Party Like a Marketer Podcast

Episode 58: Amplifying Impact: Cannabis Advocacy & Media Relations

Episode Description

Explore the role of media relations in driving cannabis justice advocacy through storytelling and public relations with Stephen Post, Strategic Communications Manager at Last Prisioner Project. Join us as we explore PR tactics, media outreach strategies, and effective communication techniques for driving meaningful reform.

Learn more and get involved in Last Prisoner Project’s partner and donation programs:

Partners for Freedom Program:

Roll It Up for Justice Program:




Learn more and connect with the Cannabis Marketing Association:

Read the Transcript

Lisa Buffo  00:10

Hey everyone. Welcome to today’s episode of Party like a marketer, the podcast dedicated to cannabis marketing, public relations and authentic storytelling. I’m Lisa buffo, the founder and CEO of cannabis Marketing Association, and the host of today’s episode, CMA is the producer of this podcast, and the guests are CMA members. They are experts from across all verticals in marketing in the cannabis industry, who come on the show to share their unique expertise and lessons with you all. If you’re interested in joining the cannabis industry or learning more about cannabis marketing, please visit us at the Cannabis marketing or visit us on social media at Canna marketing on Instagram and LinkedIn, Facebook and x as well. We have lots of free resources and a blog for you, including episodes on this podcast. And you can connect with our membership team to learn more about member benefits. We host regular events, webinars and produce content in the form of white papers and downloadables to help members do their jobs better every day. And if you’re interested in learning more about membership, please reach out to us at membership at marketing Today’s guest is Stephen post. Stephen is the campaign manager and communications strategist with last prisoner project who focuses on implementing policy through coordinated government and public relations efforts. Steven hopes to empower others to challenge the obstacles to equal justice in cannabis, as well as help redesign the justice system by breaking down the stigma around drug use. Stephen is a two time graduate of the Ohio State University where he has his BA in Political Science and Economics and his Masters of Public Administration with a focus on drug policy reform and policing. During his time at Ohio State he worked with OSU is drug enforcement and Policy Center, where he supported interdisciplinary evidence based research, education and community outreach around the reformation of laws that regulate traditional drugs. Steven, thanks for joining us on the podcast.

Stephen Post   02:22

Of course. Thanks for having me, Lisa.

Lisa Buffo  02:23

Yes. So can we first start off, tell the audience a little bit about yourself? What’s your professional background? How did you get into the cannabis industry? Tell us about last last prisoner project the work that you do there, but I’ll let you introduce yourself a little bit more. Awesome.

Stephen Post  02:41

So my name is Stephen Post. I’m a Communications Manager at the last prisoner project, which is a 501 C three nonprofit that really helps to release those that are still currently incarcerated for cannabis and really repair the war repair the harms of the war on drugs. And I think for me, it was a very interesting journey, getting to last prisoner project. I’ve been working at the organization just a little over two years now. Before then, I had actually been in Ohio at The Ohio State University for seven years during my undergrad and Master’s in Public Administration program there. And it was probably about my sophomore or junior year, where I was really interested in drug policy, I added a pharmaceutical sciences minor and just started to learn more about drugs generally. And really, my first foray into the drug policy space was more so especially in Ohio, we were dealing with a opiate opiate crisis, and really trying to find ways that we could find solutions to improve people’s lives and help them out there. And really, medical cannabis was one of the things in my research that I found, really provides a lot of support to folks and is a good alternative. And so really, that was my transition into the cannabis space was from trying to find solutions back in Ohio around the opioid space. And so I think it’s always been an a space for me of how can I help people and how can I help them find the ways that they can improve their lives through plant medicine. And so from there, I actually worked in the private side in Ohio for a little bit as well, helping kind of set up some of the medical dispensaries in Ohio, whether it be launching with marketing campaigns or helping with their PR there as well. So I was really lucky to get a little bit of a taste on the private side as Ohio’s medical market was getting set up. And then during my master’s program at OSU, I worked at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, which is led by the executive director Doug Berman. He’s a great law professor knows a lot about sentencing overall and is on the United Sentencing Commission. And I just felt like, I learned a lot of valuable skills there from the research side. But that really set me up, I think, to go out into the broader space. They had some great connections, Doug actually still serves on last prisoner projects legal committee. And so he was the one that kind of told me about LPP and their mission. And it really aligned I think, with overlapping some of my policy and research skills with my advocacy, advocacy skills. So I was actually the president of the Council of Graduate students while I was at Ohio State representing over 13,000 graduate level students was really involved just on the city level. Sorry, are you hearing those beeps? Is that okay? I didn’t know if you’re here in the notifications. Yeah. Okay. Just want to make sure. But yeah, I was doing a lot in the city level there. And so I really think last person or project was a perfect place for me, because it allowed me to combine some of my drug policy skills with some of my communication and advocacy skills. And so it’s been a great, great role. For me, some of the things that it looks like to be in my day to day job really runs from social media. So making sure we have all of our postings across different platforms every single day. Our press relations, so anything as it relates to dealing with journalists, or media or op eds, or anything that we might want to write about or expand upon on our policy side, from an external standpoint, is really what I do. And I get a lot of support from our policy team. I’m very grateful for that opp policy team, because they really, truly are some some of the best experts in criminal justice reform and where that over intersects with cannabis policy. And so I feel very lucky with the role that I have at LPP because it also allows me to talk with our constituents on a daily basis. And that’s something for me that I have found to really be one of the most impactful experiences of working that last person or project is getting to speak with not only these individuals that are still currently behind bars, but their family members and how it’s impacted them. And really the ripple effects that the harms from the War on Drugs have caused. And so really, I think, coming into my third year at LPP, I’m really trying to focus on continuing to uplift their voices, and making sure that they’re really the center of our narrative and the center of all the work that we do. And so I’m really excited about all the campaigns and things that we have coming up that really incorporate some of their voices and happy to talk more about anything that I do at last person or project. So yeah,

