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There are very few industries that are still in their infancy and cannabis is one of them. As more and more states move towards legalization and the green rush arrives, everyone is rushing to get into the cannabis industry. Increased competition and a market that is restricted by state lines mean that companies and brands need to differentiate themselves before market saturation leaves them fighting a price war that is nothing more than a rush to the bottom. 

Differentiating a business and finding niche markets to serve is an exciting strategic growth plan that can oftentimes take years to develop and show results when an unknown brand tries to enter a market. Don’t have years to wait? Look for partners that are already in the market that can act as a catalyst to growth. 

Building strategic partnerships is crucial for any business looking to expand its horizons into complementary markets and differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. Fortunately for the cannabis industry, market expansion through partnerships is a budding opportunity. But how to choose the right partner for your business?


Cannabis Industry Partnership Types and Benefits

From oral inhalation to edibles to topicals, the cannabis plant is very flexible in the delivery method for administration. This opens the industry up to a wide variety of partnerships across food and beverage, cosmetics, health and wellness, athletics, entertainment, travel and leisure, and many more! 

The greatest challenge for cannabis market extension is that while it remains illegal on the Federal level, cannabis is regulated at the state level. This means that it is illegal to cross state lines with cannabis products, which can restrict markets causing expanding companies to require a multi-state operating plan. And international expansion requires a multi-country operating plan. CBD products that are non-psychoactive are the only national and global opportunity available without a multi-state development plan.


Cannabis Food and Beverage Partnerships 

Cannabis and food and beverage are natural partners. While the edibles and drink additives market has been exploding in the US and trends towards healthier consumption methods and convenience, it was only a matter of time until restaurants focused on cannabis started to crop up.


Cannabis Consumption Lounges and Restaurants

Restaurateurs were hit hard during the pandemic. While many of them struggled to adjust to delivery and takeout models, it’s clear that the restaurant industry needs to diversify their sales so that they don’t solely rely on in-person dining. 


Cannabis Cafe

Lowell Herb Co. was the first Cannabis restaurant to open in America and it’s everything a cannabis consumer could want and more. 

Being the first cannabis-focused restaurant in the US, Executive Chef and owner Andrea Drummer sets the bar high for anyone looking for a luxury farm-to-table cannabis experience in her West Hollywood cafe. Rebranded as Cannabis Cafe, the restaurant is a great example of servicing a niche market.

Cannabis Cafe was hit hard during the pandemic and is temporarily closed.  


Cannabis Consumption Lounge 

In Illinois, the cannabis industry is booming! In Sesser, Illinois they had opened the first cannabis consumption lounge and smoke shop in their state. This was not just an average dispensary, they took a step forward and created an experience from the moment customers walk in. This 1920’s themed lounge will greet customers with a luxurious space where customers just so happen get to indulge in their favorite cannabis products while enjoying live entertainment. This lounge was a huge success as it found something to make it different (1920s themed) and targeted it to the right audience bringing in lots of happy customers to enjoy cannabis and live entertainment.


Dispensary Partnerships: Co-Branding with Cannabis

Differentiating a dispensary from others can be as simple as offering a product that no one else offers. Co-Branding is an excellent opportunity to attract the local market and differentiate your dispensary from others by exploring a partnership with well-known local, regional or national brands. 

One of the most prominent partnerships for dispensaries is co-branding with the food and beverage industry. Local coffee, confectioners, and savory snack manufacturers looking to expand their brand recognition can partner with dispensaries to create a special line of edibles or drinks that can command a premium price because of the co-branding. Look for popular local brands that are expanding their market penetration already as they’ll be focused on getting more products into more stores. 


Stumptown Coffee / Serra

Serra, a Portland-based chain of dispensaries, seeks to attract premium buyers by carrying high-end products in their greenhouse-themed dispensaries. Partnering with other popular Oregon food manufacturers they created a line of edibles that feature local coffee producer Stumptown Coffee co-branded together to make a coffee-infused caramel edible. They also co-branded with the spice company Jacobson Salts to feature salted caramel edibles. By expanding partnerships they can charge a premium for the branded edibles and increase sales by offering an exclusive edible that cannot be purchased anywhere else. 




Grower Partnerships: Celebrity Brands

Celebrities are promotional powerhouses that can influence sales by simply mentioning that they use or endorse a product. Partnerships with consumer products have always been a common practice. Think Rachel Ray cookware. Celebrities can be from a wide variety of industries including music, film and TV, and sports.

Developing a celebrity line of CBD or cannabis products is an excellent opportunity for growers to really scale their products. Celebrities need to partner with high-quality producers and cultivators need access to their network of known distributors creating a mutually beneficial partnership. 


Jay-Z Monogram

When it comes to sleek branding and design in the cannabis industry, Jay-Z hits the nail on the head with his brand, Monogram. Jay-Z creates a rich, multimedia experience from digital media to packaging to quality bud. Monogram is a rich, expensive, grow-by-grow approach where they use a unique potency designation which allows them to tell the background of each of their flowers grown. When starting Monogram, Jay-Z worked alongside Caliva, a vertically integrated seed-to-sale business cutting out dispensaries and selling directly to consumers. While this is ideal in states like California that permit vertical integration and serve a large market, this operating model is not permitted in other states that do not offer vertical integration. Having a multi-state operating plan is critical to national growth. 


Martha Stewart CBD / Canopy Growth

Cannabis influencer Martha Stewart is a woman of many talents! In 2020, Martha came out with her own CBD line including hemp-derived, cannabidiol-rich gummies, soft gels, and oil drops. Not long after launching her CBD brand, she partnered with Canopy Growth, a cannabis manufacturing company. Martha Stewart chose to take on the role of Strategic Advisor to help the company grow business relationships and share her knowledge on CBD globally. It’s common for celebrities to act as advisors and their team will manage the day-to-day tasks with the partnership.


Rob Gronkowski (Gronk) / CBDMEDIC

During Gronkowski’s quick retirement he created a partnership with a Woonsocket creator of CBD products to lend his likeness to some of his favorite CBDMEDIC products. After playing football for 10+ years the pain really starts to kick in and what better way than doing a partnership with something he truly believes helps his pain. This partnership was a step in the right direction for professional athletes.



Cannabis Entertainment Partnerships

Getting stoned and recreating go hand in hand. So it’s no wonder that the travel and tourism, entertainment, and gaming industries are starting to take notice of cannabis connoisseurs and canna-curious audiences alike. Cannabis can enhance the senses, so cultivated experiences are becoming more popular. 


Cannabis Video Gaming

The gaming industry offers a lot of opportunities for integration with the cannabis industry. A few years ago, Snoop Dogg launched his own esports league, Gangsta Gaming League (GGL). A premier cannabis esports and gaming league that has a combination of fans and celebrity gamers that compete in tournaments against each other. 


Mike Tyson & Tyson Ranch

Mike Tyson took cannabis to a new level when he started Tyson Ranch in 2016. A 420-acre community for cannabis users, the ranch is a place for people to come to get away from their opioid addiction, learn about cannabis farming (Tyson University), and of course, smoke up. This business has grown tremendously, especially in the California area.

Developing partnerships with the cannabis industry can increase your market penetration and revenue. Getting there requires the right mix of strategy, industry knowledge and compliance, and market trends. 

Mary Jane Marketer is the perfect mix of professionalism and cross-industry knowledge. Before you start your next partnership venture, contact us to book a consultation about how you can take your brand to the next level!


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