Cannabis Corner: Election 2016 and the Thought Leadership Opportunity of the Century

December 13, 2016

We read a ton of news. A HUUUUUUGE amount, in fact. Being in PR, we all have some level of affinity for a good story. There was no shortage of election 2016 narratives, and its aftermath – an unexpected victor, controversial cabinet appointments, and even a full “thank you tour” – have left journalists with more than enough material to get through to inauguration.

Aside from President-elect Trump, cannabis may have been the second-largest story to emerge from the 2016 election. It had a terrific showing on the ballot in November, with nearly every recreational and medical initiative getting the green light (sorry, Arizona). That wave of euphoria for many cannabis advocates quickly crested as the attention turned to the presidential race. Journalists clamored to cover President-elect Trump’s early moves to amass his advisors, including the nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to the role of Attorney General.

picture1(Photo: John Bazemore, AP)

From our perspective in the world of PR, the cannabis news storm actually increased after election night, and our team saw stories center on one of two topics: what will the effects of California’s Prop 64 be on the national market, and what in the world will a Trump/Sessions administration do to a states’ rights to legal cannabis?

The answers to both of these questions will only come with time, but that didn’t stop many experts, including a couple of our clients, from weighing in. From the strength of the black market to the effects on small cottage growers in the industry, the news cycle was ripe with opportunities for thought leaders to provide their take on seismic shifts in the industry.

Coverage of Sen. Sessions’ nomination represents a similar window for cannabis advocates to provide their perspective, but the water is muddy with everything from “cat’s out of the bag” bylines to doomsday headlines that seem to write off all progress from the last five years.

Knowing when to step into a crowded news cycle and when to tiptoe around it – maybe even launch a company in the middle of it all – is a tactical decision that can result in some great traction for clients. Crowded news cycles in the cannabis industry are few and far between, but Election 2016 and its aftermath has been one for the ages.


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