A Product Management Challenge: Pot

So you think that you have a tough job, eh? Just imagine how hard it must be to the product manager who works for one of the new firms that has just popped up to start legally selling marijuana! In the United States, a handful of states now allow marijuana to be sold either for medical or for recreational purposes. This means that there is a legal market for consumers. Just exactly the kind of situation that calls for a bit of help from a skilled product manager with a well-thought out product development definition.

The Problem With Pot

In the United States, the state of Colorado has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. However, change happens slowly and right now how consumers can get the marijuana that they want has not yet caught up with the new demand for the product.

What this means is that the pot dispensaries that are currently the only places where people can legally buy pot are not really places that you’d want to go. They are dingy, poorly lit, and have bars on the windows. The staff behind the counter wear hoodies and look like they smoke as much pot as they sell. All in all, this is not the type of place that most law abiding citizens would really like to go.

An additional challenge comes up when customers attempt to purchase marijuana. Currently, the product that is available to consumers goes by names like “Big Buddha Cheese” and “Green Krack”. Just exactly what is being bought here?

Making Cannabis Cool

The product managers who have been brought in to transform Colorado marijuana from an illegal street drug to an everyday recreational activity have their hands full. Somehow they have to transform the process of buying pot and make it more like going to Walmart.

The first step in the process is to change where marijuana gets purchased. The new dispensaries now have clever names like “Mindful” and they are trying to modernize the selling of cannabis. In these new stores, employees wear uniforms and the company logo is everywhere. If product managers can rebrand pot successfully, then they’ll really have something to add to their product manager resume.

The final step in the rebranding of pot is to try to work it into more of everyone’s everyday life. What this has meant in Colorado is having the Colorado Symphony host shows called “Classically Cannabis” and holding cannabis cocktail parties. Not content with those efforts, a new yoga class called “Vape and Vinyasa” has been introduced along with a new smartphone app that allows the placing of online pot orders.

What All Of This Means For You

Marijuana has become legal to sell, buy, and consume in a number of places in the United States. Now that there is a product to be sold and consumers who can legally buy it, it’s time for the product managers to step in. However, pot has been illegal for so long, what’s a product manager to do with this new type of product in order to make it a success? Our product manager job description never told us how to handle this situation!

In Colorado, the new companies that have started to grow and sell marijuana have discovered that they have a problem. There is no efficient way to distribute their product. The few stores that currently sell pot are very seedy looking and are staffed by people who are really best suited to interacting with people who use illegal drugs.

The new marijuana company product managers are starting to make changes in order to grow their market share. They are rebranding a number of ways that people refer to marijuana in order to make it more palatable to a larger audience. They are also starting to cross marijuana with other activities that their target audience is participating in.

It’s still early on in this new product field. The pot product managers have a lot of work ahead of them. They have to recast the image of their product from forbidden illegal drug to desirable recreational pastime. The good news is that it can be done. Now it’s just up to the product managers to find out how to do it.

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Why Synthetic Marijuana Is Killing Kids

While our country continues to be plagued with the opiate crisis, there exists another dangerous drug that is falling into the hands of our children at a rapid pace: synthetic marijuana. A harmful message is sent to our younger generation as states pass the legalization of marijuana, offering it as a safe and harmless drug. The problem worsens when our young people believe synthetic marijuana is the same as natural marijuana. They do not realize nothing could be further from the truth. Young people across the country are becoming critically ill and dying after using synthetic marijuana, even after their first time using it.

Synthetic marijuana is commonly referred to as “Spice” or “K2” and is a mixture of herbs and spices. These spices have been sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The chemical compounds typically include HU-210, HU-211, JWH-018, and JWH-073, but there are hundreds more as chemists “tweak” the formula in an attempt to stay ahead of the law.(1)

Users and sellers should know that “tweaking” the chemical make-up of a drug is still illegal. The altered substance may be a new formula, also known as an analogue, but it contains similar chemical compounds to those that are banned and therefore still illegal under the Federal Analogue Act, 21 U.S.C., Section 813. An analogue of a drug is a created variation which is chemically or pharmacologically similar to an original or created formula (another existing analogue.) A controlled substance analogue shall, to the extent intended for human consumption, be treated for the purposes of any Federal law, as a controlled substance in schedule I. (2). The majority of states have also implemented analogue state laws to combat the abuse and sale of synthetic drugs, in addition to the existing Federal regulations.

Synthetic marijuana is commonly purchased in head shops, tobacco shops, gas stations, and over the Internet. It is often marketed as incense or “fake weed” and the packaging is labeled “Not for Human Consumption.” The synthetic marijuana chemists erroneously believe selling the product as incense or potpourri will protect them from federal prosecution. Synthetic marijuana street names include Bliss, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Fake Weed, Genie, Mojo, Scooby Snax, Spice, Zohai and many others.

The chemists who produce these synthetic cannabinoids do so by spraying chemicals on shredded plant and herb material. As a result of the reactions between the chemicals and herb materials, some synthetic cannabinoids can be up to 100X more potent than natural THC. These chemicals are often not products ever intended for human consumption and undiluted, many would be lethal. The use of these chemicals results in a significant number of dangers and negative side effects including high blood pressure, blurred vision, heart attack, vomiting, seizures, hallucinations, severe anxiety, paranoia, violent behavior and death. (3)

Synthetic marijuana is typically sold in a colorful pack containing a dehydrated green or brown plant material. However, as “vaping” and the use of e-cigarettes utilizing liquid variations of tobacco substitutes increases in popularity, an increase in marketing of liquid forms of synthetic marijuana has been noticed. Internet sites sell liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices, which are other forms of synthetic marijuana.

Parents should monitor their children’s behavior and have conversations with their children about the dangers of synthetic drugs. Regardless of the legality issues involving natural and synthetic marijuana, the statistics show marijuana is the most highly abused drug among teens and is a gateway drug to addiction of street and prescription drugs later on, including heroin. Parents and educators should monitor their children when making any online purchases, or buying items from local small shops. Some stores may keep the synthetic marijuana out of sight to avoid law enforcement, but still offer to sell it from behind the counter. When confronted, if a child or student possesses a package labeled “Not for Human Consumption”, the substance should be seized and turned over to the local authorities. The dangers of synthetic drug use cannot be overstated to children and other potential users.

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