The Burning Issue: Legal marijuana requires skilled PR finessing

Putting a topic such as cannabis legalization on the cover of PRWeek is going to divide opinion whichever way we approach it.

Part one of The Burning Issue: The road to legalized marijuana
Part two: Brand cannabis


Putting a topic such as cannabis legalization on the cover of PRWeek is going to divide opinion whichever way we approach it, especially when it is accompanied by an image of the beloved Statue of Liberty holding aloft a large joint.

But the strong imagery is used with justification and to illustrate a serious issue that could reshape American society in the coming decade: hence our focus on the subject.

Our guest columnist John Davis of the Northwest Patient Resource Center notes that the global cannabis market is estimated at $100 billion per year, of which the US consumes about 25%. The Office of National Drug Control Policy says 60% of drug cartel revenues stem from marijuana; US prisons are full of people prosecuted for supplying the drug.

But this landscape is changing. The drug is now legal in two US states, Colorado and Washington – and many others are considering whether to follow suit. The Marijuana Business Factbook predicts legal recreational sales will reach about $4.2 billion by 2018.

The onus is now on the legal marijuana industry to present a professional image to the world, for state officials to communicate the scope of the new laws governing cannabis, and health advocates to explain the potential risks of abusing the substance, especially to young people.

Whichever side of the cannabis legalization debate you sit, the fact is it is here. It has changed the nature of messaging required around the topic. And it has established a new industry from which, in time, new brands will emerge and with which established brands will engage.

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