Discover more from Sticky Bits by Lauren Yoshiko
Thoughts on CannaGPT
Plus: Cannabis scams IRL and online.
The Broccoli Report
Monday, May 8, 2023
Time to read: About 6 minutes. Contains 1,302 words.
After spiraling through the litany of recent media layoffs, Vice’s flirtation with bankruptcy, the kickoff of a Hollywood writer’s strike, and more media layoffs (including my cannabis editorial role at Thrillist 🙃), my tears are officially dry and ashtrays emptied. I am done with the gloom and doom (for now). I sincerely remain hopeful for the art of storytelling and the vital role writers play in both business and entertainment realms. That might have to do with my having to use ChatGPT to develop some email marketing copy for a particularly AI-fascinated brand last week that, honestly, sucked so badly, I had to rewrite everything myself.
Another reassuring morsel that got me through recent existential dread: The documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan. While commentary from the likes of Guillermo del Toro and Steven Spielberg agree that had Harryhausen had access to the tools of today, he’d have blown their work out of the water, it’s not because of the tools. The takeaway remains how these high-tech tools are only as good as the humans who wield them.
To put it another way: the creation of high-tech smoking devices hasn’t brought about the extinction of analog pipes and papers. In fact, the more advanced options become, the more demand there seems to be for handcrafted ceramic pieces and hemp wicks that keep the combustion experience as earthly as possible.
So, until algorithms can smoke weed themselves, I’m not going to worry too much about it. I’m going to keep doing what I do; keep reading lots of articles, Reddit threads and Instagram comments in order to deliver you the freshest, most nuanced breakdowns of news impacting the cannabis and hemp realms. I’m going to keep seeking out interesting people doing things differently and sharing useful tools for small businesses. Plus, the intriguing launches of products that get me excited; the drops from brands who are actually listening to consumers; the products coming from perspectives that certain demographics are still waiting for.
I’m very happy to be here, and I thank each of you for being here, too. 🌸
Alright, let’s get caught up!
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One-Hitters: Cannabis News at a Glance
One situation I intend to sink my teeth into this week: the Standard Dose scammery at hand. Last Monday, I linked to this Beauty Independent story published March 27th about the brand owing thousands to numerous CBD brands. The brand’s IG page has been silent since that story ran, and comments have been “limited” or turned off on recent posts. Additional brands have come to light that are still owed money. Are you one of them? I’d love to chat with you about it—on, anonymously, or off the record—for an upcoming update on this whole situation. One of the most effective ways to get those ignored invoices paid is the threat of public shame—you have full permission to tell them I’m working on something to point more attention in their direction.
A simmering Oregon cannabis industry story is coming to a roiling boil, and the secretary of state has resigned because of it. To bring you up to speed: in late March, Willamette Week ran a sprawling investigation on prominent dispensary chain La Mota. The piece revealed the fragile financial reality behind the power couple leading the company, from dozens of lawsuits from unpaid vendors and more than $7 million in state and federal tax liens to major political donations to the campaigns of newly elected Governor, Tina Kotek, and secretary of state, Shemia Fagan. Then, a consulting gig between Fagan and La Mota came to light, involving a $10k/mo retainer and a $30k bonus whenever Fagan helped the chain secure a location out of state. Fagan apologized for muddying the waters and breaking the trust of Oregonians, noting her own financial situation as she goes through a divorce, with two children, on the $77,000 salary as secretary of state. The next day, she announced her resignation. In the past week, we’ve also learned that Fagan let La Mota’s owners edit the wording within a state audit of the cannabis regulatory agency, among plenty of other ugly details. In a piece breaking down all of Fagan’s fall from grace published last week, WW noted how, “until last week, Fagan’s future had few limits.” Today, she leaves her office for good.
New York state officials are attempting to implement real solutions to the issue of illegal retailers dominating the weed scene. As a part of Governor Hochul’s new “Why Buy Legal New York" campaign, The Office of Cannabis Management created a Dispensary Verification Tool for licensed shops to place in their front windows that features a QR code for people to scan to ensure they’re shopping somewhere with tested, trustworthy product. Will that sticker actually deter people from going to the nearest illegal retailer— infused sweet shop— in their neighborhood? Time will tell.
One of the items I look forward to buying when I make it to a legit NY shop: an eighth of Self Care flower from Sheba Baby!, a new brand launching with THC flower, CBD tonic and haircare, founded by cannabis activist Mary Pryor.
Longtime readers will remember the struggle Session Goods has had with copycats ripping off their uniquely shaped bongs. Co-founder Esther Le Noir Ramirez recently announced the approval of their utility patent. 🎉
When it comes to concerns around artificial intelligence impacting cannabis jobs— budtenders have the least to worry about. Bloomberg recently highlighted a couple companies already navigating licensing processes and refine growing techniques with the help of AI, interestingly calling out how siphoning off some of this targeted work to AI removes the trouble of NDA’s and intellectual property claims.
Also: I tried using the CannaGPT beta as if it was the frontline at a dispensary, and it couldn’t really speak to products at all like a real retail employee could. When I asked, “What is a good farm in Oregon that grows Wedding Cake?” it responded, “I am sorry but as a virtual budtender, I am not able to promote or endorse any specific dispensaries or farms. However, there are many farms in Oregon that grow Wedding Cake strain, and a quick search online will give you a list of licensed dispensaries.” No more helpful than Leafly’s chaotic map database.
Last month, 80 Eaze delivery drivers in San Jose, California voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5. This marks the fifth Eaze depot to vote “yes” on union representation with UFCW Local 5 in the past year. As long as our rollercoaster industry remains rife with unpaid bills and wages—whether outwardly shady operators and well-meaning entrepreneurs caught out of their depth—I don’t think unions will be losing this momentum any time soon.
For more on the reasons many choose to vote yes and an exploration of some of the labor contract wins thus far, peep this past newsletter diving deep on the subject.
Options for lockable cannabis storage solutions are expanding in the same way that retail spaces and cannabis product design have evolved. First comes brands like Ally and Tulip with chic and minimal designs. Then, the pendulum swings towards more colorful and busy designs—enter Snugbox, a new storage company with highly decorative organizers that remind me of Vera Bradley.
See you in the garden 💨,