Lisa Buffo  07:41

thank you that was very thorough, and I’m I’m excited to get into it. And for me, personally, and CMA were our first intro to LPP was 2020. It was around the pandemic and I was introduced to marry your executive director through a mutual colleague and friend. And that year I started corresponding with coordinating Cooper with in letters. And this was when he was still in Louisiana. And he ended up getting pardoned. It was it felt like a miracle. But it was definitely a lot of work that happened behind the scenes by the former president right before he left office in January 2021. And Karina, since like I’ve met him in person, he spoke at our at our he keynoted. Our summit last year, I see him out at events, and it’s just been so cool. I was actually cleaning my office this week and came across those letters. But it’s been so cool to just see how much his life has changed through through your work. And how how much change can be possible with dedication and thought put towards it. And he’s actually been on this show, we do have a podcast episode with core vein, which we did right after, it was not long after he was released, because as soon as he was released, he just got to work. I was like, it was so amazing. He just got to work on 40 times, they’re brand new, you can check them out and follow him on social media, advocating for Parker, Coleman and and all the other guys who are still there. So lots of good work on LPP side. And we have definitely witnessed it firsthand. And it’s been life changing for me as well. But this is a you are a policy expert and a strategic communications expert. And even though you work on the nonprofit side, there are still lots of lessons I think for marketers who are working within the industry and you do have that kind of cross experience where you’ve worked with with dispensaries and retailers. You’ve worked in the medical side, you’re working on the policy side now but you definitely have a really good understanding of the intersection of all of that. So I do want to talk about how you approach strategy towards towards your policy campaigns where we can kind of you know, answer it as far as communication It’s more broadly, because obviously, with something like what you’re doing at last prisoner project, there’s a big kind of ask behind the strategy where you need to get a lot of public support a lot of awareness for something that isn’t, you know, that information isn’t readily available almost by design, about the constituents and what they’re doing. So how do you, basically you’ve got to create the megaphone and make it loud and wide, as much as you can and as quickly as you can. How do you do that? And how do you approach strategy? Like, what’s your what is your process there, that marketers can learn from? Yeah, I


think for strategy, it’s so important. And for me, I know like some of the best practices even that I really tried to do is making sure that I’m always flushing out that strategy for myself, whether it be those thoughts, the different synergies, different platforms or channels that we could be going through, really writing down everything that I need, as well as really taking stock of who are the partners, who are the key stakeholders that are needed to really make this campaign or marketing campaign successful. A lot of our work, as we’ve described, really is at the intersection of how do we utilize the public in public education and public awareness and some of these marketing tools to put pressure on and build public pressure for these lawmakers, governors representatives to actually take action. Because we know that, honestly, we have the policy solutions. The problem is massive. There’s there’s 10s of 1000s of folks still in prison and and suffering the collateral consequences from a cannabis record as well. And we have these policy solutions. We know that we need to be doing more clemency grants and community more sentences in releasing those folks. We know that on a legislative level that we need to be passing legislation that includes expungement provisions and other record clearance mechanisms. But oftentimes, we find it’s not this finding the solution. That’s the issue. It’s how do we implement that solution? And how do we create that political will, that’s necessary to really create some of those reforms. And so for us, it’s it’s really making sure that we’re identifying the policy windows and opportunities that are available as well. So for an example, you may have recently heard about like the governor Mar Healy’s up in Massachusetts, her recent pardons. I think that’s kind of an example I’d love to run with, because we’ve been working on ever since President Biden’s October 2022. Initial pardon announcement, our pardons to progress campaign, and that has really been encouraging governors, like Maura Healey and others to really take up the mantle of what President Biden has already done, and do that for their own states, if not go further. And so this part of the Progress campaign is one that we’ve had running ongoing, and really haven’t seen as many governors as we would like, take those actions. But it’s really important that when we have an opportunity, like this Massachusetts instance, to really elevate that, and elevate Governor Healy as a champion for some of these reforms, because seeing kind of that positive reaction within the press, seeing positive hits, and seeing positive reactions on social media is really what we know drive some of the political will in some of these other states. And so I think it’s really important for us to be taken advantage of moments like this, working with trying to work with Governor Healy’s office. We also have a pen to write history program, which I’ll talk a little bit further on in the program as well, where we’re hoping to get this pen in her hand that she’ll actually sign these pardons, and really write history in the state of Massachusetts. And I think all of these framing and marketing pieces is really important when presenting these options to a governor or to a legislator, because they want to see that the work is there, the public support is there that the solution is that everything’s dotted and T’s across before they really like, go on and push that out publicly and support it. And so I think there’s a lot of different aspects to these campaigns that you have to think through. And that’s why I think it’s really important to make sure you’re flushing that plan out in some type of go to market strategy, consulting with advocates on the ground as well. I think that’s especially in the policy space. Very important. Because you’re you have these these state legislators that are the key stakeholders that you’ll need votes for. And so I think it’s just a matter of really corralling a lot of these stakeholders together and making sure that you have a plan of how you’re going to interact and engage with all of them. So again, you’re heading into this strategy with multiple channels, multiple options, because you’re likely to have one of those fail or not be as successful as you would like. And so I think it’s definitely important to kind of diversify. I that strategy as well.

