When Kim Casey walked onto her public relations job at Native Roots Dispensary in Colorado, she didn’t even know the meaning of “MIP” ー or marijuana-infused product ー which is pretty common lingo in the cannabis industry. But after a year and a half of running communications for what was then the largest U.S. dispensary chain, she wrote the literal book on the industry.
The Wiley publishing company tapped Casey to write “Cannabis for Dummies,” the latest in the publisher’s “Dummies” brand. The book, which covers everything from curing dried cannabis to investing in the industry, is set to publish May 14, but is already available for pre-order on Amazon.
“In my communications role, I was dealing with pieces of the entire industry,” Casey said. “I needed to learn about the plants, I needed to learn about the products, the processes. There was a truly a learning curve for me and I brought that learning curve to the book.”
Before her foray into cannabis, Casey had been working in communications for about two decades in a variety of different roles — she even worked for former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater for a time. But when opportunity came knocking at Colorado’s Native Roots, a vertically-integrated cannabis company that once famously sought naming rights to the Broncos stadium, she said she couldn’t resist.
“For a comms manager, nothing is quite as juicy as the cannabis industry,” she said. “There are issues to manage, there’s expansion to support, there’s staff, there are crises, there are, I mean, everything you can possibly imagine. Basically everything I’d been training to do my entire career, I brought.”
In the cannabis industry, Casey’s reputation is tied to one particularly quick-thinking moment of crisis PR. When a group of teens smashed a van into the storefront of a Native Roots dispensary in Colorado Springs, locals feared the thieves had made off with what Casey described as “armfuls of cannabis” due to erroneous reports when the story first broke. In reality, since the product and cash was locked away, they only managed to steal a few t-shirts and some display pre-rolls stuffed with oregano ー a point Casey hammered home to media.
She said the narrative around the viral story shifted pretty quickly, and proved an opportunity to underscore maturity in the cannabis industry.
“A lot of the feedback online was ‘those silly thieves,’” she said. “The general public was very comfortable making that flip from, ‘Oh my goodness there’s rampant unsecured cannabis product running around,’ to ‘How silly a thought, of course it was secured.’”
“That was really a turning point in my mind to be able to look at this and say, yeah, the nation, the world, is truly beginning to embrace this as a mainstream industry,” she added.
The “Cannabis for Dummies” book, Casey said, is further proof that the industry has gone mainstream.
Despite that 33 states and D.C. have legalized cannabis in some form and as many as 62 percent of Americans say marijuana use should be legalized, according to Gallup, the drug is still highly illegal on the federal level.
Casey said that reality meant she had to be careful when writing “Cannabis for Dummies,” especially since it contains pretty detailed information on how to grow your own cannabis. All of it, she emphasized, is carefully couched in language that urges readers to research and adhere to local and federal law.
As with the growing chapter, and another about starting a cannabis business, there are some pretty high-level concepts in the book, but Casey said she thinks the most important parts are those that help people feel comfortable around cannabis. For example, there is a chapter entitled “Choosing and Visiting a Cannabis Dispensary.”
“A woman that I know who is older than I am … came over to me and said, ‘I hear you’re doing this, I have questions, I have chronic pain,” Casey said. “There’s so much misinformation out there she didn’t understand. And this was an individual who would benefit from this knowledge.”
“It’s for that neighbor who desperately wants to learn,” she added.
As for Casey, she left Native Roots in early 2019 to focus solely on her book. Now that it’s finished, she’ll be taking on a new challenge in (where else?) the burgeoning hemp industry.