The Branding Challenges for One of Colorado’s Emerging Industries
The Colorado cannabis industry raked in over $1.5 billion for a second year in a row in 2018. The proof is in the pudding, there is a lot of money to be made in cannabis sales....
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The Colorado cannabis industry raked in over $1.5 billion for a second year in a row in 2018. The proof is in the pudding, there is a lot of money to be made in cannabis sales. With the market becoming more saturated than ever branding will be key in creating a successful cannabis business. However, branding a cannabis company is harder than one might expect.
Traditionally, companies shield their brands by registering a federal trademark. This process helps block similar companies from seeing a brand in a different state and copying the brand in their home state.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will not give trademark registrations to cannabis companies because they violate the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). This has made it difficult for cannabis companies to protect their brands.
However, there are some loopholes that have allowed these brands to create a presence outside of state lines. One of the most common workarounds is selling goods that are not cannabis specific such as smoking accessories (i.e. grinders, glass pipes, ashtrays, etc.), or apparel. This allows the seller to register a federal trademark on part of the brand image that does not violate the CSA.
A more complex workaround is applying for protection on a state level in multiple states. Applying for a trademark in numerous states allows the company to be protected within each state. However, this requires a lot of effort and knowledge as each state has its own requirements and processes for getting a state trademark.
Creating a national brand on a state level may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Colorado cannabis brands have found success in expanding past state lines.
Boulder-based Wana Brands also sells its products in Oregon, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, and Nevada. The company was founded in 2010, and sells a variety of vapes, capsules, and drops, with their main business stemming from their sour gummies. The company sells both medical and recreational cannabis, along with branded apparel.
Apothecanna is another cannabis brand that has been able to brand itself outside of Colorado. The Denver-based cannabis company’s mission is “to spread the wisdom of traditional plant medicine”. They specialize in oils and lotions that are free of fillers, GMOs, artificial ingredients, and parabens. Founded in 2009, their products aim to relieve pain, stimulate, and relax consumers with a diverse range of plant-based remedies.
Dispensaries have also been able to break out Colorado. Starbuds recently opened its first dispensary outside of Colorado earlier this year, with another location to open later this month. The two new locations are in Oklahoma, where medical marijuana use is legal. Their 12 Colorado locations include Aurora, Commerce City, Denver, Westminster, Longmont, Louisville, Niwot, and Pueblo.
These trademark restrictions haven’t made it easy for the cannabis industry to compete nationally, but pioneers in the cannabis space continue to push limits and expand to emerging markets. With sales increasing in Colorado, and nationally, there’s no doubt that more cannabis companies will begin to brand themselves nationally to get their slice of the cannabis pie.
About Eddie Fitzgerald: Eddie is a senior at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, and Swyft’s Denver PR intern. He is moving to Denver after graduation, and is looking forward to experiencing the world of public relations in the Mile High City. As Swyft’s Denver PR Intern, he utilizes social media, blogging, and tech PR activities to support clients. Swyft is a tech PR agency in Houston, Austin, Denver, and Antwerp that provides PR services and trade show PR support for tech companies around the world. Their services include media relations, content and inbound marketing, CPC campaigns, and marketing automation consulting.