Article by Mona Zhang, Forbes
More than 60 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization – a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000. Nine states and Washington D.C. allow recreational use, and 30 states have comprehensive medical marijuana programs. You’d think with this level of support and access, promoting a cannabis company would be a breeze. But thanks to federal prohibition and ever-changing state regulations, it can be a frustrating task.
Cannabis companies are mostly barred from traditional means of advertising thanks to the drug’s federal prohibition. The industry has largely relied on social media to help get the word out. But that is not without its risks: YouTube has been shutting down cannabis-related channels. Facebook has closed the accounts of even ancillary cannabis companies. Marijuana-related businesses have had trouble using many marketing services from Mailchimp to Eventbrite. Even legitimate advocacy efforts – like an ad from a lawmaker advocating for medical marijuana bill – get caught up in Facebook’s policy against “promoting the use of illegal drugs.” (Facebook eventually apologized for removing the post.)
It’s those challenges that inspired longtime cannabis PR pros Cynthia Salarizadeh and Evan Nison to launch AxisWire along with a group of cannabis media veterans. Salarizadeh founded the cannabis communications firm Salar Media Group, which was recently acquired by communications firm KCSA. Nison is the founder and CEO of NisonCo, a PR firm dedicated to the cannabis industry.
“Many of the largest PR firms in the world would not touch the industry out of fear that their clients from other industries would leave them,” said Salarizadeh in an email. When she first got into the cannabis space about five years ago, she found that many newswires still would not allow cannabis-related content. “It was the strangest and most difficult obstacle to overcome while trying to get exposure for my clients and to help reverse the damage done by the infamous Reefer Madness campaign.”
AxisWire includes a newswire distribution service, press release writing services, media strategy consulting services, and something called the STAR Source Locator – essentially a HARO for cannabis. In addition to these marketing and branding services, the platform is partnering with CannaRegs for an additional layer of compliance help.