Lisa Buffo  15:02

So, thank you for that. But um, I’m hearing a lot of good things. So I like how you also mentioned, you create these as campaigns like, what pardons to progress? And what did you say pens? Pens?


Three? Yeah,

Lisa Buffo  15:15

yeah, it’s like you created names around them, and also identified. So when you say policy window, do you mean like, Can you define that a little bit? So Biden makes the announcement, October 2022. It’s like, does that create a window and say, Okay, now let’s do this. And because we can ride the heels off of that, or is there a more of a specific? Like, I know, there’s, you know, there’s certain times when laws are made, there’s certain times when they’re not. But can you just define policy window a little bit more?


Yeah, for sure. That’s definitely one of our terms that I learned in my public administration classes. The policy window is really anytime that you have that opportunity, or think you have that opportunity to really push and make progress. Because, like I said, oftentimes, the solutions and things are already there. But it’s really a matter of when you can push. So like you said, back when President Biden made that first announcement in October 22. We went to all of the governors did mass kind of a letter campaign sent each Governor a letter, providing them with background and info of what President Biden said what they should be doing. I’m not only granting pardons, but again, also taking that a step further, and actually commuting the sentences of folks that are still behind bars within their states, because those are the folks that are still experiencing the most harms. But that policy window is really anytime that that opportunity comes clearer and more of these things align. So that’s really why like the Massachusetts one is such a strong opportunity. Because we’ve already been talking about pardons to progress. A lot of media pressure has been building around President Biden doing more with his pardons as well. And so it’s really multiple lens, or layers are all kind of colliding at the same timeframe. And so really wanting to try to utilize that moment. And that pressure to really push forward the movement is what we find is really important. And I think another example of that is the 420 Unity Day of Action that we’re planning in DC, Iraq should be hanging on for 18. But we know in a presidential election year, all of the focus is really on these candidates and wanting to really continue to build off some of this pressure from the DEA scheduling, rescheduling discussions, and all of his initial reforms, I think will really come to a head at 420. And so we’re almost trying to create a policy window there for him to almost offer it as an opportunity. Because as soon as 420 goes by I unfortunately think the policy window will also close relatively quickly, because it’s just going to be general election information. And we’re going to be in full election campaign mode for them. And while I hope the issue will still be front of mind across the campaign, especially in mainstream media, I just know it won’t be as strong as it will be up through 420.

Lisa Buffo  18:04

Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. And you’re I mean, you’re doing you’re just using different language. This is exactly what marketers do. They identify windows and opportunities, they try to get folks to take an action and sounds like for you that could be writing a letter or applying public pressure or asking something and, you know, maybe in the private sector that’s making a purchase or look at the services, but it’s it’s the same conceptually as far as creating messaging, launching campaigns and trying to get an action out of that. So yeah, well, first of all, how can we help it as of now it’s March 19. So this will be released a little bit probably next week. But it’ll be released before 420. But what can the audience do to help in this window? Yeah, so


we have a full website, I’ll definitely share that with you. We’ll see that Lisa, and really just encouraging folks to sign up to participate. We would love to see folks in DC for that lobby day on for 18. We’re really working with a number of different organizations from drug policy, Alliance and forum M, all of these traditional normal, all of these traditional advocacy in industry organizations, and really trying to create a sense of unity that this is the time for us to take action. And so even if you can’t come with us into DC, I think uplifting the action generally is definitely something folks can do. We have resources on our 420 website that allow you to share social media posts really continue to help us build that pressure on President Biden. There’s been a lot of comments that he’s already said, no one should be in jail for cannabis. And even just last Friday, the VP held an event at the White House. I know many folks were paying attention to around these pardons and clemency pieces and I think it’s just going to be important to utilize those developments that have been positive and continue to grow. And so anyone that can really share those pieces and direct folks to the Unity Day of Action is extremely helpful. And I think we’ll continue to have other live streaming options. So folks can see what’s happening on the day of. And we’re also encouraging folks to take a lead up actions. So we actually have one we’re doing in about 10 days now. Yep, march, march 27, in Oakland, with supernova women and Drug Policy Alliance. And we’re really hoping to kind of use that as a lead up event. And so we’ve been encouraging other folks to set up these actions or activations within their own communities and use some of our messaging to make sure that folks know, there’s a lot of work still to be done. And I think I know, we’ll probably talk about some of it a little bit further down about what are some of the like roadblocks or things that we’ve come in? That are challenges to our work? And especially with all of the developments, especially on the federal side with Biden, I think a lot of folks Oh, he pardoned everyone, it’s, it’s, it’s done, you know, like, what else do we have to do. And unfortunately, even after his proclamation, for almost eight months to a year, we had to do a lot of re education. And so I think it’s really important as we’re focusing on for 20, that we’re even just generally educating the public on all of these different pieces. And what really will happen or won’t happen, as a as it relates to some of these reforms, and its actual impact on cannabis, criminal justice, because sometimes it’s definitely a little bit more inflated, than then the actual impact will come across. So

