Walking into a pot dispensary could be an entirely new experience for you.
But if you visit a place like Kannabis Works, located in Santa Ana, Calif., you’re bound to lock in on a familiar sight — televisions in the lobby.
What’s on Kannabis Works’ TVs is a bit different than what you might catch at your local pharmacy or doctor’s office. Instead of a random soap opera or daytime infomercial, it’s all pot-related video customized to the dispensary.
The video is brought together by Cannabis Club TV, or CCTV, a startup based in Santa Cruz, California. The company goes into a dispensary, sets it up with TVs and, using proprietary software, delivers channels with cannabis-related content that streams over the internet to customers watching while they wait.
The channels focus on broad categories like education, entertainment, pop culture and medicinal. Each video is anywhere from two to six minutes. They can be anything from slides defining terms like “a Pinene,” which is what makes pot smell like, well, pot, or minutes-long videos on topics like the benefits of cannabidiol, or profiles on specific brands the dispensary might actually be carrying. And ads, of course.
Think of it as a digital media twist on the burgeoning weed business, which has gotten legs with multiple states loosening their legal views on marijuana. A pot-based streaming video service may help you decide on what to purchase while killing some time along the way. For folks behind the counter, it’s potentially another way to help make a sale.
“This industry, the tentacles spread far and wide,” said Matt Karnes, founder and managing partner at Green Wave Advisors, a research and analysis firm. He said the loosening regulations will spur a whole range of ancillary businesses.
So far, CCTV is in 114 dispensaries in seven states, broadcasting more than 12,000 hours every month. It’s one piece of the cannabis market that’s supposed to hit $24.5 billion by 2021, according to a December report from investment and research firm The Arcview Group. The hope is CCTV’s content will dash away some of the negative stigma surrounding weed.
“We’re starting to see that pivot away from ‘devil lettuce,’ if you will,” said CCTV CEO and founder Danny Keith, adding that these days, cannabis is starting to shake its stigma.
Keith hasn’t always been in the cannabis industry. Before Cannabis Club TV, he worked in marketing for the Santa Cruz Warriors, an affiliate team of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. But a streak of family health problems partially reframed how he saw cannabis and led him toward founding the company.
His father was battling an opioid addiction, his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and family friend Tommy Chong — yes, that Tommy Chong — was facing a bout of rectal cancer, which he treated with cannabidiol (CBD). Keith thought a lot about whether cannabis would have been helpful for his wife and father. His wife survived her tumor, but his father passed away in March 2015, not long before Cannabis Club TV finally came into being.
Early on, Keith even worked with Chong, the noted comedian and pot activist on promoting his lifestyle brand, Chong’s Choice. Now you can catch him on Cannabis Club TV too.
As Keith puts it, he wants to help change the way people think about pot, hence the variety of channels on Cannabis Club TV.
Not that there’s anything wrong with some old-fashioned stoner humor, but it’s time to get “beyond the ‘let’s get high on a Friday night’ mentality,” he said.
On the dispensary side, owners like Tepi Benjamins, who runs Kannabis Works, like serving up educational information, particularly on medicinal cannabis to those coming into the dispensary.
As Karnes pointed out, with increased legalization, there are plenty of folks getting into cannabis for the first time who have no idea what to buy. That makes for a pretty prime audience, Keith said.
“It gives the opportunity for our vendors to advertise their product and give their backstory to our clientele,” Benjamins said of the branding effort.
Cannabis Club TV is focused on expanding to more dispensaries around the country. But Keith’s ambitions are wider. Eventually, he’d like to have an app that would be available in places like smart TVs. In theory, you could catch Cannabis Club TV at your local dispensary, come home and flip it on there too.
How mainstream it all goes remains to be seen. Granted, some laws have relaxed, but there are plenty of hurdles ahead from state to state, and as much as folks like Keith want to shift the image of cannabis, these things take time.
But that’s partly why the company is adding shows like Jeff the 420 Chef’s “The 420 Gourmet,” which is a cooking show.
“What we want people to look at Cannabis Club TV as is the aggregated spot for all things cannabis,” Keith said.
A high ambition, indeed.