NCIA's Bethany Moore on Cannabis as an Essential Business and the Industry's Ad Hurdles

Plus, the spirit and generosity of the cannabis community during Covid

Bethany Moore is deputy director of communications at the National Cannabis Industry Association, responsible for member-facing communications including blogs, newsletters, video projects and NCIA's weekly podcast. Bethany has extensive experience in nonprofit activism work, including drug policy reform and church-state separation issues. 

She has a strong background in project management and strategic planning, as well as communications and public relations. She enjoys writing and self-publishing poetry. Bethany is originally from the Washington, D.C., area and relocated to Denver in 2014 to work at NCIA.

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

Bethany, tell us...

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

I serve as the deputy director of communications at the National Cannabis Industry Association, where I've been since January 2014. My role includes working with NCIA members on valuable content surrounding policy and business best practices, which entails managing our website, coordinating educational blogs, podcast interviews on our weekly show, policy reports, and hosting our monthly video series NCIA Today. We recently published a blog series highlighting employees at NCIA, so you can read more about my background on our website.

Your earliest cannabis memory.

Most of my friends in high school were a couple of years older than me, so I eventually came across it in social settings and tried it a couple of times, but didn't really begin using it regularly until after high school.

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

Cannabis helped me manage intense depression and anxiety during my freshman year of college. At the time, I was experiencing panic attacks, had no appetite, and couldn't sleep. I found relief in cannabis and have included it in my well-being routine for the last 20 years.

A favorite flower, edible, product, or brand.

As someone with depression and anxiety issues, I find myself looking for lavender and lemon terpenes and strain names. I also like a good balance of CBD and THC. What I'm really looking forward to is expanding the selection of cannabinoids in available products.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

We're still battling rejections in advertising from major outlets. NCIA's Marketing and Advertising Committee has been looking at this issue for years. Even with champions in Congress like Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-1) who went to bat for our industry with Facebook executives in recent years, as a substance that is still federally illegal and a Schedule 1 drug on the Controlled Substances Act list, the uphill climb is still a steep journey. 

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

When Covid-19 shutdowns began in March, it didn't take long at all for most states with legal cannabis programs to declare that industry as an essential business. Naturally, NCIA and our members were relieved, and the hashtag #CannabisIsEssential was born from our marketing team. To be able to declare our industry as an essential part of our economy and for the health and well-being of people means we're not only going to survive this pandemic as an industry and movement, we may even be able to find a way to thrive when we get to the other side of this crisis.

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

NCIA, the National Cannabis Industry Association, is of course my first mention, not only because I've worked here since early 2014, but also because I truly believe in the work we're doing and I'm proud of the progress we've made, and all of our intentions to continue to support our industry and movement to be the best it can be into the future. This also means we've teamed up with other amazing organizations, including MCBA (Minority Cannabis Business Association) and others, to develop programs and systems that speak to the disparity in our industry. 

A recent project you're proud of.

While I've been hosting NCIA's weekly podcast for nearly four years, a new project we've launched this year is a monthly video update called NCIA Today that I also host. Stepping up NCIA's member-facing communications efforts in this way has really taken our message to a new level, giving our members that face-value connection to NCIA staff, which has become even more important during these times of social distancing and virtual-everything. I enjoy connecting with NCIA members every way I can, even if I'm having a bad hair day, or battling a case of "maskne" (face acne from masks) due to our new socially distanced, mask-wearing way of life. I look forward to returning to convention centers where I can see everyone in person, specifically, NCIA's on-site podcast studio on the expo floor of our award-winning conferences.

Someone else's project you admired recently.

The Last Prisoner Project, run by a team of passionate women, is working to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. They're doing this through their commitment to "freeing every last prisoner of the unjust war on drugs, starting with 40,000 people in prison for cannabis offenses legal in most states." With the emergence of the legal cannabis industry, which is still a work in progress across the United States, there are far too many individuals still serving prison time for these offenses which are now otherwise legal. Organizations like LPP are taking on the difficult task of releasing prisoners and helping them re-enter the workforce.

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

Over these last few months, it's been difficult to see a silver lining. However, I was able to collect stories from NCIA members across the country who were going above and beyond to give back to their communities during this Covid-19 pandemic crisis. Extractions companies began manufacturing hand sanitizer, PPE was donated, and money was raised for these efforts. This shows the spirit and generosity potential of the cannabis community, and it gave me a glimmer of hope for the future, and our industry.

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

I really enjoy a nice relaxing indica-hybrid, preferably one of those lavender or lemon cultivars, in the evening with some Netflix shows like Star Trek or The Magicians. Puts me right into a blissful slumber.

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

If I weren't part of the team here at NCIA, I'd likely be doing something similar at another nonprofit organization that I feel passionate about, or working for a media and public relations company, helping other companies with their messaging and storytelling. 

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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