Lisa Buffo  21:36

yeah, that makes sense. And we’ll share, send me any links, and we’ll put them in the show notes. So for everyone who’s listening, go to the website and check those out. And I do want to talk about the roadblocks. But before we get there, I want to talk a little bit about the PR the public relations aspect. Because there is such power in knowing how to communicate with the media proactively pitch the media anticipate things like I mean, I hear you with for 20. It’s like that’s when it’s all over the news. And that’s the that’s kind of the biggest moment that we have as an industry and as a community to sort of ride that wave. So can you talk a bit about and obviously, you have to be very specific and technical in your messaging, like, you know, Biden talked about federal offenses like that’s very different than other things. And you know, having to go through that reeducation. And what that is, and kind of a nuanced and detailed way where it might seem like one thing on its face in terms of how it reads in the media, or how the story is, and then the actual details of what’s playing out can be very different, or there’s just more nuance to it that can get missed. So can you talk a little bit about strategy or really anything around your approach to public relations, working with the media, both proactively and given that 420s Coming up kind of writing these events that you don’t necessarily have to create? But if you can figure out how to do it can work very much. So in your favor, like how do you do that? How do you work with them? What works, what doesn’t? And then we’ll we’ll talk about those roadblocks to your actual work as well. But let’s let’s just talk PR for


a minute. Yeah, no, PR is honestly like the favorite piece of the work that I do. I like a writer at heart. And so like, I get to sit down and like do an op ed piece. Like that’s really fun for me. And like when it comes to overall strategy with op eds, or general comments or things like that, at least for LPP, we have found that you really do need to connect to the reader and for us in with our mission. Uplifting the stories of our constituents is one of the strongest ways that we do that. Connecting stories like the work that we’re doing in Virginia, with SB 696, which is a cannabis resentencing bill to our constituents like Brian reed, Brian reed was actually thankfully just released not but a month ago. But we had kind of worked on this bill back in 2021, in Virginia, and it would have been a possibility that if it would have gotten past that year, Brian reed could have gotten out two years sooner, you know what I mean? And so really, connecting the story of our constituents to the policy and originality pieces that we want to get focused on, I think is really important. And we’re always happy to also work with brands or partner partners to kind of include those stories, especially if you’re in a certain state. I know that that has also come into play with the Biden piece, as he’s kind of continued to tout his cannabis reforms while on the campaign trail. We’ve seen him go to states like South Carolina and touted Wisconsin, and for us, it’s almost like a mix of that PR shroud strategy and policy window because it’s like, you need to do a push to all of our South Carolina publications and outlets that we know because Biden was there speaking about on the campaign trail, we really want to push back I can say, these are some of the actions that he could still take and still needs to be done. And so really trying to stay on top of the new story or the new cycle and trying to Again, pay attention to where opportunities for press are because there’s a lot of people pitching a lot of op eds right now. And there’s, it’s just really flush out there. So I think you need to be very pointed with your story, you need to have a very specific angle for us cannabis justice in our constituents oftentimes can get it done. But I think from a PR strategy, it’s also about maintaining some of those relationships. We work with a press agency, press here, as well as get support from Neeson, CO, which we’re super grateful from both of those groups, and really relying on on some of those folks expertise. But making sure that as we are pushing out these articles that we have some type of CTA or broader strategy that it’s connected to, because yeah, it’s great if we can get a hit that has lpps name in it, and people get connected to us through that. But really, a lot of the work that we’re trying to do and that I tried to do is how can we utilize this moment to get a press message out there that really adds to or progresses some of our campaigns or or might sway a state legislator in that state to change their mind around cannabis reform. And so I think it’s really important. I think framing, like I said, it’s super important, even things off of like the State of the Union address. I know a lot of folks were trying to pitch things or take different angles with President Biden’s mentions. And I just think it’s very important to be very clear, with op eds. And with some of those messaging. For even for us, we sent a letter to Biden following that instance of him saying those things at the State of the Union address, and we kind of crafted an op ed, which was recently published in marijuana moment over the weekend, that more tied that letter of our constituents to President Biden back to that state of the Union address. But we actually had kept that op ed separate from another op ed that was much more around Federal expungement. And some of the needs of the like legislature or congress to actually take action, following President Biden’s and making sure that again, those are two distinct messages. And so we’re still trying to work to place that expungement op ed, but I think it’s really important that you don’t overcrowd that op ed or overcrowd the messaging either because you don’t want to overwhelm reporters or their publication staff because they’re just going through so sifting through so many things, you really want it to be super straightforward. And so that’s at least a lot of the strategy as it relates to kind of press releases or press relations that that I try to employ. So.

