Lazy Turtle Group's Rick Fitzgerald on Cannabis Going Mainstream

His personal and professional journey with the healing plant

Rick Fitzgerald is co-founder and chief creative officer of Lazy Turtle Group, a creative agency specializing in packaging and brand identity for a number of markets including the cannabis and hemp space. He is also the co-founder of InnDica, an online cannabis travel resource that features 420-friendly lodging, venues, lounges and more. 

In the 30 years before LTG, Rick helped build and manage multiple global in-house creative teams for Shorewood Packaging, MPS (Multi Packaging Solutions) and Coloredge.

Rick moved from Virginia to L.A. in 2010 with his life and business partner Monique and their two pups and quickly discovered the healing powers of the cannabis plant.

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


Rick, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in a very small town just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia ... aka, the middle of nowhere. Now I live in Palm Springs with my partner in life Monique and our pup Soke (like hokie pokie).

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

I have a few roles. First and foremost is Lazy Turtle Group, an idea generator (creative agency) I run with Monique. We concentrate on brand development and packaging design for the cannabis, hemp and psychedelic space with a sprinkling of cosmetics, fashion and music. We also run a cannabis travel platform, InnDica, specializing in 100 percent cannabis-friendly lodging, venues, lounges, information and more.

I've been navigating the cannabis world for about 10 years, pretty much since we moved to California. I wanted to learn more about all things I was seeing in the shops and find what would help me. It was a life-saving journey, physically, emotionally and creatively. I immersed myself in the movement and learned the history from the folks who lived it, from the wellness community to the ones affected by the war on drugs and social injustices. It changed my perspective on everything. 

I appreciate this plant and its community. I support and have worked with both social equity and expungement organizations and programs in L.A. and Oakland. There are so many folks out there doing the good work. We'll continue to use our voices and platforms to help raise the voice of change. What a time we're in. Oh yeah ... we recently moved from Los Angeles to Palm Springs. 

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

I grew up loving cannabis but I didn't discover its true medicinal value until we moved to California in 2010. I've had a number of significant injuries over the course of my life and have been prescribed a variety of pain and inflammation killers. These medications were affecting me in so many negative ways and were so addictive. It was a tough balancing act between pain relief and reality.

When we moved to L.A., one of the first things I did was get my medical cannabis card and started learning more about the plant. I very quickly discovered that I could use it to help me heal and enjoy a better quality of life. It took some time but with a little patience (and a lot of fun), I found some amazing strains and compounds that alleviated my pain. Way better and for much longer than any pharmaceutical medication I had ever been prescribed.

To this day I use a combination of cannabinoids including THC and CBD to help with my aches and pains. Most of them have completely gone away and the rest are easily managed. I live a completely different life now that I'm able to use cannabis and other plant-based medicines freely.

A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.

My all-time favorite bud is Black Jack. It's a cross between Black Domina and Jack Herer. Beyond flavorful with long-lasting effects. My go-to for my aches and pains with an easy and smooth energy bump. Plus it gives me creative clarity, which helps with my design work.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

The stigma is real, but I feel the constantly changing cannabis regulations are the biggest hurdle faced by marketers and creatives in this ever-growing space. It's tough when each state has its own set of rules and regulations around cannabis. They can change pretty regularly, so it's imperative to my clients that I stay up on the rules for every state. It doesn't hurt that Monique is an attorney and had her own cannabis business consulting firm. She's very up on the cannabis and psychedelic worlds.

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

Honestly it's seeing groups like yours, the Clios, being so accepting of the cannabis community. That in and of itself is great overall marketing for the cannabis movement in general. So many more folks are acknowledging cannabis now, which is huge and will open up more avenues for partnerships and marketing outlets. It's so different from just a few years ago when folks were still afraid to commit and jump on board. I'm glad to see it coming around finally. Bottom line, the recognition from established groups like yours helps legitimize this movement. I have to give LinkedIn a big shoutout as well. They've allowed us cannabis businesses to use their service and in turn provided a valuable marketing tool and platform. Big ups, y'all!

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

Cage-Free Cannabis. My friend Adam Vine is the founder, and someone I've admired for years. He has unending energy and fights for the rights of people affected by the war on drugs. He also focuses on social equity and expungement for folks who haven't and aren't getting a fair shake. He's on the front lines constantly advocating for justice, and he's simply a down-to-earth, wonderful human being and friend. We need more Adams in the world.

A recent project you're proud of.

I have to say InnDica has been my most recent pride and joy. It started as a passion project for Monique and myself. A way to build a community of cannabis travelers and get the word out about a new segment in this space. Over the course of three years we crafted our idea and officially launched on April 20, 2019. It was refreshing and empowering. We could do whatever we wanted, a freedom we had rarely experienced in our business life before. InnDica allowed us to dive deep conceptually and create a multilayered business representing something we were completely passionate about. We're just now working on the next iteration of the idea, so keep a lookout...

Someone else's project you admired recently.

I'm a fan of the Bhang Corporation and what they're doing in the cannabis world. They care about their product and their community. Jamie Pearson, the CEO, grew up in the community and is immersed in the culture, so she knows what it takes to succeed. On another note, I completely love their packaging and branding. They are forward thinkers and have been collaborating with fine artists to include their custom creations on the chocolate bar packaging. They've also created a unique die-cut on the carton that gives the package depth and really shows off the artists' work. Bhang! Bhang! Baby!

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

Ophelia Chong. Hands down. She's done and is doing it all. I don't know when she sleeps. She owns and operates multiple businesses and organizations but also lends herself to so many more in the cannabis and psychedelic communities. She's down for the fight and is a big voice for the Asian-American community. On top of that, she's an amazing creative, not to mention a damn good person and a damn good friend.

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

I would be creating fun stuff for the music market. It was my favorite thing to design for. I've been fortunate to be involved in some iconic music packaging collections and I appreciate every one of them. I'm ready to take on some work for music/cannabis ... let's go!!

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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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio. Previously, he was creative editor at Adweek.

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