This week’s Trailblazer, Preeya Chauhan the owner of Pufftastic Cannabis, a family owned and operated mom and puff (pop) shop located in Scarborough, Ontario.

Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer

When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?

My cannabis journey began around 2009 when I was in chiropractic school in New York and I would see all my peers using Ritalin, Adderall and other ‘study’ drugs to help with school, for me it was cannabis. My brother Ravi showed me the light, he taught me about sativa’s and indica’s (the basics back then) and I figured out what strains worked for me to focus and what would help me relax. From then on, I became obsessed with cannabis and its properties but had to keep it a secret due to its legality, stigma and me being a doctor and the perception it would give my patients or associates. When I graduated and moved back home in 2012, my brother and I would start to become advocates for the decriminalization of cannabis and ultimately legalization. We went to marches, seminars and shows, we rallied for the liberals, have had our MMAR/ACMPRs; just to name a few. As for the why? We are extremely passionate and love anything cannabis related, we grow our own weed, we make our own edibles and concentrates, we’ve seen the added benefits (and cons) that comes from this amazing plant. So, it was a no brainer when the opportunity came up to own a dispensary in 2020; our dreams to be in the cannabis industry finally came to fruition!

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?

The biggest marketing challenge we face is that we are not allowed to advertise at all or minimally! We’ve had our Instagram page taken down so many times because of cannabis and the tight laws associated with advertisement; our competitors can easily push a button and poof we disappear. Not to mention Google, Instagram, Facebook all have strict advertisement laws that prevents us from using social media avenues to market which is why our Instagram page is more of a lifestyle page vs what products we carry. Health Canada and AGCO also has restrictions on advertising, broadcasting and promotions that prevents us from team sponsorships, loyalty programs based on purchases, gifting any cannabis or cannabis accessories for free, which ironically liquor and gaming are all allowed to do.

Pufftastic Cannabis

If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?

Google Ads. Unfortunately, we can’t utilize google and its powerful advertising streams. In this day and age we “google” almost everything so we are loosing out on a chunk of our marketing capabilities due to the laws and regulations and this is applicable world wide, we cannot advertise our cannabis business regardless of the fact that it is legalized in Canada. The juxtaposition is that google cracks down on cannabis but allows illegal cannabis stores and their ad’s to flourish. I was astonished the other day when I was doing dishes and I heard my mom watching YouTube on her laptop when a cannabis ad came on that was clearly illegal. YouTube is owned by google.

In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?

Sadly we don’t market outright. We use word of mouth and online presence (sort of). That’s the best we can do to work around the laws. I can’t speak for other retailers but our passion for cannabis, our extensive in-house menu and love for our AMAZING customers shows and keeps them coming back in. We hope that the AGCO will change standard 6.3 “Licensees may not provide cannabis or cannabis accessories free of charge or as an inducement for the purchase of cannabis or cannabis accessory” so we can finally release our loyalty program. We are the only industry that I know of that must do points per visit with no purchase necessary system. Shoppers Optimum, Starbucks loyalty, Subway punch cards, Tim Hortons, McDonalds, LCBO, bingo halls, OLG website etc all have a loyalty program based on purchases, the more you purchase with them the more you save and yet we in the cannabis industry cannot; however I have hope it will change soon as we were asked for our opinions in July 2023 about it.

Are there any other trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?

Ed Rosenthal (@edrosenthal420)!! I met him in 2018 at a conference in Vancouver and I was star struck lol. Before there were YouTube videos on how to grow; books and information from other growers is all we had. I remember studying his book Marijuana Grower’s Handbook in and out and if I had it on me, I would have had him sign it. He’s an amazing person and his Instagram is chalk full of beautiful pictures of weed and his website and blog has top notch information about growing, cannabis and health, extracting, baking etc. Check him out as he is a pioneer for our industry!

What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?

A tip I’d give to marketers is follow the rules and guidelines. It takes a long time and a lot of hoops to jump through to get your social media accounts back (if you manage to get it back). I am hesitant and do not post any pictures or tips on our social media page on how to grow, or make edibles, essentially anything weed related anymore as I’ve had them taken down and it’s a headache to get it back. Also make sure you have a backup account for your social’s as well!

Cannabis Marketing Trailblazers

A big thank you to Preeya from Pufftastic Cannabis for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.

Camrawn Cox

Camrawn Cox

Camrawn Cox thrives in the realms of cannabis sales, marketing, and communication. With a knack for building meaningful connections, fostering engaging brand experiences and compelling strategies that drive the cannabis industry's growth.