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Pleasantrees cannabis company smack talks Tampa Bay with billboard for Detroit Lions

However the playoff game at Ford Field shakes out Sunday between the Detroit Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one business is making sure metro Detroit knows Michigan already has Florida beat: with marijuana, at least.

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Pleasantrees cannabis company of Mount Clemens is creating buzz this playoff season with billboards it's placing along Interstate 75 for Lions fans that talk a little marijuana smack. This weekend? "Tampa Bay Smokes Hemp. Let's Go Detroit."

The insult takes aim at the fact that while Florida allows marijuana for medical purposes, Michigan lets anyone who is at least 21 years old use it for any reason.

The billboards, "unify the Michigan cannabis community and industry around the Lions in a cheeky type of way that pokes fun at common terms in the industry," said Bryan Wickersham, president of Pleasantrees.

"Everybody's raging with Lions fever right now, just across the board," Wickersham said. "It just seemed natural and fitting to try to find a way to support the home team."

Wickersham and the Pleasantrees team first thought of the idea for the billboards, which are located on I-75 south in Hamtramck and I-75 north in Lincoln Park, ahead of the Lions playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 14.

Those billboards said, "Los Angeles Smokes Mids. Let's Go Detroit," an insult aimed at California's "mid-grade" cannabis (as opposed to high-grade).

The billboard language went through a few iterations (one version named Matt Stafford) but ultimately, Pleasantrees kept names out of it to protect itself legally. Although the cannabis company didn't expect everyone to get the joke (even Wickersham's mom texted him asking what mids meant), "any conversation around cannabis to us is a good one because it continues to destigmatize it, normalize it and bring it to the forefront of conversation," Wickersham said.

The play off hemp for the billboards dissing Tampa Bay and Florida came because hemp products (which are legally defined as a cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less of THC) are commonly used in states that haven't legalized recreational marijuana.

New kid on the advertising block

Hundreds of cannabis brands are fighting for a piece of the $3 billion industry in Michigan.

Finding a way to stand out through advertisements is not easy to accomplish for cannabis companies in the state. Most traditional ways of advertising, such as TV and radio, are not available to them because stations fear losing their broadcast licenses if it appears they're exposing children to marijuana. Broadcast licenses are overseen by federal regulators and marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

Billboards are one option cannabis companies can advertise with because cannabis companies can make the case that drivers have to be at least 16 years old to get a driver's license, and a certain percentage of those drivers will be 21 or older, Wickersham said.

Wickersham said Pleasantrees was one of the first cannabis companies to successfully make that case and advertise with a billboard, and many others have followed.

Across the country, out-of-home advertising (any advertising seen while on the go, such as billboards and posters) is a growing industry. Nationwide, revenue was $6.5 billion between the first quarter to the third quarter of 2023, a 1.5% increase from the same period in 2022, according to the latest figures from the Out of Home Advertising Association of America.

While spending from cannabis companies only accounts for 1% of revenue, according to the latest figures from the advertising intelligence firm Vivvix, in Michigan, spending from cannabis companies accounts for about 7% of the estimated $154 million spent on out-of-home advertisements in the state in 2023, OAAA said.

"Frankly, there's a sea of congestion in cannabis billboards but we wanted to do it a bit different where it wasn't this call for action or this promotion," Wickersham said. "Rather, it's just a message that could spark emotion or connectivity amongst the community."

While the Lions billboards are the first time Pleasantrees has found a way to jump onto a fan-uniting event like this, it has found other unique ways to stand out in a crowded market.

The company bought the former Gibraltar Trade Center, a well-known landmark in Macomb County that's easily recognizable from I-94 because of a massive sign with a mustached man in a brown suit, and turned it into a processing facility and dispensary. The company, founded in 2018, also has a cultivation facility in Harrison Township and dispensaries in Hamtramck, East Lansing, Lincoln Park and Houghton Lake.

Not jinxing anything

It likely won't be the last time Pleasantrees creates an advertisement that captures the region's excitement about a particular event, Ryan Wood, creative director of Pleasantrees, said.

While Wickersham and Wood don't want to jinx Sunday's game, they're already thinking about what a billboard following a win against the Buccaneers would say.


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