Lisa Buffo  27:55

Yeah, so what I’m I’m hearing you say is no, no your messaging be very clear in it. Also kind of pick your battles are just like, here’s, here’s what we’re gonna accomplish with this. And then you’re doing thought leadership that is tying together the policy and the the stuff that you have to digest with a human element in the human story and connecting emotionally with that, that audience, that reader that reporter that that lawmaker, and if you can kind of do that all together at the right time, that that’s really how you can see change and see actions and, and doing that repeatedly over time seems to have a bit of a compound effect. Like the more you’re doing it, the more support you have, the more time goes on. In theory, it gets like a little easier, or the pressure, you know, ramps up and in your you’re sort of able to achieve those goals in a faster way and an easier way. So that because I know with policy for sure things take time. And it can be frustrating and in marketing too. But that the sustained effort over time really does pay off. And I know I’ve seen that with your work. And it sounds like that’s what, that’s what you guys are doing. And it seems very informed and like it’s working.


Well. Yeah, exactly. And like I said, like if we’re doing all those things on a daily basis and making sure that our brand is strong or brand representative representation is strong. It makes it a lot easier for me to go to someone like Massachusetts Governor Haley Healy to like, join us in this campaign because she sees the work that we’re doing, she knows that we can provide her positive energy and feedback and press and so I think that is really a crux of not only like the PR strategy, but it’s important for your brand because people are looking for those aspects when going into a partnership or something with you. So and

Lisa Buffo  29:54

I forgot to ask, Can you define constituents for the audience in your own words and then Can you talk about some of the success stories? Because I know you’ve had several. And it seems to be like, I feel like I’m seeing it more and more now, which is so good. But can you just define that and speak to who some of those folks are? And what’s happened?


Yeah, so constituent specifically just refers to anyone that last prisoner project helps support. So we support in a number of ways, most strongly in our legal program or our cannabis Justice Initiative, as it’s called. And that’s with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. We provide pro bono legal support for our constituents, to help them through the judicial process of submitting like, compassionate relief motion or clemency application, things like that. But we also consider our constituents, anyone within our advocacy program. So providing commissary folks that are on our letter writing roll call, making sure everyone gets a reentry grant upon their release. And so any one that really received support from LPP is what we consider our constituents, including those that have received support and are now thriving in the future. Like we believe the whole LPP family is all of those folks, our constituents, as you mentioned, like Burbank, Cooper, it’s great to see all the work for you. 40 tons is doing. Dante West is an LP employee that was previously incarcerated and has his own brand and owns a dispensary as well. His story is actually really cool, because he helped release Kyle Paige, who you may have heard about he is in the cannabis industry now preparing for a license, and he was actually one of Dante’s bunkmates. And he helped him out. And then it was really cool, because both Dante and Kyle worked on one of our New Jersey campaigns to help get Humberto Ramirez released, which was amazing to see these folks are not only able to do the path and take the path that they want to after being released. And we try to provide support via scholarships with folks like Oaksterdam or the trichrome Institute, to make sure that they’re set up to do those things. But I think a lot of success stories have really come out from our constituents who also want to not be done with this work, they feel a need to help those that are still behind bars. My colleague, Stephanie Shepherd, who’s our Director of Advocacy, who folks may have met as well, she served 10 years, she really is just a great speaker and really knows how to help support those folks that have been released and are on their way out. And like something I’ve definitely underestimated is as part of those wins, like reentry is hard reentry coming in coming out of prison and re entering your community re acclimating to life is really hard. And I think even just having someone there from the LPP team that has gone through those things, and no one knows how to support those folks, I think is super important. We’ve had tons of other wins, you can definitely check a lot of those are out on our IG feed or on our blog posts. Harold Thomas was recently released in Ohio, we were really excited about that, especially after Ohio legalized in November, it was like this, let’s get this out. It’s so important to make make sure we’re doing those things. And we’ve had other great success stories that have done amazing things like Michael Thompson is one of our our top success stories. Granted, he was released back in, I believe, 20, early 2021 Now, but he has his own Michael Thompson clemency project. And really to be able to see that our legal or advocacy support or just that reentry Grant was able to help support or start up some of these amazing things that our constituents are now doing. And that in the industry and in the criminal justice reform space is just, that’s that’s the winds that I see are most in fact, impactful because it’s our work now having a chain reaction effect to others. And so I think it’s so great to see some of these wins. We’ve definitely had some wins on the policy side as well. A B 1706. And California has cleared over 13,000 records that were in a backlog. We still have about half of those to go and fighting every county that tries to put up a barrier in the way but it’s also very interesting to to identify what a win is because oftentimes the criminal legal system is very slow, very resistant to change. Unfortunately, there’s instances that can be considered wins but in our eyes is ultimately still failure. Something like our free Kevin Allen campaign, Kevin Allen was originally a constituent that is in Louisiana, we’re serving life without parole. We were lucky enough to win on our judicial case and get his sentence reduced to 35 years, but 35 years is still ridiculous for having only $20 Where Have cannabis on him each times. And that’s what those are. Some of the things that we’re up against is like things like habitual offender laws when you’ve only possessed a small amount, but it’s the third time they’ll they’re able to tack on years of prison to your sentence. And so it’s even those small wins that encouraged us to keep pushing forward as well. So,

Lisa Buffo  35:21

yeah, well, this is probably a good time to talk about those roadblocks that and so what are some of the things that come up in your work? How do you overcome them? Yeah, we’ll love to hear about that.


