For all the talk about how cannabis will transform the worlds of health and wellness, one impediment stands in the way of its ascendance: an education gap. Marketers and entrepreneurs of all stripes want to hop on the cannabis bandwagon as soon as possible, but many of them don’t know what they don’t know.
Enter Green Flower Media, which founder and CEO Max Simon describes as “basically an education company.” Founded in 2014, Green Flower has expanded its slate to include an accreditation and certification arm, known as Green Flower Academy, and, last month, a streaming video subscription offering. That includes four channels — health and wellness, cannabis business, cannabis culture and cannabis and hemp cultivation — featuring original shows such as The Cannabis Insider with Bob Hoban and Understanding Cannabis with Simon himself. It’s priced at $9.99 per month or $97 per year.
“There are so many people coming in from outside the cannabis industry,” Simon says. “They need to be trained if they’re going to be successful in these new roles.”
Green Flower’s growth, which in June included a $20 million Series A round of financing led by Tuatara Capital, has been linear, at least when compared with the supposedly market-defying growth curves of cannabis upstarts. When the company was formed in 2014, Simon recalls, the biggest roadblock was “whether anybody cared at all.” Along those lines, he describes the cannabis craze as “a fast-but-slow build over the last few years, if that makes any sense…In 2015, when I said we were forming a cannabis education company, people looked at me like I was nuts. Being part of the industry was so taboo. In some peoples’ minds, it seemed like some back alley thing.”
With the regulatory climate around cannabis use changing so drastically, however, Green Flower has a different sort of challenge on its hands: keeping up with the pace of growth and increasing demand for specialized knowledge and training. The company has responded more or less the way one would expect. It’s hiring — headcount should reach 75 by the end of the year, up from a skeleton staff at its outset — and it has gone out of its way to broaden its base of content.
“About 80% of what people need to know and understand is consistent across regions. About 20% of it needs to be customized,” Simon says.
Early in its evolution, Green Flower emphasized content that addressed or clarified issues about the medicinal and health aspects of cannabis. That, in turn, led the company down its path.
“We realized that it was expensive for people to use cannabis medicinally, because they had to take high doses,” Simon explains. “The solution was, well, okay, grow your own. So how do you do that? We did hundreds of hours of content around cannabis growth. And then it was how to make different types of products. There was this very natural continuum that moved people through all these different subject matters.”
Green Flower’s health and wellness content is set to expand beyond the expected issues that it has already covered in depth: the use of cannabis to treat cancer, pain and sleep-related conditions, complete with safety profiles and contraindications. The company’s goal is to create dedicated content for as many specific health conditions as possible, with fibromyalgia and ADD next on the list.
While Simon says that Green Flower has already “covered all the fundamentals – I can say that comfortably,” niche deep-dives are likely to follow. “We’ll go in obscure places because we’ve found somebody who truly has knowledge,” he adds.
Simon also hopes to generate more of a following among professionals, in health and wellness and beyond. “The majority of the medical community knows nothing about cannabis,” he says, pointing to results from a recent study of oncologists. “Around 85% of patients are asking them about cannabis, but only 30%-35% of them say they’re comfortable talking about it.”
Simon senses similar comfort and awareness gaps among investors and attorneys, though Green Flower will attempt to address gaps in the latter group’s knowledge base when, this week, it sponsors the American Bar Association’s first cannabis event.
Up next is a push to partner with colleges and universities on cannabis education, plus an expansion of Green Flower Academy to include what Simon calls “a deeper and more specific library of programs.” This is likely to include a certification for first responders.
“The truth is that there’s a lot of people in the cannabis industry who proclaim they’re experts, but really, they’ve just taken a program or read some books and have the lingo down,” he adds. “Our job is to find the people who bring something unique to the table.”
The Third M is MM&M’s weekly health media column. Got ideas or questions? Contact Larry Dobrow at [email protected].