Josh Karchmer's Career in Music, Advertising, and Now Cannabis

Also, the advantage of cannabis marketing being young, scrappy and hungry

Josh Karchmer is a Los Angeles-based cannabis marketer and brand builder. He helps brands differentiate and connect emotionally with consumers. Josh has been a part of building and accelerating the growth of several cannabis brands, including ACE HIGH, Moxie, MOONWLKR and MX brand.

He began his career in cannabis with Moxie in 2018, where he ran social media and content, helped launch the DART vape system and MX Brand, and built one of the industry's first budtender education platforms.

Before following his passions to cannabis, Josh spent a decade each in the music and advertising industries. He directed commercials and branded content for Microsoft, Chevy and Kia, produced music videos and concert films for Jason Mraz, Van Morrison and Zac Brown and helped Hurley start its in-house video studio. Josh also managed a handful of major label artists and worked in product management and A&R for record labels.

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

Josh, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

Born in New York. Grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Went back to NYC after college to work for record labels. Been in L.A. almost 20 years. It's home now.

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

This year I've kept busy leading the transformation of ACE HIGH from a sleepy, fine cut cannabis product into a respected cannabis culture brand with a passionate tribe of fans.

I also helped MOONWLKR create the demand for Delta8 gummies by connecting the brand with my influencer network and nurturing a passionate tribe of brand advocates. Our work helped legitimize Delta8 in the minds of skeptical cannabis consumers. I've had a wild career so far. Grateful.

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

I've been smoking for over 30 years. It's always been a part of my life.

But the moment that really shaped my appreciation for the power of the plant and the movement happened about 15-20 years ago when a good friend started growing cannabis to help his father while he battled cancer.

It was a super heavy moment. I didn't realize how powerful cannabis could be as a medicine until that point. But yet still was super illegal. My friend's willingness to risk his own freedom to do what was right for his father had a huge impact on me.

A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.

Hash rules everything around me. I smoke a lot of flower and usually top it with some solventless hash (Axiom and Nasha are favorites). I also love dabbing hash rosin. You'll find a lot of Papa's Select and Punch Extracts in my fridge.

There's a lot of good flower out there right now. I smoke a lot of Wonderbrett, Seven Leaves, and my friend Barney just went to Ember Valley so I've been buying that recently. Great product.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

The biggest challenge is the relative lack of budgets and resources. Many cannabis companies are bootstrapped startups. Even the bigger ones. You have to be super scrappy and wear several hats to make it in cannabis marketing.

On the upside, the lack of resources forces us to become highly creative and effective marketers. You learn very quickly what moves the needle and what doesn't. In my experience, the best ways connect with cannabis consumers/culture are social media, community/events and retail/budtender marketing. Traditional, top-of-funnel marketing doesn't work yet. Cannabis marketing is a ground war. A culture war.

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

Brands are the future. Very few cannabis companies have a differentiated product. Instead we have to find other ways to stand out: voice, attitude and our ability to create emotional connections to customers and culture. That's my world. It's an honor and a thrill to be a part of building and creating the next wave of cannabis brands.

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

I love what Weed for Warriors does for the veteran community.Always an honor to partner with them on the SB-34 supply drops they host every month.

A recent project you're proud of.

I'm very proud of the transformational work we've done on ACE HIGH. Flipped it from a sleepy, poker-themed shake brand into a cannabis culture brand for people who love to roll fat joints. I created the brand universe. Gave ACE a voice, an attitude, and connected it to our target customers and cannabis culture on Instagram and IRL.

I also built the ACE HIGH Rolling Team fan community. Over 500 content creators have made and shared ACE HIGH content on Instagram and TikTok to earn membership. The #bongsquats viral trend started with our community. The Rolling Team concept has worked so well that we extended it to retail stores to engage budtenders and to college campuses with the UCLA Rolling Team. The ACE HIGH brand now transcends its product or category. Our customers will buy anything we put the logo on: clothes, water, other grades of value flower...

Someone else's project you admired recently.

I really like the idea of 710 Labs' delivery program, The List. It's building a direct to consumer business to serve its highest value customers. Super smart.  

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

I'm a big fan of how Jackie Kim and her team at Stiiizy built their brand. It's been wild to see how much they've grown in the last three years. They focus on and invest in the right things—customers, community and culture.

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

I'm addicted to brand building, so the only things outside cannabis I can picture myself doing is building lifestyle brands or getting back into the music industry.

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.

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