Local Startups Get Rolling on Marketing the Cannabis Industry

New products were on display at Cannavation. | Photo by Mimi Janosy

Claudia Post and Jonathan Monk want to be blunt about the future of cannabis.

The industry is blowing up, but the Jewish co-owners of Cannavation, Smokin’ Hot Solutions and Kannakart, all based in Philadelphia, said those in the business are still struggling to market themselves.

Post, or “the oldest millennial,” as she referred to herself, started the mother company Smokin’ Hot almost a decade years ago, which provides digital marketing services to people in the cannabis, vaporizer, CBD, hemp and related industries.

Her son, a pipe maker for rock ‘n’ rollers, told her the cannabis community needed her business savvy — fast forward a few years where Post met Monk, her intern, then a finance junior at Temple University.

Once he graduated, the millennial and the baby boomer partnered to create Kannakart, an online retail and wholesale site that sells bongs, bowls, vaporizers and grinders across North America, with clientele varying in age and demographics.

Recreational reefers aside, they’ve continued to expand their business while showing others the way, starting with Cannavation.

“With any new industry, you have a lot of young entrepreneurs or people excited to work in something they have a lot of passion about” within the cannabis field, Monk said. “A lot of these people don’t really know how to market their business … so it’s really important for us to bring those people together to create business opportunities for one another.”

Cannavation, a cannabis networking event, which took place Oct. 4 at WeWork, had almost 100 in attendance to learn about marketing with additional speakers who discussed cannabis laws and green energy used for growing cannabis.

The cannabis networking event Cannavation took place Oct. 4 to inform those in the business about the booming industry. | Photo by Mimi Janosy

But a large part of the industry now is for medical purposes, which the duo tries to highlight.

“I feel very strongly about bringing people together and affording them information that could help them through understanding the medical part of this,” Post said, “and advocate for people who don’t know how to do it.”

There are 17 conditions in which people can get a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania, including autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, nervous tissue and spinal cord damage, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/ AIDS, seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, neuropathies, chronic pain, and sickle cell anemia.

“The interesting thing about Pennsylvania is 17 might sound like a little or a lot, but compared to some states,” Monk said, “it’s more difficult.”

New Jersey accepts six main conditions, if other treatments do not suffice. Delaware has 11; Maryland has 10.

“There’s always going to be exclusions and people that aren’t able to get help because the way the laws are formed,” he continued. “It needs to be broadened … because there’s people that still desperately need help that aren’t going to be able to get it.”

“We want to fight for people who need it,” Claudia added. PTSD among veterans, as well as the opioid addiction crisis sweeping the nation, are serious issues, but studies have shown they can be ameliorated by introducing medical marijuana.

Since starting in this business, the entrepreneurs said they’ve seen many people, some close friends or family, benefit from medical marijuana for PTSD, social anxiety and depression.

Post noted 13-year-old Tuffy from New Jersey, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy.

She used to have 35 seizures a day. With medical marijuana, she’s down to about one seizure a day, but her parents have to fight for her medication as it is costly and limited in New Jersey.

Although nonmedical marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania, more than two dozen medical dispensaries are set to open next year in the greater Philadelphia area, with approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

However, Israel is leading the way in cannabis research, breaking ground with the world’s largest number of clinical trials, Rolling Stone reported.

“Maybe it’s being more open-minded,” she said of the Jewish state’s reasoning for trailblazing. “Maybe it’s looking for more opportunities. Look, [Jews have] always been the people who had to come along behind. We weren’t allowed to be the judge. We weren’t allowed to be the head of the Supreme Court. We had to figure out how to make a buck in a million other ways.”

She said these cannabis scientists “recognize the future,” though recreational use there is still illegal.

While the cannabis industry has made strides showing the positive effects of medical marijuana, the industry itself is still overcoming the stigma.

Post, who joked she looks like “somebody’s very hip bubbe,” hasn’t smoked in years, and Monk has weaned off since his college days.

“I’m an old hippie,” she laughed. “I really believe everybody should do what they want to do, but I believe and I know and I’ve seen results for medical cannabis, and that is so important.”

“Everyone should be able to [smoke] just like people consume alcohol. I really see no problem in it,” Monk added.

When they first started the businesses, the industry was in its elementary stage. There still aren’t many large companies or power players in the industry, which may have to do with the constant tiptoeing around legal issues.

“It’s not like you open up shop and automatically you’re going to reap the benefits,” Post explained.

It’s “old school meets new cool,” she said: “Old school thinking in sales used to be that you go and knock on a million doors. New school is we need to have fact links on all of our sites. We have to do SEO constantly. We have to write blogs.”

However, they’re the only online head shop in Pennsylvania, unlike the boom the industry is experiencing on the West Coast.

“It’s a lot of education,” she said. “It’s a lot of outreach.”

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