Updated: Sep 28
I smoke weed for a living! Well, not really. But I have toured several cannabis cultivation, processing, packaging and retail locations around the country consulting with different cannabis companies on everything from social media content to packaging to quality control of products. And yes...I get to smoke a lot of weed everywhere I go! But does that make me a "Cannabis Influencer" and what does that really mean?
The Best Advice
I started thinking about this when I was out with a friend whose son recently graduated college and they asked me advice on getting started in the cannabis industry. The best advice I could give him is the same thing I told friends when they asked me about getting into real estate years ago...relationships are everything.
I started my blog because I wanted to educate myself and the public on the emerging cannabis industry. But I had no idea so many of the relationships I cultivated (pun intended) in other areas of my life over the years would help me when I was looking for ways into a career cannabis.
An industry where I thought I knew no one and had zero connections. It started with one of my real estate clients, Adam, in Chicago who got into the cannabis industry in Colorado years ago. Even though we weren't doing as many real estate deals as before, we kept in touch. He knew I was knowledgeable and had a passion for cannabis and he always invited me out to see their operation. So when I told Adam I was interested in learning about the cannabis industry for my new blog, it was easy for him to welcome me. We had already developed both professional and personal relationships and he was more than willing to help me out.
Once I traveled to my first legal cannabis market, Colorado, I realized the huge demand for marketing and content for the industry. So I created my production company WTF Media which focuses on creating Weed Travel and Food content.
I had already bought my first "real" camera (Canon 77D) and started the "WeedTravelFood" brand, but I knew with the help of a real photographer/videographer I could get the quality content I envisioned.
When I got back to Chicago, I spoke with my friend Dennis who I'd known since high school and who had recently quit his corporate job to pursue his photography/videography business. For years, he saw me traveling the world and eating at different restaurants around the city and had been encouraging me to do a food or travel blog. I told Dennis about my idea of the WeedTravelFood blog and asked him to help me with the photography and videography.
In addition, we would also create a joint venture, Pistil Media, where we could create cannabis content for brands in the cannabis industry that will help cannabis companies better connect with patients, customers and the general public. Dennis and his partner agreed to help me...and now I have a camera crew and two production companies...wow!!!
I thought: "My momentum is now in full swing." Then a friend I've known since grade school, Ramon, knew what I was working on and introduced me to someone who works in the Illinois cannabis market. That person would help me through the medical cannabis patient application process and that would lead me to being able to legally buy, handle and create content with medical cannabis in my home state of Illinois...a true blessing!!! From there, the strength of my prior relationships would continue to show up and show out.
My 15+ year friend GLC introduced me to the manager of a large cannabis retail chain in Oregon and several cannabis farmers in California and Oregon. They were impressed with the work I was doing and invited me to their facilities to consult on their respective businesses. Now I'm consulting with different cannabis companies on media, grow lights, real estate, product development, expansions, partnerships and more...amazing!!!
A New Direction
There were several other instances along the way where friends and business colleagues saw me working to get into a new industry where I thought I didn't have any connections and they all pitched in to help me in their own ways. I pooled all those resources, referrals and connections, went to work creating content and building my brand. Soon what started as a cannabis, travel and food blog, quickly turned into a cannabis, travel and food content production company and then a cannabis, travel and food consulting firm! What a ride!!!
I told people I had built solid relationships with that I wanted to move in a new I direction and they gave me support. With all my visits to cannabis grows, processing centers and dispensaries...knowledge I've gained from talking with so many growers, cultivators, retailers, processors and company heads...plus all the different cannabis strains, products and brands I've tried in different markets over the years...I'm now considered a "Cannabis Influencer."
But that still doesn't explain what being a Cannabis Influencer actually means.
Right now, social media is not only the most effective way to advertise cannabis and cannabis brands but to educate the public as well. So I look at the opportunity of being a Cannabis Influencer as a way to not only help cannabis brands but as a way to help the public understand the plant, its benefits medicinally, and this new industry as a whole.
I want to use my "influence" to do a couple of things:
Help build and contribute to the existing cannabis communities across the globe and change the stereotypes of what cannabis users are.
Educate the public about different cannabis products and accessories. How to use them in a safe, responsible and fun way...as well as educate on processes that go into manufacturing of the different cannabis products.
Highlight all the different business opportunities this new industry will create and how governments handle the influx of money generated by the industry as cannabis becomes big business across the world.
Lastly and most importantly, what I want to influence is kindness and integrity. I believe the reason so many people came to my aid in this new venture is because I've always tried to live a life where I impress people with my kindness and integrity as well as my work ethic and topical knowledge.
In business and life, kindness and integrity are underrated. People looking to get into this industry or any other need to know that the reputation you create for yourself and the relationships you nurture can be the difference between getting an opportunity and not. Sure you'll still need to have the talent and work ethic. But with kindness and integrity...the universe will conspire to aid you in your ambitions.
If spreading my love of cannabis, kindness and integrity makes me an Influencer... so be it!
Let me know in the comments what a Cannabis Influencer means to you and what type of cannabis content do you enjoy consuming. We'd love to hear from you so follow us on Instagram @weedtravelfood. If you want to stay updated with our blog, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter! -Mike
Photographs by Dennis Thompson