Like many key figures in the cannabis industry, Max Simon was a user long before he made his name professionally as the CEO of Green Flower Media. In fact, Simon credits cannabis with helping him survive high school, where he struggled as a result of severe ADHD.
“I never realized I was using it medicinally,” Simon explains.
It was while working for vaunted New Age guru Deepak Chopra that he first saw the correlation between the stigmas associated with yoga and meditation and those facing the cannabis sector. Simon built Chopra’s vast products business from scratch, tending to facets ranging from website work to newsletter strategies to general branding. Back then, yoga and meditation were viewed with skepticism similar to what the cannabis industry is now facing.
“At the time, they were considered things only people on the fringe did,” he says. “It was a landscape that has an uncanny similarity to where cannabis is today. Here we are, a decade later, and there are yoga studios on every corner. Meditation is universally hailed as a good thing for people. It’s become mainstream.”
With Green Flower Media, Simon now wants to usher cannabis into the mainstream as well.
Built around weekly videos that address a variety of topics in the cannabis sector — everything from organic indoor cultivation to unlocking creativity — Green Flower Media solicits experts across the industry to share their knowledge for public consumption. While a subscription service is in the works, the current format allows for users to purchase individual videos or participate in what Simon calls “Masterclasses” — multimodule courses built around a single subject that delve deep into the specifics. Green Flower’s first such class, “Cannabis as Medicine,” features upward of 75 individual modules, and Simon explains that the company currently has 65,000 students tuning in on a weekly basis.
One reason for the stigmas surrounding cannabis is the outdated and inaccurate archetypes that popular culture has promoted. As long as the public continues to view cannabis consumers as either unmotivated stoners or “far-out” hippies, they fail to see that many of the best minds in science, medicine, and social justice are opting to lend their expertise to the field. Simon’s desire to thwart this stigma is reflected in the compelling roster of talent featured in Green Flower’s videos.
Designed to speak specifically to three verticals within the industry — health, business, and DIY — Simon has welcomed cannabis-focused doctors like Jessica and Rachel Knox, entrepreneurs like Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center, and creative figures like Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook.
“We’ve been selectively finding who we consider to be the world’s best experts in each vertical,” Simon says. “It allows us to produce really solid education in all three spaces.”
One concern in Simon’s concept is the closed-circuit nature of a cannabis education venture. With Green Flower Media, how many among their 65,000 customers are already cannabis converts? Assuredly, those most in need of the content Green Flower is providing are perhaps the least likely to seek it out or even be aware of the company’s existence. Simon believes that the nationwide movement toward state legalization is the key to bringing in a wider audience.
“We’re seeing tremendous interest from institutional education and from more mainstream outlets for the content we’re delivering,” Simon notes. “To us, it’s just a matter of who comes forward and how we can make it work.”
Another point of interest is the connection between cannabis and activism. Education as a platform is often expected to be objective, but anyone who meets Simon can clearly see he wants cannabis to be assimilated into the mainstream, just as yoga was years ago. For Simon, the key is in choosing his battles.
“It’s actually a different mindset,” he explains. “If we’re producing a class on how to grow organic cannabis, that’s not the venue for a big activist push.”
Simon cites as an example a recent offer he made to the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading advocacy group in favor of changing drug laws across the spectrum.
“I told them that we’d love to do a partnership with them that’s purely about legalizing cannabis. We want to do a live-stream broadcast. We won’t charge anybody anything for it — 100 percent of the proceeds will go to DPA. That’s a pure activism play.”
As the cannabis industry readies for the potential seismic shift that would come if California votes for marijuana legalization this month, the need for education amongst non-users and especially skeptics has never been higher. While many have rightly given themselves to the pursuit of better technology, safer growing techniques, environmental assessments, and so forth, it may ultimately be the work of those like Simon that yield the largest impact in the struggle to destigmatize cannabis.
The results thus far are encouraging.
“We started Green Flower to solve this incredible core problem of a world that’s waking up to cannabis and doesn’t know anything about it,” Simon adds. “Now a global population hungry for credible education and information has the world’s top cannabis experts right at their fingertips.”