Curaleaf's Tracy Brady on the Influence of Cannabis on Culture, Wellness and Social Justice

Plus, the company's 'Rooted in Good' program and why big cannabis can be good cannabis

Tracy Brady is the first vp of corporate communication for medical and wellness cannabis company Curaleaf. She is charged with driving awareness and visibility of the company's mission, "Cannabis with Confidence," and elevating the company's profile for internal and external stakeholders including employees, consumers, investors, and national media.

Tracy came to cannabis from Hollywood and Madison Ave, having spent several years in New York and Los Angeles in entertainment marketing and publicity for companies like Turner Broadcasting, Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures, followed by a decade at creative advertising agencies working on brands including Bank of America, Dunkin' Donuts, Cadillac, Volkswagen and Liberty Mutual.

In her first months with Curaleaf, Tracy helped drive the company's Covid-19 response, leading communications strategy with employees who were navigating the transition from dispensary associate to essential worker, as well as managing media relations, product and brand public relations, social and digital communications and investor relations throughout the crisis. 

Tracy is also a published novelist and essayist, and has contributed a number of comic essays to Muse by Clio. She is the proud mother of two boys, ages 12 and 13, who know what she does for a living.

We spoke with Tracy for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.

Tracy, tell us...

Where you grew up.

I grew up in Bedford, Massachusetts, a small town in Middlesex County just northwest of Boston. After a few stints in New York, Paris and Los Angeles, I ended up right back in a small town in New England. 

Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based. 

I am the vice president of corporate communications at Curaleaf, a leading provider of consumer products in cannabis with operations in 23 states and over 4,800 team members across the country. Curaleaf is the largest multi-state operator (MSO) in the U.S. I bring over 20 years of experience executing high-profile public relations and corporate communications strategies for consumer brands, companies and executives—spent many years at agencies and also in entertainment before joining the "Green wave." With the help of our stellar marketing team, I lead both external and internal communications for Curaleaf. Technically, I'm based out of our corporate headquarters in Wakefield, Massachusetts, though our team spans many time zones and we are all working remotely due to Covid-19. 

Your earliest cannabis memory. 

A double date in high school with my now husband. We went to the multiplex, and on the way there, someone lit a joint—what we call now a pre-roll. "I don't think you're smoking it right," he said after I inhaled. He demonstrated, and a few minutes later in the theater, I told him his eyes were "just like the carpet." "Checkered?" he joked. "No, blue…" I replied, confused. I was high and he was highly amused.

A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.

The biggest impact for me has been meeting so many interesting, smart and passionate people—colleagues, peers, patients, entrepreneurs, advocates, activists, investors, budtenders and people I would never have guessed were avid supporters of this plant. It's a wonderful journey.

A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.

At this moment in time, I really enjoy Select Nano Gummies. I've always been a sucker for cool packaging and the Nano gummies work faster than traditional edibles. By leveraging nanoemulsion technology, Select Nano allows for faster, more efficient cannabinoid consumption—so there's not that dreaded wait time. An added bonus is that they help me sleep and I've noticed they enhance my dreams. Not going into detail on that...

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today. 

With the passage of the MORE Act last year and the "green landslide" that we witnessed in the November 2020 elections, the cannabis industry has seen significant improvement, particularly around legality. However, the industry still faces growing pains, and as marketers we continue to navigate many challenges. For instance, regulations vary state by state, so the way we approach our external messaging will continue to be shaped as each state defines the use and sale of cannabis differently. Furthermore, the plant has faced negative stigmas for over a century and it's fair to say cannabis had a bad rap for a very long time. Luckily, Curaleaf is at the forefront of the industry and we are doing our part to make cannabis more acceptable for both medical and adult use, and getting behind advocacy and education around the plant.

One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing. 

I'm very excited about the continued acceptance of cannabis into mainstream culture. The plant is finally gaining a seat at the table of culture, wellness and social justice issues. To be a part of that conversation is very exciting and hugely educational. In the cannabis industry, the pace is fast and you learn something new every day. I couldn't be more excited about the future at Curaleaf. 

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support. 

I am inspired by the stories and missions behind Women Grow and Veterans Cannabis Project. Women Grow connects, educates and empowers diverse leaders in all segments of the cannabis industry, and the organization is aiming to start over 1,000 women-owned businesses in the cannabis industry. Veterans Cannabis Project is dedicated to improving U.S. military veterans' quality of life through the opportunity of cannabis, as medical cannabis can save lives and veterans deserve full, legal access. Curaleaf hopes to partner with upcoming independent brands where a portion of sale proceeds would go to community organizations that are actively addressing the societal barriers facing those returning citizens who are exiting the criminal justice system.

A recent project you're proud of. 

At Curaleaf, I was part of launching Rooted in Good, our corporate social responsibility platform, which was conceived by our vp of CSR and a great colleague of mine, Khadijah Tribble. Rooted in Good was many months in the making and Khadijah's team worked tirelessly to secure partners, initiate programs and drive our leadership to recognize the importance of our work across diversity, equity and inclusion, social equity, and sustainability. We are helping to tell that story, share our resources and hopefully inspire others. "Big Cannabis" takes a lot of heat from naysayers, but with size and scale you can influence policy, fund programs, and pave the way for others. We take our share of criticism, but it's my job to point to all the good we're doing and keep it positive, and tell our stories, one at a time. At Curaleaf, we like to say big cannabis can be good cannabis, and good cannabis can be good business.

Someone else's project you admired recently. 

You gotta hand it to Jay-Z and those state-line billboards for Monogram—genius. Anytime you can educate and inform and promote your brand, that's a win in my book.

Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things. 

Khadijah Tribble is one of the most respected experts on equity and inclusion in the cannabis industry, and I'm so delighted to have her on our executive team—I look up to her in so many ways. Her work ethic is unparalleled; she makes me feel like a slacker every day.

A movie, TV show, music or food you most enjoy pairing with cannabis.

My early career was in entertainment and independent film, and there's nothing better than revisiting favorites when you're in an elevated state. Any classic sci-fi will do—The Fifth Element, Star Wars, Alien, The Terminator—you always catch something you missed the first 34 times. Then there are the classic foreign and independent films—Au Revoir Les Enfants, La Femme Nikita, Cinema Paradiso, Peter Greenaway films, John Waters, David Lynch. Just depends what mood you're going for. And for food—berry sorbet is a layered flavor that I love. Anything berry-oriented, really. Captain Crunch Crunchberries is a destination meal.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry. 

I'd be a professional humorist and revive my failed writing career. In fact, here's a shameless plug for my satire blog, I'm open to a book deal, followed by a Netflix series...

Higher Calling is a weekly series, publishing on Thursdays, where we chat with folks in the cannabis industry about their personal history and taste in cannabis and the future of cannabis marketing. For more about Higher Calling, and our Clio Cannabis program, please get in touch.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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