As cannabis continues to make its way into the mainstream, brands are becoming more comfortable with innovation and creative approaches to the ever-establishing industry, providing the public with more exposure to legal cannabis than ever before.
Respect My Region, a cannabis lifestyle and music marketing platform that celebrates community and culture, has just launched their first-ever North American Weed Tour, promising to showcase cannabis’s best brands to consumers all over the country.
The Bluntness is proud to be a participating media partner in Respect My Region's epic quest!
While Respect My Region has highlighted weed brands throughout the Pacific Northwest for the past three years, the organization is now planning to use their platform to explore the nuances of cannabis culture across the nation – as well as parts of Canada – during a four-month span of over 80 podcasts and livestreams.
What is Respect My Region?
Founded by cannabis entrepreneur and CEO Mitch Pfeifer, Respect My Region got its start in 2010 at Central Washington University in Washington State. Pfeifer and his friend Andy Layman were looking for a way to supplement their income when they came up with the idea for Respect My Region, a clothing line that became an instant hit in the area.
What began as an urban clothing line quickly developed into what it is today: a full-blown lifestyle brand that supports local artists, other brands, and creatives who believe in the value of community and culture.
Originally, the brand didn’t have anything to do with cannabis – that is, until Chief Operations Officer and Lead Product Reviewer Joey Brabo came on board and brought his expertise into the mix.
“At the time [Respect My Region was getting started], I was DJing and going to college,” Brabo says. “I wasn’t officially part of Respect My Region yet, but I had attended a concert they threw to sell clothes, and it was just so lit. I told them I’d bring in at least 300 people myself to their events if we partnered together, and the rest is history.”
Before joining the team, Brabo had a background as a brand ambassador, specifically in the tech community. He got his start in the cannabis industry after being let go by Microsoft, where he had his first experience as an ambassador.
“After Microsoft, I started applying to a bunch of jobs, but I wasn’t getting picked. So, I started applying to cannabis jobs,” Brabo says. “One day, I got a phone call saying I had an interview with Leafly. Then, I scheduled another interview with a dispensary within the next hour. They both hired me, and I became Leafly’s first brand ambassador.”
Brabo’s brand ambassador experience at Microsoft allowed him to really set the stage for Leafly’s team, and his time at the goliath cannabis company taught him a lot about the plant, the science behind it, and how it should be marketed and talked about.
By the time Brabo connected with Respect My Region, he had a wealth of cannabis knowledge to share. He attended the Marijuana Business Conference and Cannabis Expo on behalf of RMR for the first time in 2017, which was the brand’s first foray into the weed industry.
“I went to Vegas, walked around, and learned that no one really knew anything about marketing cannabis,” Brabo says. “We’d been testing out new content marketing strategies at Respect My Region, and they were making the dispensary I worked at a lot of money. That’s when I realized we were going to have a place in the industry.”
Respect My Region’s Mission: Family Over Everything
Today, Respect My Region has expanded outside of the Pacific Northwest, encompassing music and cannabis culture from all over the world. Their motto and mission remains as follows: Family Over Everything.
“Our motto is based on the idea that, when you’re an entrepreneur just getting going, your ‘family’ are often the only ones pushing you and holding you accountable. Without that support structure, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Brabo says.
“We all come from different walks of life, so it’s cool to see people come together and create their own family. The cannabis community has always been considered counterculture. This is about building community and being able to really rely on each other, and it allows people who’ve been shunned for working in cannabis to build a new family of their own.”
This encompassing, inclusive attitude is what led Brabo and team to develop the North American Weed Tour – Respect My Region’s first international feature of farms, labs, products, retailers, kitchens, ancillary services, and new technology in the cannabis industry.
How The North American Weed Tour Came About
“For the past three years, we’ve done the West Coast Weed Tour, a campaign designed to showcase west coast cannabis culture,” Brabo says.
“But with cannabis legalizing so much over the past few years, we wanted to expand across the U.S. and Canada to really highlight the culture and community that has just exploded into the limelight.”
The tour launched in mid-July – about two weeks earlier than it was originally supposed to begin.
“You know, like in the rap world, Drake will announce an album release date, and then he ends up dropping it early,” Brabo says with a laugh. “That’s what we wanted to do.”
Brabo and team dove into Google, Weedmaps, and Leafly, identifying what customers are viewing most, and what brands and products are considered the best of the best based on reviews.
“We’d take a look at whoever had the most reviews, or the most positive reviews, and then dive into their Instagrams and figure out who has the best looking products physically. There was definitely a lot of extensive market research that went into this before we even started reaching out,” Brabo says.”
This extensive research resulted in a roster of over 80 brands across the United States and Canada – everything from behemoth brands to mom-and-pop CBD shops. A few things most of the selected brands have in common is safety, premium status, and affordability.
One of the biggest controversies in the U.S.’s cannabis market is the fact that the plant isn’t federally legal yet. Because of this, many legacy cannabis brands are forced to operate in the shadows, and Respect My Region remains cautious and aware of this.
“It depends on the state, and the conversations we’re having with brands,” Brabo says.
“A lot of people in cannabis that have been around for five, ten, twenty years – they know the legacy market isn’t always trying to talk to everyone about what they’re doing. But, we have some people we know in the legacy market who are comfortable telling their stories. We’re also curating craft and commercial brands from the legal market.”
The Tour’s Purpose: Education And Awareness
While the four-month tour is certainly exciting, the real bread and butter will exist in the podcast episodes and live streams, which aim to provide consumers with top-of-the-line information on all of the highlighted brands and products for their consideration.
At the end of the day, the purpose of the tour isn’t to erase cannabis’s stigma, or convert doubters to the plant. Respect My Region’s tour is by consumers, for consumers – bringing awareness to the industry’s best brands and providing plant enthusiasts with trusted, valuable information on today’s products.
“We want to consistently take all of this education and have it translate to more content, more events, and more educational impact,” Brabo says. “The tour is designed to get people to read, learn, and know what we know. We just want people to understand we exist, and we’re here to educate and be a voice for the locals in the community.”
The livestreams will feature brand ambassadors, farmers, and/or lab technicians literally showcasing their products: cracking the nug, taking the dab, drinking the infused drink. Respect My Region wants viewers to literally see what legal cannabis looks like, so consumers can know exactly what they’re getting before they decide to purchase.
“I’m not going out of my way to erase any form of stigma,” Brabo says. “The people who believe weed is a stigma, we’re not going after them. We want people who are cannabis-friendly – people who want to show their friends, their mom, their grandma. This is about bringing people into the world, not changing opinions.”
Featured brands will discuss how their products were conceived or designed – what they smoke like, dab like, taste like. The tour aims to shine the spotlight on the industry in a matter-of-fact, we’re-not-hiding-anything manner – a concept that is long overdue for the cannabis community.
“I’m tired of persuading people. They can do what they want to do,” Brabo says. “The people who are already smoking, googling, and seeking out that education – that’s who we want to help.”
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