Yeah, for me, one that’s always present is just myself as a one man marketing team, basically, on the LPP side, running all of our comms and communications. It’s really making sure that I don’t either overextend myself or over promise to a team, especially with a in a partnership, I think something I’ve realized, especially from my earlier days, it’s much better to hone your strategy and on things that will really know that you can make some really impactful actions with or those measures of success are really going to be able to take hold. And so making sure that you have a kind of realistic understanding of what you can actually get done and achieve with a campaign is, I think, really important. And that’s why I think consulting folks on the ground or other partners is really important to make sure that you know where their bandwidth is and what their expectations are. But I’ve I’ve caught myself sometimes being overextended and knowing that I can’t always deliver as much as I wish I would like to. But I think that’s much better to have that conversation on the front end, rather than halfway through a project or through a campaign that might not be performing as well. So I think that’s definitely something to be thinking about. I think knowing as we’ve talked about this policy window of action, it’s it’s hard to know when it actually is, but you can feel it. And so really getting a sense of when to make that push, whether it be for us like those policy pushes or for others, whether it be a purchasing push, or a sales offer or something like that, I think it’s really important to know when to kind of activate quickly or activate more. And that’s even something that we’re doing. I mentioned our Virginia campaign. This is one of our first resentencing bills that’s gotten fully passed and is now sitting on the governor’s desk. And we’re trying to turn around a quick campaign here, hopefully to get launched later this week. Because policy winters are so short, the governor only has until April 8 to either sign it or let it become law or or veto it. And so I know it’s about kind of choosing your battles. We know that this is a really important piece of legislation that we hope to get passed. And so making sure that we are dedicating the appropriate amount of time to it is really important.

Lisa Buffo  37:54

I think I’ll sign it or do you just is there more pressure needed there? Virginia?


Yes, there’s definitely more pressure needed, we will be coming out with kind of like a an action network where folks can send a letter to the governor calling for him to either sign it or just at least let it become law. Unfortunately, he has already vetoed one cannabis bill, which was like a parental rights bill, which had even more unanimous support in like the House and Senate of Virginia when it got passed, then like our re sentencing bill, so there are some indications that it might not be the strongest outlook for passage. But even then there’s still opportunities in Virginia to to look at after that veto. There’s legislators if there’s enough support, you can override that. So it’s again, almost transitioning. What does that action campaign? How can we engage voters to continue to build off that momentum and not just let that campaign die once the veto happens? So I think that’s really important. I think that piece of education and re education, as we’ve already talked about is one of the biggest barriers and biggest roadblocks because as, as I mentioned, with President Biden, a lot of folks didn’t know what a party was a lot. A lot of folks thought, oh, they he pardoned everyone. So that means that they’re out. But really not a single person was released from prison as a result of those pardons. They’re all older records that were just kind of cleared and cleared. It’s not even the right word. Because unfortunately, you have to educate on that, too. It only provides relief. And it’s basically like you can show this certificate to folks like this has been forgiven. It shouldn’t be considered in any of these processes anymore. But like folks can still find that record. It’s still available to be seen. And so really pushing for something like a federal expungement mechanism is kind of the reeducation piece that we have to do is this is what would really create the full cannabis justice impact, not just these pardons. And another example in Virginia would be we had to re educate folks after we’re pushing for the governor not to veto, we then have to kind of let them know No, you should be reaching out to your state reps now to be pushing them to override that veto. So it’s really that education and re education piece is unfortunately, sometimes time consuming as well. So I think that is one of our biggest, biggest roadblocks, because a lot of people don’t even realize that if their state has legalized, that there’s still people sitting in prison for cannabis, even though you have a legal state because they don’t know the policy or legal side that like you actually have to go in there, change the criminal justice provisions, not just this piece of legalization. And so I think re education is really one of our biggest roadblocks. Holding people accountable, I would say is one of the other bigger roadblocks that we found or accountability generally, not only with lawmakers and making sure that we’re holding them to their word and their promise, but also our partners. We we do a lot of different partnerships. A lot of people we’re really grateful for the brand awareness and support that LPP can can bring in because we try as much as possible to get all of that funding to our constituents, whether it be through those commissary funds or direct reentry grants, we’ve given over $3 million directly to humans since our inception. And so we’re really proud of that. And I think it’s really important to make sure that we’re holding ourselves accountable in that way by being transparent with those funds, but also holding our partners and partnerships accountable. Because a lot of times, partnerships with LP can do a lot for a brand like you folks want to see that a company is a socially, Justin socially active brand these days. And unfortunately, we’ve had instances where that’s really all partners interested in is uplifting their brand for that reason. And I think it’s important to really make sure that we do their research, before kind of committing to a partnership, to kind of avoid some of the pitfalls that we’ve may have come into the past and making sure that folks are really coming to us with a partnership because they care about the mission, not necessarily just because they care about uplifting their brand. So those are a few of the the roadblocks that I’ve experienced so far. But plenty of more out there as well.

