Culture To Commerce: How Cannabis Tradition Is Shaping Its Business Models

The bond between humanity and the cannabis plant dates back to ancient times. Its numerous properties have been used throughout history for therapeutic, religious, spiritual, industrial and recreational purposes.

During the last century, prohibition and misguided drug policies based on prejudiced conceptions deliberately disregarded the unique properties of cannabis and bound its users and producers in stigma and secrecy.

But in recent years, its usefulness has become so evident and widespread throughout the world that it has given way to a slow but steady process of legalization and regulation, laying the foundations for the emergence of a profitable industry with immense potential.

From taboo to mainstream, one of the main factors to understand this transformation in public perception is cannabis's role in popular culture throughout contemporary history.

Deep Roots In Popular Culture

The many references to cannabis found in jazz are a testament to how important it was for the Black communities during the height of racial segregation at the beginning of the 20th century. Jazz musicians promoted "reefer" as a symbol of freedom, resilience, creativity and joy.

The biggest names of the Beat Generation, influential writers and artists who emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s, found in weed a tool to expand consciousness and express their rejection of the social mandates of the time. By the '60s and '70s, the plant became a counterculture presence in all manner of artistic expressions associated with the hippie and anti-war movements as well as the struggle for social change.

In the late 1970s, hip-hop emerged as a cultural response from the Black and Latino communities to speak out against the disproportionate harm they were subjected to by former President Reagan’s racially discriminatory prohibitionist policies. Cannabis was given a central place in the work and lifestyle of hip-hop artists, paving the path that led them to the top of pop culture over the following decades.

From music and literature to fashion and sports, the history and values around cannabis left an indelible mark on modern culture, fostering conditions for business as states and countries began to embrace legalization.

Cannabis Culture: A Powerful Business Driver

In this new era of increasing digitalization, the voices of celebrities and influential figures associated with cannabis are disseminated like never before. Social normalization of marijuana is undergoing exponential expansion as witnessed by references to it in songs, movies, series, social media and numerous other cultural arenas.

Effectively interpreting the values of cannabis culture is key to creating distinctive brands and lasting relations with consumers as the number of companies that want a piece of the action continues to increase.

Monetizing The Influence: How The Cannabis Industry Is Profiting From Its Cultural Past

As it leaves behind its past of senseless prohibition, the evolving cannabis industry is shaping business models that seek to connect with the cultural elements that drive consumer decisions. Here are some examples:

1. Development of new products, from food to cosmetics, aimed at different consumer segments seeking the beneficial properties of cannabis.

2. Dispensaries and retail businesses that increasingly focus on offering unique experiences to their customers, creating welcoming environments and providing personalized advice.

3. Artistic branding, associations with celebrities and creation of narratives and identities are strategies often used to attract new audiences or access niches.

4. Cannabis products from organic and sustainable cultivation are being chosen by a growing number of environmentally conscious consumers.

5. Investing in integrating tech into cannabis e-commerce, leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for delivering customized customer experiences.

  • These topics will be discussed in depth at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference, the place where deals get done. The event is returning to Chicago this Sept 27-28 for its 17th edition.
  • Get your tickets today before prices increase and secure a spot at the epicenter of cannabis investment and branding, and hear from executives at Weedmaps MAPS and Leafly LFLY, as well as culturally influential figures like rap celebrities DJ Hoppa and Demrick. Also, catch Alexa Alianello from X (Twitter) as she discusses cannabis and social media. This, and much more, at the upcoming Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference.

Challenges And Opportunities In A Changing Regulatory Landscape

With a demand that never stopped growing even in the harshest moments of its prohibition, this flourishing industry presents novel investment options. Nevertheless, changes in legislation and regulations are still something to monitor closely.

Cannabis culture has built important bridges between the business world and the pursuit of social justice, and it remains within the realm of creativity and business acumen to continue developing this synergistic relationship into the future.

Cover image created with MidJourney

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