Crowdfunding Canna-Dreams

Jake Browne Rolling Papers Cannabis Now

The massive crowdfunding platform Kickstarter is besotted with pot ideas.

As cannabis prohibition crumbles in increasingly wider swaths across America, business opportunity abounds. However, turning vision into reality requires calculated effort and capital. The latter is often the toughest hurdle, even if the idea only requires modest seed money to launch.

For these myriad, smaller cannabis related ventures, particularly for entertainment projects, journalism, social apps, educational or artistic material, often the most logical place to turn is a crowdfunding platform. Despite the fact that those companies often have opaque project acceptance policies to match the cannabis gray market, some ventures do find investors.

Rolling Papers

One recent Kickstarter success, this year’s pot documentary film “Rolling Papers,” which the Daily Beast called an “amusing and incisive panoramic portrait of the growing cannabis industry and the journalism around it,” met its funding goal by raising $50,642 from investors at various levels of support. For example, the 45 backers who each gave $25 received behind-the-scenes updates, public shout outs on social media and a digital copy of the film. Three backers even received the opportunity to tour a dispensary and have a strain named after them.

Baked Alaska

On the lower end of the crowdfund ask, two creators of “Baked Alaska” successfully sought $1,000 on Kickstarter to shoot the already scripted pilot for their show about two half-brothers from California who inherit an Alaskan dispensary. The reward for one backer who gave at least $500: a season-long co-producer.

“We’re poor, sure, but the movie ‘Clerks’ was made for $5,000, so who says we can’t shoot a pilot for $1,000?” they ask.

Super Bud

Online backers also helped artists reach a $5,500 goal to produce their original comic “Super Bud,” a graphic story about a college student who inadvertently acquires superpowers via a stolen cannabis superstrain. In return, funders received goodies including limited-edition artwork and signed print copies.

The Stoner’s Coloring Book

Illustrator Jared Hoffman moved to New York to be a full-time artist after he hit big with “The Stoner’s Coloring Book,” which received $10,079 from Kickstarter supporters. Hoffman’s small personal run of heady line drawings led to a deal with big five publisher Penguin — who distributed the book worldwide this fall.

Tiny+

Not everyone succeeds, though. Tiny+, a sustainable homes project using hempcrete, raised less than a sixth of its sought $60,000 in 30 days on Kickstarter despite an impressive pitch and reasonable publicity. Business plans with practical, long-term upside like Tiny+ may instead be better suited toward cannabis incubators like Denver’s Canopy Boulder or Oakland’s Gateway, or new crowd-investor options.

Originally published in Issue 23 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE.

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Sean Quinn is an Oakland-based writer who co-pioneered FiveThirtyEight, earning national acclaim for his coverage of the presidential campaigns’ 2008 field operations. He dreams of a country where cannabis is legal, all Americans are treated equally under the law, and the St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup Champions.

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