Lisa Buffo  42:20

Yes, no, I and I appreciate how you lead that answer with yourself and your bandwidth. Because I think that’s so common. For a lot of us working in this space, where we’re we feel under under resource under supported but have like a massive mission or to do list or just you know, all these things that need to be accomplished that is really needs more support, and understanding your own limits and recognizing that and just being able to kind of work with that. And set boundaries or whatever you have to do is such an important skill to be able to keep your energy to stay stay in the game and do what you’re doing. So I I appreciate you leading with that. Because sometimes that’s such an obvious one that we overlook,


yes, burnout is real burnout is real, like you have to be taking care of yourself. And especially in our line of work. As it relates to cannabis, criminal justice. Like it’s it’s heavy and sad seeing some of our constituents, be in there for another year after already been in for 25 years. You know what I mean? And knowing that, really, the only hope is maybe a presidential pardon. And so I think it’s something to always remind yourself to keep in check and try to make sure that you’re you’re framing it in a grateful mindset like I have the opportunity to work to fight for these folks is freedom. And I think it’s important to make sure that that we’re taking care of ourselves and mental health is a big piece of that for myself. And many, as someone who’s dealt with depression anxiety for 10 plus years now, like, you just can’t let you get your get to a self where you’re not able to not only take care of yourself, but also your responsibilities. And so making sure you’re not ever set, extending yourself is one of the top things I would urge all marketers to do, because we all work together as well, oftentimes, especially with some of these collaborations. And so being upfront with what you can do within a collaboration, I think it’s really important. Yeah,

Lisa Buffo  44:14

thank you for that, and how so let’s talk about partnerships with LPP. And just in general, like what it does an ideal partnership with you guys look like? Where have you seen the most success? What do you need the most like for anyone listening who might be interested in partnering with you or helping you out? Can you sort of define that scope? Or this is the ideal, and here’s what we appreciate.


Yeah, absolutely. So we have a number of formal programs that folks can participate in. Our partners for Freedom program is more of our direct donation from corporate docent donation program. So there’s different levels of sponsorship that you’d have to meet to donate each year and and that kind of corresponds to the different level of support we can give. Most of the time, it’s really encouraging folks to use our logo on their products or things. That’s what really allows them to do that is that donation. And so really being able to utilize that donation in a positive way by knowing that it goes to our constituents, but also then being able to represent yourself as a social justice. A company that cares about social justice, I think is really important. And so we found a lot of success with that pff program. One of the other ways that some of the smaller companies can get involved as as those donation levels might not be able to be hit by them is our rolled up for Justice program. So that’s actually at the point of sale, anyone can kind of get it set up, where you can donate $1, or for 20, at dispensary checkout, it’s even online or delivery, we can get it set up as well. And more so puts the accountability or onus of the donation on the consumer, rather than on the company itself. And you’d be surprised like just how that that prompt on that screen, or a QR code with like the words on the bottom of a receipt can actually Garner quite quite a bit of attention and quite a bit of support. And so we’re always open to working with different dispensaries, or even just any brand that has like a retail checkout, I think is really an opportunity for us to get our mission across. But outside of those two formal programs, there’s so much thing Oh, yeah, go ahead.

Lisa Buffo  46:32

I was gonna say, um, does that include if they’re ecommerce based? Or does it have to be in person? Okay, so even ancillary products and folks that whether they’re cannabis or in the space, if they haven’t, if they’re online, they can still do this? Yeah,


for sure. We’ve done a lot with like, glassware or even just apparel. Any anything that has a checkout online, we can kind of get that program set up on so. Yes.

Lisa Buffo  47:00

We were gonna say, yes.


If there’s any other questions on the Pff, a rolled up for Justice program, sorry, partners for Freedom program, we have decks with for folks that we can share more information about as well, so well. But yeah, outside of those two formal programs, there’s so much that organizations can do and individuals can do just from taking action. You know, I think one of the most underrated programs that we have that folks don’t realize it’s so impactful is our letter writing program. You don’t realize how much a message of hope means to someone behind bars, especially if they aren’t someone that has family support, or people sending them letters. We specially do it around like the holiday time or holiday letter drive we run each year, because it’s so important to let folks know that we’re on the outside fighting for them. Because it’s it’s really important and helpful to get someone to stay positive through that time until their reentry. And we’ve often found that folks that do receive a lot of letters feel feel like they’re in a better place to come home and reenter their community. And so things like that are important taking action on our campaigns. So like our pen to write history campaign and pen apart party and so progress campaign, there’s action network, sign up letters, that you can automatically send a letter to your governor in under 30 seconds. And to President Biden kind of saying, Please take President Biden’s advice, do these pardons, but also take these computations. And then our letter with penrite. History follows up on that, basically saying, I just sent my letter to the governor telling him to do what you told him to do. Now, here’s some more info of what you should be doing President Biden. And so I think there’s really easy ways that folks can get involved. Even just education, as as I talked about, that’s such an important piece of our our work, sharing things like our state of cannabis Justice Report, which recently came out last October, which really outlined where each state is at in terms of their cannabis justice policies, whether they have a pardon program, have they initiated sentencing or re sentencing programs, have they cleared the records of folks within their state? Have they legalized, just knowing that info and being able to provide that and your family settings and your community settings or with especially as a marketer, with the dispensaries you’re working with with the brands that you’re working with? We found a lot of success in providing that info in dispensary. So each state has like a report card and ranking how they’ve done and putting those state report cards on the back of like a little info pamphlet within the dispensary has drawn a lot of eyes and and folks want to know how their state is doing or what’s going on. And so I think there’s there’s a lot of different options for help and support of us. And even like I said, our 420 piece is still ongoing. We’ll have a lot of different opportunities for folks to get involved from now on Sell for 20 Whether it be learning more on a webinar, taking action by sending a letter to Biden, I think there’s just so much there. And we have all of those different actions on our take action page. So we really compile all those into an easy list so folks can do as much as or as little as they can. So yeah,

