With the legalisation of cannabis in Canada and in certain states in the USA, brands both producing product and writing about it are having to adapt to a new world, moving out of the counterculture and into the mainstream.

The trend has been developing since late 2012, when the US states of Colorado and Washington voted to legalise the possession by adults of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Four years later, and the picture across the United States had changed markedly, as the entire West Coast, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia fully legalised. Beyond those states, many others chose a combination of allowing medical use and/or decriminalising its use. By the end of 2016, one fifth of the US population lived in a place where it is legal to consume.

In October 2018, Canada became the first G7 country to legalise recreational use. Marijuana is now a massive continental business opportunity.

For companies in the Canadian market – where medical use has been legal since 2001 – legalisation has offered opportunities and headaches. VIVO Cannabis, formerly ABcann, attacked the challenge by commissioning in-depth research into a little-known market, revealing insights that shaped its eventual brands. (For the full findings, read WARC’s in-depth report: VIVO Cannabis: How do you research a market that doesn’t exist?)

For mainstays of marijuana culture, the shift to legalisation has not been easy. For instance, the veteran ‘stoner’ magazine High Times has struggled to adapt from 40 years of cult followership to a voice in a legitimate industry. In 2016, WARC covered High Times’ then-chief operating officer, Larry Linietsky, who explained the complications of marketing the product and, by extension, itself.   

Part of the difficulty comes from the repositioning of weed as a substance for wellness consumers – many of whom consume via vape or premium edibles rather than the rolled joint. In the media industry, High Times is seeing increasing competition from glossy magazines like Broccoli and Kitchen Toke that were born in this new world of acceptance, and offer a different interpretation of cannabis culture.

Speaking to the tech mag OneZero, an editor by the appropriate name of Danny Danko explained how it is diversifying content: “We’ve gone from art glass [elaborate bongs] consumption devices and seed companies… to a lot more vape pens”.

Sourced from Vox, WARC, Broccoli, Kitchen Toke, OneZero; additional content by WARC staff