420 & Media’s Growing Role in Michigan’s Cannabis Industry

By: Andrea Trapani

April 20 has long been recognized as a national holiday for cannabis culture. In Michigan—a state experiencing the early years of recreationally legalized marijuana—the date is a prime opportunity for brands to gain valuable visibility through media coverage. 

Media is a natural fit for cannabrands seeking the spotlight to inspire fans and drive sales. The cannabis industry in Michigan (and nationally) is restricted from executing certain traditional paid advertising, so dispensaries have turned to earned media as an important medium to communicate their brand stories. 

Long story short—this year’s 4/20 celebrations cemented the role Michigan media outlets play in covering the cannabis space. With fierce competition and limited air time or bandwidth for these stories to be told, the ability to navigate the media’s blossoming interest in the cannabis industry gives dispensaries the chance to stand out from the rest.

There are plenty of media opportunities throughout the year to explore angles for coverage, but 4/20 is the culturally significant day to reach relevant audiences, many of whom are interested in indulging their cannabis curiosity or learning more about the fast-growing industry within the state. 

What we learned from 4/20/21 will inform how we approach pitching cannabis in the future. 

High(er) Stakes Coverage

Imagine if National Pizza Day had the same energy as 4/20: Every pizzeria in town would host over-the-top events, special promotions and exclusive giveaways—all fighting for foot traffic, awareness and sales on the exact same day. 

April 20 is such a hold-out holiday for cannabis brands that news coverage has become a coveted prize to be won. And as the media landscape has changed dramatically in the past year alone, there are only so many local camera crews and cannabis journalists who cover these stories. Every opportunity, from reporters conducting interviews onsite to Instagram-exclusive coverage, became open season in the fight for media coverage.

With a robust agency cannabis portfolio, our team was engaged in the full spectrum of activities in preparation for this day. We didn’t stop with brainstorms and counsel on standout activations and campaigns. We also leveraged our established media relationships to secure stellar coverage and reach the most relevant audiences possible. 

These relationships matter now more than ever before. Tapping our media contacts led to online stories with statewide publications, valuable TV airtime and interesting audio interviews with local radio and podcast news sources. It all supported our end goal of encouraging foot traffic and sharing our cannabrand clients’ essential 4/20 talk points. 

Of All the Giant Joints in All the Towns in All the World…

Media could choose any dispensary with a solid promotion to share on a holiday like 4/20. A creative approach with a completely unique idea makes all the difference when time is tight.

No matter what product you’re selling, promotions alone aren’t the hook anymore. There has to be something extra and special. Case in point? Local publications pulled together all available cannabis discounts into one story, relegating most dispensaries to only a bullet on a long list of similar-sounding deals. 

If you want exclusive news coverage as a cannabrand on 4/20, you need something bigger. A moment that will turn heads and spark conversation in a totally different way. That is at the heart of any great media strategy and ultimately awareness. This is best exemplified by the mainstream coverage we secured for a client’s Giant Joint giveaway the week of 4/20—resulting in moments like this:


Not every news outlet is comfortable covering cannabis as a recreational activity. That means brands should be willing to dip their toes in the water with various hot topics as we pitch stories and test who’s responding to what angle and why.

At the end of the day, our media contacts and their stations or publications still recognize all the elements of a good story—unique angles, compelling visuals and timeliness, to name a few—and are willing to cover cannabis if it’s different enough to attract attention and more viewers. 

Maximizing The Moment 

Like any holiday, 4/20 is one day. But it’s often when dispensaries see the largest crowds, highest excitement and most creative energy. It’s critical to invite journalists from a variety of mediums onsite to capture these memorable moments. With the right experts driving coverage, cannabrands will find themselves included in media b-roll as they cover the holiday festivities—which can later be used by the brand in other marketing efforts.

And this extends beyond local media partners. If a media outlet can’t dedicate on-site resources, having the right approach to deliver awareness presents an opportunity. Identity assigned its dedicated videographer to visit dispensaries throughout Metro Detroit to capture footage and edit it on the spot. We then sent it to a host of media for their use. It’s a simple step that helps brands we work with gain an elevated level of visibility on a hyper-competitive day. 

Future 4/20 celebrations in Michigan—much like Black Friday—may very well begin in the days leading up to the actual date. We expect a huge, untapped opportunity for cannabrands to execute creative and distinctive media campaigns resulting in record traffic and sales. 

We’re already envisioning the next biggest and most creative way to make media in the cannabis space. Engaging an experienced PR and marketing partner to counsel on big ideas and identify killer opportunities ensures you’re not lost in the haze of a constantly growing industry.