Marketing Marijuana to Women as a Wellness Alternative

Wellness Marketing

Steve DeAngelo, founder and CEO of Harborside Health Center, believes that marijuana is better understood not along the usual medical/recreational divide, but as an essential component of wellness. As he told an audience at High Times Business Summit 2015 in Washington, D.C.,

If we keep on talking about recreational cannabis we are going to totally freak out the soccer moms of America, who do not think their kids need another intoxicant. But they will welcome a new, more natural and safer wellness remedy. As we build our companies and products, let’s not market those products as intoxicants. Let us redefine cannabis as the wellness product that it really is.

As a philosophy, DeAngelo’s take could be debated and discussed.

But as a marketing strategy, positioning cannabis as a wellness product may give it traction with a wider audience, including women who are significantly less likely to participate in medical marijuana programs than men. That new direction may be lead by women themselves.

A wellness approach to healthcare focuses on interventions and lifestyle adjustments intended to promote natural healing and minimize the need for invasive treatment. It is already part of the standard medical arsenal as when, for example, a physician suggests changes in diet and exercise to control a patient’s high blood pressure rather than prescribing a beta blocker.

There is plenty of evidence that, because of the special way that the human body takes up cannabinoids through its own endocannabinoid system, marijuana may promote homeostasis, a concept at the heart of wellness theory. This is the way it works to treat a variety of ailments: reducing inflammation, stopping the spread of cancer cells, alleviating nausea, pain, seizures and lowering intraocular pressure. Nonetheless, many physicians remain stubbornly agnostic about cannabis’s role in a medical wellness program.

Hence the alternative route. As a wellness product, cannabis has emerged in lotions, oils, and as an integral element of spa, yoga and beauty treatments. Recent issues of Ladybud Magazine have included articles touching on cannabis as a remedy for hyperemesis gravidarum and its potential in helping the bereaved overcome suicidal ideation. MJINews author, Molly Poiset, recently recommended juicing for those who want to “use cannabis as a healing modality as part of your morning wellness program,” without the psychotropic high.

There is no evidence that the wellness benefits of cannabis are gender-limited. But wellness marketing is very gender-specific. Steve DeAngelo fretted about “soccer moms.” Poiset’s speculation that some may be reluctant to dab with a Williams-Sonoma crème brulee torch is arguably more likely to resonate with women than men. Show me a man who reads Ladybud Magazine, and I’ll show you someone with an open and inquiring mind.

ArcView Research predicts that the legal cannabis industry, which was valued at $2.7 billion last year, will hit $10.8 billion by 2019. Marketing to women is hardly a crazy idea. They reportedly control 85 percent of consumer spending in the United States, including 80 percent of healthcare dollars and, for want of a better comparison, 93 percent of OTC pharmaceuticals.

Yet raging recreation may not the way to reach them. Medical marijuana may still involve an awkward conversation with a skeptical doctor and, in some cases, the risk of adverse child custody action. Wellness may be a better avenue to reach women.

Women entrepreneurs appear to be at the forefront in exploring this route. The 2016 Women Grow Leadership Summit in Denver, for example, will feature a healthy dollop of morning yoga followed by sessions with titles like “Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System” and “Taking Control of Your Healthcare” as well as the usual trademark, finance and sales topics. It suggests that marijuana wellness marketing directed toward women may be led by businesswomen, as well.

Anne Wallace is a New York lawyer who writes extensively on legal and business issues. She also teaches law and business writing at the college and professional level. Anne graduated from Fordham Law School and Wellesley College.

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