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FS14 – Why are Oregon Cannabis Brands So Dominant Nationally?

By September 2, 2022September 15th, 2022No Comments

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I’ve worked in recreational cannabis for the last 6 years, with the 3.5 of them being split between California and my home base in Portland. If you’ve ever raised an eyebrow at the fact my broad commentary on the cannabis industry is taking place from little ol Oregon, you wouldn’t be the first. I’ve been around the block a couple times, and I’ve heard industry people scoff at the Oregon market a few times too. I’m about to fix that. Let’s get into Free Smoke:

“Bring us up, I never take us down
But if you bring me up, they might take you down”
– Drake, Portland​

Outliers and the elephant in the room

I have been mistaken for 5 years about Wana’s origin, and mention it in this issue. Instead of editing it what I wrote, I’m telling you here.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell dives into an anomaly found in the National Hockey League: A completely disproportionate amount of professional hockey players have birthdays in the first months of the year. It seems odd until he explains that in Canada, the age eligibility cutoff for competitive hockey is January 1st. A kid born on January 1st is the oldest in his class of players, and playing against kids as much as 364 days younger. A 5 year old could have as much as 20% more time on earth than their youngest peers. What starts as a significant developmental advantage is strengthened over the years as the strongest players move to more advanced teams, coaches and leagues. The phenomenon compounds players all the way into NHL talent. It’s not random, it’s systemic.

Back to the topic at hand: cannabis. Here’s brief list of what I consider “national” cannabis brands.

  • Cookies
  • Wyld
  • Kiva
  • Select
  • Smokiez
  • Buddies
  • Jeeters
  • Wana
  • Stiiizy
  • Packwoods
  • Kahna
  • Old Pal
  • Mary’s Medicinal
  • Wonderbrett
  • Cann
  • Gron
  • Jungle Boyz

The brands in red are all Oregon brands. Little old, rinky dink (sp?), Birkenstock wearing, Oregon. You can tell me I left off your favorite brand and whatabout me to death, but this is reality. Want more?

Using metrics I’ve previously discussed, here are the Top 5 national brands in the country:

S/o Vib @ for the data

Oregon brands are 3 of the Top 5 and 4 of the Top 10. Not bad for a state that will make up less than 5% of the national cannabis market this year. Were they all born in January or something?

I’m a big believer in cultural and organizational DNA and it’s impact on companies. Portland is the activewear (and microbrew and strip club) capital of the world. It’s home to Nike, Adidas, Under Armor and a literal army of consumer product focused agencies that live off that ecosystem. Steve Jobs went to college about a mile from my house and Phil Knight grew up down the street. Consumer product is in the water here, and when you combine that DNA with a brutally competitive market the results are staggering. The strong don’t just survive in the Oregon cannabis market: they cost down, get more efficient, and learn to live in ways comparable brands never thought were possible. Then, they scale across the country at a disproportionately high rate.

I’ve talked in the past about the cannabis brands of the future being west coast brands (not just California eh?), and it’s for the same reason. The culture has been brewing here for 25 years and we’ve been feeding the country w/ cannabis for just as long. Drop that into a blood bath of competition and one thing comes out the other side: dominance. You can’t convince me otherwise.

Interesting side note: While the same Oregon market dynamics mentioned above have driven some of the best growers in the world to do more with less, none of the brands to come out of Oregon are flower brands because deli style flower is a brand killer. Hate to see it. Eastwood, Resin Ranchers, Urban Canna, Lucky Lion… it’s not gonna happen with bulk flower jars on dispensary shelves. That piece of the culture here simply won’t allow it.

That’s all. None of the normal news links this week. Thanks for reading Free Smoke, if you’re new you can check out previous issues here.

Btw check out my podcast

Check out me n the boys on the Builders Build podcast: Apple / Spotify and both their newsletters below:

Photo by Dale Nibbe