Lisa Buffo  50:19

and that is so powerful to also be, I’m sure many of us who work in this space are their go to person for their community, when they what brand should I buy, what retailers should I go to is CBD like, legit, where you become sort of that info source and to be able to add that layer is really awesome and important. And I also want to advocate for anyone who might be hesitant about writing a letter. Because I was too and when we did the letter writing campaign, Mary was so helpful it was in she was like you might feel what am I going to say like, talk about my life, how that must feel so not in your face. But like how is that relatable or almost feel rude, like to put that in a letter, but she just very much so encouraged us, like, you’re just getting to know this person, talk about your life, talk about your hobbies, talk about your interest, talk about what you do. And I did that with core vein where I just said, you know, here’s the things I’m interested in, here’s some trips, I went on, I sent him I printed out pictures. And once you kind of get through that hump, you’re you’re just building a relationship just like you would, whether you’re having coffee with somebody, or you know, meeting somebody on Zoom for the first time or out. And that that is so powerful. And to be able to do that is just can really mean a lot and can really be beneficial for both sides. So just anyone who might be on the fence and think, Well, what would I even say, your guys’s material is so helpful, because it actually has prompts for that and kind of talks you through that process. But it’s not, it might be a bigger deal in your head than it actually is when you start doing it. So I I gained so much and so happy from that process. So yeah, boost for anyone who’s maybe considering it or had their brain start to give some defense. Yeah,


and we actually are happy to also come in if you want to do it as like a dispensary or an organization like we were happy to kind of hop on like a zoom call like this and walk you through that or walk your team through that provide materials ahead of time and things to really make it almost more of a communal event. And I think that’s where we found more of these drives aspects has been really helpful in even just educating dispensaries and other industry partners on our work. Because it’s a really easy foot in the door to ask a group to Hey, yeah, can you just spend 10 or 15 minutes reading these letters in your staff room or something like that, or put it up in your break room. And so really utilizing some of these Lower Lift programs to get in the door is something that we found success in, we even have now a stickers for Change Program, which is a much less intensive lift, and like even like the rolled up for Justice program where we just provide stickers and like folks in can sell it for a small amount. And we’ve seen that’s a really easy way for some brands or companies to initially kind of get involved with us because they might not have the ability to be involved with the partners for Freedom program. But that the smaller actions, the letter writing the stickers, signing petitions, they’re all impactful, and they all help our mission. And so anything that individuals or organizations can do is something that’s really helpful. And we’re always happy, like I said, to kind of collaborate and create original partnerships. That’s something that we’ve definitely done in the past, and even connecting some of our partnerships to some of our constituent campaigns for for example, we’re working on our free Robert deals campaign with Alicia deals, who owns a cookies dispensary in Arizona and so we also partner with fives, a rolling papers company to have information, a little pamphlets on each rolling paper. So as folks go and enroll, they kind of are faced with that education faced with that mission. And so I think it’s really cool the opportunities that we’ve been able to to pull together that really connect the policy pieces with our constituents with the business pieces all together. So we’re always happy to kind of come together with those collaborations that LPP as well. Awesome. Well, thank

Lisa Buffo  54:21

you and Steven, is there anything else? We haven’t talked about that you want to mention? Any contact information, any other call to action for this audience? Anything you want to share before we wrap up?


Yeah, I just super appreciative again of CMA for having us on and all the support that you all provide. anyone that’s interested in learning more about partnerships or the communications work that I do, you can feel free to reach out to me at Steven with a pH at last prisoner And visit our website last prisoner forward slash take action. As I said, I’ll share all these links I’m with Lisa as well, that so she can put them up. But that is really our housing of everything that we have for folks to do and really just encouraging folks if they can to come to 420 in DC, it’ll be a great time. Really great energy advocating for cannabis justice in DC, with Congress, folks and President Biden will have families of those that are still currently incarcerated there. And so I just think it’ll be a really powerful event and hope to see everyone that can make it out there.

Lisa Buffo  55:28

Yeah. Thank you, Steven. I really appreciate you taking the time to join us today.


Yes, of course, anytime, Lisa. Happy to be on.

Lisa Buffo  55:36

Thank you, everybody, for tuning in. Please subscribe to this podcast. We’re also on YouTube, where you can see the video version. And if you’d like to connect with the CMA community, please visit us at the Cannabis marketing or on social media at Canna marketing. You can also sign up for our newsletter on our website to stay up to date with new episodes, tools, Insight blog posts, and more from the CMA community and hear from our members. And if you’re interested in learning more about membership or becoming a guest on the show, please reach out to our team at membership at marketing See you next week.


— Transcribed by

Meet Your Host

LISA BUFFO, Founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association

Lisa Buffo is an award-winning entrepreneur and marketer with a passion for launching companies with experience in both the cannabis and technology industries. Lisa is the Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, a membership based organization focused on education and best practices for industry marketers with the vision of rebranding cannabis at the national level. She was named one of 2019’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in Cannabis by Marijuana Venture Magazine in 2019 and named “The Marketing Guru” by Women & Weed magazine and is a featured speaker and media source in publications like Forbes, The Guardian, and VICE. You can find her on Instagram @libuff and Twitter @libuff21.

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