.

Producers and merchants aren’t the only ones concerned about waste. Marketing items, whether excessive quantities of flyers at dispensaries or promotional materials encased in layers of plastic or cardboard, contribute a lesser but still worrisome quantity. 

High Times talked with a number of cannabis marketing executives to learn more about the problem, its scope, and why cannabis, a sector seeking to revolutionize, is so prone to wasteful marketing tactics. 


Marketing Materials are a concern, but they aren’t the most wasteful aspect of cannabis. 

The majority of respondents think that marketing and promotional waste isn’t the most pressing issue facing the business. However, the majority of respondents agreed that it is a problem that needs to be addressed right now.

Brett Puffenbarger is one of those people who is fed up with marketing material that isn’t necessary. “I’m very weary of being given 150 fliers every time I go to an event,” Puffenbarger, the head of sales and marketing for FOCUS – Foundation Of Cannabis Unified Standards, told High Times. “I’m even more weary of the 75 inserts I receive in a bag when I go to a dispensary,” he said. 

Since 2004, Justin Johnson, the creator and CEO of the product platform BudsFeed, has worked in marketing and branding. Johnson, who is also the co-founder and CMO of Chill Steel Pipes, thinks that just a few big businesses are now investing in significant marketing. 

“While I believe it is a big amount overall, I believe marketing and public relations waste is a tiny proportion of the industry’s total waste issues,” he said. 

Johnson thinks that business expansion is to blame for a lot of marketing waste. Brands should appoint regional managers to order promotional goods such as bags, pens, stickers, and other things, according to him.


Industry Reaction to Strict Regulations

The main issue, according to Lisa Buffo, founder and CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, is packaging. Strict restrictions and single-use items are two major causes of the issue, according to her. While waiting for the laws to change, Buffo encourages customers, influencers, and the media to provide input on the company’s marketing materials. 

“It’s OK to provide feedback to companies and let them know that you value less waste and would appreciate the brand more if they behaved appropriately,” Buffo added. 

Melissa Vitale, a publicist in New York City, said she hasn’t seen as much waste from cannabis PR efforts as she has from beauty and wellness PR. “I’ve seen juice companies send a writer with a Brooklyn-sized apartment a whole cooler of juices, and they were allergic to most of the juices,” she said.

While she acknowledges that the problem is a worry, she also acknowledges that cannabis isn’t on par with other big businesses. “As much as we joke that public relations is the devil,” she said, “compared to other direct-to-consumer marketing efforts, cannabis PR isn’t at a scale big enough to make a significant difference in the industry’s waste issues.”

Vitale, on the other hand, wants to reduce waste. MAVPR, her public relations company, just launched PressBoxx, a quarterly package sent to media professionals showcasing her cannabis and sex clients. 

“Instead of devoting mailers to specific brands, we specialize in multi-client send-outs that reduce the number of parcels received by individual press,” she said. Her businesses are urged to include items that people want to use and avoid branded products that are likely to be re-gifted or thrown away, according to the PR head. 


How to Make Eco-Friendly Marketing Work

Leaders in marketing encourage companies to consider the environmental effect of their marketing products. At the same time, they must evaluate whether or not consumers will utilize the product rather than the cost of manufacturing. This thought may lead to digital efforts rather of physical things in certain instances. 

Cannabis, according to Johnson, is evolving into a consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. “Getting your goods into the hands of consumers via sample and gift boxes has always been a great practice,” he said. Rather of resisting what he views as an unavoidable trend, Johnson believes companies should think about what they produce and where it may end up—the trash. He advises that you use biodegradable packaging. 

He also advised against buying branded goods that people are prone to discard. 

“When creating anything, companies should invest in an original design that people would proudly wear rather than a branded piece of trash,” Johnson said. 

Puffenbarger had a similar opinion. He remembered a cannabis company giving out free sunglasses at a summer festival. He said, “By the end of the day… I definitely saw a hundred individuals wearing those sunglasses.” He went on to say that the company’s visibility as a wearable brand made it seem as though it was a major sponsor of the event. 

According to Kyle Rosner, head of media relations at cannabis firm 420Interactive, companies should depend on emails, newsletters, and other digital initiatives. 

“Building an email lead list for targeted digital communications and PR is our number one advice to companies for successful eco-friendly marketing,” he added. 

According to Rosner, iPads used in demonstrations linked to particular business landing sites boosted signups. In-store discounts are offered as extra registration incentives, and they also assist the dispensary boost in-store sales. 

Despite recognizing the problem, waste will almost certainly continue to be a problem in the cannabis industry for some time. However, everyone agrees that now is the moment to take action. “You’re probably not thinking about the effect of your product if you’re not thinking about the environmental impact of your marketing efforts,” Buffo said. 

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