Cannabis Tourism & Hospitality: A Path to Sustaining Legacy Cannabis in California (And Sustaining ME in 2024!)

I am grateful that I have the privilege to always land on my feet in my career, despite choosing difficult paths. I have skills to fall back on, an amazing family who is always willing to help me out when I need it, and a vast network of talented people who I’ve been lucky to cross paths with in my unconventional career path. And after months of applying for Marketing jobs across a variety of sectors and seeking out new full time positions in a struggling cannabis industry, I can happily report that I have landed back on my feet.

I get by with a little help from my friends. And instead of settling on a full time job that wasn’t coming to fruition, in a matter of months I have decided to instead focus on finding freelance contract work, and filled my plate with a variety of projects that are fulfilling, interesting, and hopefully lucrative. All with people who were already in my circle and realm of experience.

I have a couple of small social media marketing projects with local friends that have helped fill in the gaps the past few months – shout out to Sara at Akasha, my microdosing coach client of several years, and Patrick at Malarkey / MayDay and Juke Joint, a musician, DJ, event producer and talent booker at some of my favorite local venues. (Please follow them & give them some love). Santa Rosa dispensary Doobie Nights is still a client of mine for e-commerce, graphic design and email/text communications. And very soon I’ll be working on social media for The Emerald Cup which is a perfect intersection of my events and cannabis experience.

But what I am most excited about as I plan out my 2024 calendar is working with my former colleague at The Hybrid Creative, Brian Applegarth, in managing operations and marketing for his consulting work in the connection of tourism and cannabis. Brian knows more about weed culture and history than almost anyone I know. He’s also a prolific traveler and an expert in hospitality and destination marketing, specializing in speaking to the cannabis travel audience. As I found out back in the Hybrid days, he’s a lot of fun (and like, way too good) at karaoke.

Along with my former boss at Hybrid, Zack Darling, we are building a 2024 campaign promoting The Cannabis Trail along with destination marketing clients in Mendocino County, Humboldt County and the City of Oakland.

We’ll be working with a number of legacy and equity farms, cannabis brands and dispensaries, media and data partners, and cannabis industry associations to highlight cannabis culture’s historical landmarks and pioneers, promote cool weed related tourist destinations along The Cannabis Trail, and create content that highlights travel experiences that cannabis naturally enhances – anything involving food, art, and nature.

Travel, nature, art, food, events & experiences, AND WEED?!? Um… those are only all of my favorite things basically. Instantly IN.

But even more exciting is the potential that approaching cannabis from a lens of experiences enhanced by it – travel, exploring nature, eating amazing local food, etc. opens up more possibilities for engaging an industry that is struggling to survive due to overtaxation, difficult to navigate regulations, and competition with unregulated industries like hemp-derived CBD or the illicit cannabis market.

By collaborating with the hospitality, travel and destination marketing communities, Applegarth Consultative Services is able to connect their resources with industry operators like legacy farms, locally owned dispensaries, unique lounges and experiential offerings, and advocacy organizations. All aligning to legitimize the industry and educate the cannabis travel consumer, a growing market.

The history of medical cannabis legalization movement in San Francisco in the 90s and its intersections with the gay rights movement during the AIDS crisis is a rich cultural story that is worth educating about. The back to the land movement and those inspired by them to pioneer regenerative cannabis agriculture in Northern California have so many stories to tell, and this project is an opportunity to educate about and amplify and weave together all these unique cultural stories from the local cannabis community.

So in the new year working on this campaign, we will be highlighting local cannabis culture as something unique to Northern California that can only be truly experienced here. By connecting these historical stories with local, legacy / equity cannabis businesses as well as nearby hotels, restaurants, and attractions mapped along The Cannabis Trail and pairing cannabis effects with unique experiences in Oakland, Mendo and Humboldt, we’ll establish Northern California as a destination for anyone interested in cannabis.

Patient access to medical cannabis began in my little corner of Northern California, and landmarks in that movement along with stops in the traditional outdoor growing communities a bit further north in the Emerald Triangle are highlighted on The Cannabis Trail, which spans from Trinity County down to Santa Cruz.

Next year’s campaign, as well as working with several of Brian’s other destination, tourism and cannabis clients, is just the beginning. I can see this type of work supporting and rekindling the struggling cannabis industry. It’s been a rough last few years, and until something changes on the federal level, cannabis operators will have to grow their own market, collaborate with other industries, and explore new ways to bring in enough revenue to survive.

Sonoma Hills Farm in Petaluma, my favorite local farm to visit for events
The beautiful cannabis garden at Sonoma Hills Farm in October 2023 – SHF really does cannabis hospitality right and I always love visiting their farm for events.

I’ve gotten to experience some really amazing events, farm visits, unique dispensaries and lounge spaces, industry conferences and parties working in the cannabis industry. I’ve even produced and planned a few of those events. I’ve met so many people across the community who have stories to tell, helpful information to teach, and challenges they are always overcoming. Why not connect the travel and hospitality industries to my cannabis community and offer them a new way to collaborate and thrive together?

I truly believe that collaborating with the robust travel and hospitality industries, and focusing on cannabis effects pairing experiences and all the activities that cannabis can help enhance can be an avenue to preserving the unique legacy of California’s cannabis community. It’s something that the California cannabis industry can hang their hat on that no other market in the world can compare to. Because medical cannabis access began here, and it is the epicenter of cannabis culture and a trendsetter for the American experience with the plant. It’s high time we leverage that story in support of the small legacy farms and struggling cannabis businesses in our community.

I love it when a good team comes together for a worthy purpose. I also love it when my work life overlaps with my passions and interests, so I can do what I love and actually sustain myself and build a future. The recent projects I’ve thankfully acquired connect all the dots and I am so grateful.

This year has flown by. It’s been a roller coaster. But I’m looking forward to 2024 now with new areas to focus my energy and reasons to hope. And I’m also looking forward to wrapping up 2023 with family for the holidays.

Happy Holidays everyone! And here’s to a 2024 full of abundance, collaboration and community. We could all use it!