A rising tide lifts all ships. Collaboration is at the heart of Canndora and that’s why we love getting to catch up with tourism & cannabis marketing aficionado Jennifer Mason, founder of New Heights Cannabis. We sat down with Jennifer to talk about New Heights Cannabis and being a cannabis entrepreneur.
Tell us about New Heights Cannabis and how you came up with the idea for the tourism summit?
New Heights was inspired by the tourism industry in Ontario in the summer of 2018, 3 months before legalization. During the annual AGM, tourism industry partners expressed their interest in understanding how the cannabis industry was going to unfold and the opportunity for tourism to leverage. Many of the tourism businesses (accommodations, restaurants, resorts, destinations and attractions) were asking about the opportunity for recreational cannabis and tourism. It was quickly identified that there was industry interest but no knowledge or understanding of the cannabis industry and opportunity. We recognized the need for education, understanding the cannabis businesses and determining consumer demand. We built the New Heights Cannabis brand to act as a source of education and networking. This quickly led to a partnership with the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and New Heights to develop a strategy and events to bring tourism and cannabis together.
What are some challenges you face as a female cannabis entrepreneur?
My biggest challenge has been building the New Heights Cannabis brand and getting the attention and investment dollars we need to meet our business goals. Our business is linked to the tourism industry and the last 18 months have been challenging to say the least. It’s hard for many businesses to talk about sponsorship dollars when their business has been so disrupted by covid. Additionally, I’m not sure that cannabis businesses have given enough thought to how much tourism could do for their business. To me, tourism represents a powerful ecosystem that will link cannabis and consumers – cannabis can be infused into many options and aspects of travel. Convincing brands to invest in something that hasn’t really taken off yet, has been difficult. Many people are interested in the topic, but aren’t allocating much investment or resources towards it. It’s my goal at these annual events to inspire people and show them the opportunity and ultimately drive sales. I believe cannabis can be an excellent driver for new tourism revenue, especially if the regulations around infused packaged food & beverages changes to allow on premise service in licensed establishments.
Who should join the New Heights Cannabis Tourism Summit?
The inspiring one-day event will take place online. It will bring together leaders in tourism and cannabis and connect visionary business owners, and policymakers for interactive conversations on the ways recreational cannabis experiences can aid post-pandemic recovery efforts in Canada.
- Companies that want to explore cannabis tourism to determine if it is right for them
- Individuals that wish to learn from cutting-edge brand leaders about how to play in the space in order to capitalize on recreational legalization.
- Cannabis businesses including: LPs, Retailers, Accessory Manufacturers, Distributors, Cannabis service providers, lawyers, government officials and policys makers.
- Tourism Businesses including:
- Destination Marketing Offices
- Regional Tourism Offices
- Government Officials
- Tourism Operators & Suppliers
- Festivals & Events
- Hotels, Resorts & Restaurants
- Tourism Service Providers
- Industry Media
What advice do you have for women looking to work in the cannabis industry?
The recreational cannabis industry in Canada is still in its infancy, and the regulators are moving slowly. It’s important to keep that in mind and not get too frustrated with the many regulations and roadblocks. It’s challenging and requires patience, resiliency and creative solutions. I strongly believe in partnerships, find other brands and businesses that are targeting the same cannabis consumer segment and find ways to work together. Not only will this make your brand stronger but it will drive the industry forward in a positive way, rising tides float all boats!
What do you hope to see for the future of the cannabis industry?
I’m looking forward to a thriving cannabis tourism industry that includes lounges, bars, restaurants and cafés the opportunity to serve cannabis infused food & beverages. We should be able to order a cannabis beverage or packaged food item from a licensed establishment in the same way we can order wine, beer, spirits and cocktails. Additionally, cannabis brands should be allowed similar advertising regulations to the alcohol industry. The restrictions around prohibiting lifestyle imagery or any real product description or benefit is doing a disservice to brands and consumers. It’s very difficult for a brand to connect with consumers and the outcome they are looking for without being able to properly describe the brand benefits. The branding on packaging is so small, the copy is barely legible and really doesn’t mean much to consumers in terms of what they should expect from the product. I believe we will get there, it’s just going to take some time – this is the long game.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned working within the cannabis industry?
The market is still being defined when it comes to cannabis and the consumer. Brand have been stunted and many consumers are new to the category or are legacy consumers and didn’t feel they needed a brand. Now that the retail channel is opened up, conversations and connections can better evolve. Ordering a product off of a website with very limited product information does not set up the consumer for success of meeting their objectives.
Tell us about the study you just launched with the university of Guelph.
Cannabis Tourism is a rapidly growing sector in Canada and is a big opportunity for businesses to develop new products based on consumer demand. New Heights Cannabis is spearheading a research study in partnership with the University of Guelph to determine the size of the Cannabis Tourism market and provide insights on the profile of the cannabis tourist, their preferences and purchase intent for incorporating cannabis experiences into their travel plans. This study will provide the data that the industry needs in order to feel confident in investing in cannabis tourism.
This is the first comprehensive Canadian travel survey of cannabis tourism. Federal legalization is a major competitive advantage for Canada that has the potential to enable certain types of businesses not possible in other countries such as the United States and Mexico. This puts Canada in a unique position globally when it comes to developing cannabis tourism. For this reason, a nation-wide study of the Canadian market is a valuable source of information to a broad audience.
The data is being collected through an online survey that runs until December 31st 2021. Participants who complete the survey are able to enter a contest to win a 3-day getaway for 10 people at a Cannabis-Friendly Accommodation, courtesy of HiBnb. A presentation of the Executive Summary midway point of the Canadian Cannabis Tourism Research Study, will be presented at the New Heights Cannabis Tourism Summit to provide attendees with an exclusive preview to these crucial insights.
Is your business looking for cannabis tourism insights? Pre-orders of the Canadian Cannabis Tourism Research Report are open now Gain valuable consumer insights on what people are looking for in a cannabis tourism experience as well as brand preferences and more. Get an exclusive look of the Survey Results at the New Heights Cannabis Tourism Summit on October 25th, 2021!
Who are 5 Womxn to follow in Cannabis?
- Elizabeth Becker, HiBnb
- Robyn Rabinovich, Thrive Cannabis
- Gayle Duncan, The Green Organic Dutchman
- Rev Kelly Addison, Kelly’s Green Lounge
- Susan Dupej, PhD, University of Guelph
Check out New Heights Tourism Summit on October 25th to learn more about canna-tourism and the work Jennifer and her team are doing.