We Need To Talk About “Exotics”.
Plus legal updates, news & drops.
The Broccoli Report
Monday, July 26, 2021
Time to read: 7 minutes, 12 seconds. 1441 words.
Before I get up on my soapbox about the latest marketing term to hit flower shelves, a tease of this Friday’s newsletter for paid subscribers: A trend report on the realm of terpenes—the oily compounds attributing aroma and flavor that contribute to the overall experience of a particular plant. Processors face increasing demand to extract specific terpenes like myrcene and terpinolene. We’re going to talk about the variety of ways brands are incorporating them into their offerings, then dig into the real question: do consumers actually care about terps? Get ready for a full-bodied Report.
We Need To Talk About “Exotics”: Understanding the potentially problematic adjective showing up across the flower category.
Last spring, I was sitting in my apartment, watching a Zoom panel about the future of live cannabis events. A panelist started explaining some weed holiday I’d never heard of, an event something to do with celebrating “exotic strains.” That word snagged my attention, and since then, I’ve noticed “exotics” popping up everywhere in the cannabis space, from flower brands’ product copy to Soundcloud lyrics bragging about 🔥 weed.
My reaction to the word “exotic” is visceral, and it comes from a deeply personal place. Whenever I hear it, it calls up adolescent memories of friends’ dads complimenting my eye shape. It reminds me of the first uncomfortable feelings of being sexualized for looking different in a predominantly white population. It makes me feel icky. Whenever I hear “exotic” as a flattering descriptor, I hear “not of white origins, but still attractive.”
I know we’re talking about weed, not people. And words contain multitudes. Before dropping into full internet-rant mode over this, I did due diligence trying to understand how useful this word is in the cannabis industry. The results? Disparate, to say the least.
One figure in the legal California industry described it as a term denoting thorough, multifaceted quality: “A pedigree of high THC genetics and a premium cure, often created by the pheno-hunting growers who play with tissue cultures to create their own strains.”
Another young buyer in the CA scene described it as “super-high THC flower from rare genetics.”
A Gen X legacy grower from the East Coast now operating in Oregon’s legal industry told me the term was newer to him as well, sharing that when the Cookies dispensary buyer offered to “pay more for exotics,” he needed to ask for clarification. The buyer’s definition? “Rare-name, purple-colored buds.” The buyer didn’t mention anything about genetics.
So in my small survey, ”exotics” has no clear, individual definition when it comes to cannabis. Some people straight-up think it just means purple buds. “Rare genetics” is a pretty vague classification, too—strains have evolved and migrated across continents by natural and human means for centuries. I’d argue that most plants on shelves today have non-North American roots somewhere in their genome, likely making all contemporary cannabis varietals “exotic” in some light.
In the plant realm, "exotic" is often used as an oppositional descriptor, a counter to something "native." It is foundationally about determining otherness, and that's what it is selling here: a sort of nebulous categorization of difference, a glamorous haze of coming from an undefined elsewhere. If you want to market something as special or rare, do it! But you can do it without leaning on a word that is freighted with a whole lot of negative cultural baggage for a not-insubstantial segment of your market. And if you do use the word "exotic" in your marketing, it's worth being aware that the feelings it conjures for some of your customers may not be what you expected or intended. I'm not calling to cancel "exotics" as a weed word, but I am calling on us all to think a little harder about the words we choose to use and why we choose to use them.
One-Hitters: Cannabis News at a Glance
Enormous yikes: A worker mowing the lawn at Northern California company Flow Cannabis started the Broiler Fire. They struck a rock while mowing the property’s lawn, sparking a fire that grew to 80 acres, destroying three homes and six outbuildings before it was contained. The only landscaping West Coast weed companies should be worried about right now is clearing flammable brush.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act [links to PDF download]. The drafted legislation, proposed by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), would federally decriminalize cannabis. It would remove restrictions on cannabis in medical research, allow cannabis businesses access to federal banking and financial services as well as immigration protections, and it includes auto expungement stipulations. But there’s little-to-no chance it’ll pass. The Senate’s Democratic majority is too slim to pass anything, much less a bill packed with social justice initiatives and government intervention. That said, this is good progress. These legislators have literally written a rough draft, triggering a productive start to the conversation about what federal legalization can and should look like and the scope of issues lawmakers must consider.
I’m still reeling over the fact that cannabis can be legally, publicly consumed wherever tobacco is allowed in New York. Now that police are no longer seizing marijuana, making arrests, or issuing tickets for low-level possession in New York airports, the city is quickly becoming the chillest place to enjoy cannabis. I didn’t expect to write that sentence for at least another several years.
Syreeta McFadden profiles Blounts & Moore in Rolling Stone, an LLC investing in cannabis that also aims to develop the “first black-owned multistate operator.” The group includes nine Black women who have achieved significant professional heights and recognition (we’re talking Lawyers of the Year and other esteemed career awards). McFadden describes this sisterhood of socially-conscious entrepreneurs as "your cool and posh aunties, resplendent with grace, humor, and classic Southern charms," working to break down barriers preventing Black Americans from thriving in the cannabis industry.
Has anyone tried out the Herd social app yet? The weed-friendly photo-sharing app bills itself as “the greener pasture of social media,” and it’s available to iOS now (Android soon 😒). Perhaps this—at last!—is where we’ll be able to share the weed content that TikTok shuts down.
Concentrate brand Raw Garden is investing in better budtender relations through its Raw Garden Social Club, a virtual classroom and traveling pop-up event with stops all around California to familiarize retail staff with their products through a more “sommelier experience.” Participants gain access to an online education platform that certifies them to attend Social Club events like an aroma bar for terpene training, budtender bocce ball, and a “Name Your Strain” competition. A winner from each city will receive an all-expense-paid visit to Raw Garden’s Santa Barbara farm for a “feast in the field” and a two-day tour with the team.
Welcome to the weed news world, Montana Cannabis Weekly! Each edition of the newsletter will feature a brief interview with someone in the Montana cannabis community (which is preparing for the launch of adult-use in January 2022), industry job postings, product reviews, and an album of the week. Love that, and I wish Substack would let us play background music for each newsletter, like MySpace profile pages.
Ahead of the fall launch of their glass container collection, Calyx Containers debuts Art of Glass, a “celebration of heady glass artistry as a key component of cannabis history and consumption culture.” The campaign aims to give paraphernalia the recognition it deserves as “cultural artifacts of cannabis.” A collaboration with Vela G and Mike Shelbo (who you might recognize from Netflix’s Blown Away) kicks things off. Proceeds from the collab will be donated to social justice organizations (as yet unnamed).
Are you a Phoenix-based entrepreneur in cannabis looking for your tribe? Consider checking out Blunt Brunches, an intimate twice-monthly gathering of 15-25 women meant to make space to vent, share resources, and network. The organization is expanding its events with bigger Blunt Brunch Socials, the latest of which is an all-out pool party featuring a water yoga sesh happening on August 20.
Two of my favorite music artists of all time invested in CA cannabis brand Pure Beauty. The brand reported it successfully raised $5 million in convertible note fundraising from a consortium of investors that included Gron Ventures, Subversive Capital, and celebrities including Timbaland, Nas, and music video director Tom Kuntz. Listen to this Broccoli Talk episode featuring a co-founder of Pure Beauty to see what Timba and Nas see.
Listen here for a wholly unsolicited playlist of my favorite songs by these investors.
See you next time,