Erica Clapp

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2014

Capstone Advisor

Carla Lloyd, Professor

Honors Reader

Ken Harper, Asst. Professor

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Public Communications

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Advertising and Promotion Management | Public Relations and Advertising


One of the hottest current issues in the United States among politicians and many other groups of citizens is the legalization of recreational marijuana. This issue has a long history, and it has constantly resurfaced in the media for years. However, the recent attention being given to recreational marijuana legalization is not going to die down anytime soon, for landmark progress has been made in this area. On November 6, 2012, Colorado Amendment 64 was passed, implementing a statewide drug policy for cannabis. Consequently, Colorado has taken a revolutionary step that marks the first electoral decision to legalize marijuana in not only the United States, but also the world. Both sides for and against Amendment 64 have compelling arguments. Only one thing is for certain, which is that Colorado has a new reality. Whether Coloradoans like it or not, many of them are now living in communities that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana. This new reality provides for many changes, and with change comes opportunity. The most notable opportunity is of an entrepreneurial nature. If granted a license, Coloradoans are authorized to sell recreational marijuana in retail marijuana stores.

The first marijuana retail stores are the pioneers of this new industry; their position is one that I find fascinating. For this reason, I have chosen to create an all-encompassing marketing plan for recreational marijuana in the state of Colorado. To elaborate upon the “all-encompassing” aspect, I covered this topic from a 360 degree angle by thoroughly reviewing the limited amount of secondary research and conducting primary research by visiting Denver, CO during November 22nd-30th, 2013. This immersive and insightful trip was made possible by a generous Crown/Wise award that allowed me to conduct fourteen in-depth interviews. These included four Denver City Council members, two medical marijuana dispensary employees, two campaign leaders, two industry group leaders, two Colorado state employees, a journalist from the “Denver Post,” and a college professor. I also talked to more dispensary employees and citizens of Denver.

In this marketing plan, I have included an extensive background of the medical and recreational marijuana industries and the “four P’s” (product, price, place, and promotion- including advertising executions), which ultimately answer the question of what recreational marijuana will look like as a typical consumer product. Also, I have included a hypothetical setup of a Recreational Marijuana Store, the only place where this new product will be sold, according to The Colorado Department of Revenue Marijuana Enforcement Division


The majority of what I learned has been incorporated into this report, but at the core of my research lie five main findings. First, recreational marijuana has an image problem due to its controversial nature and negative connotations; it will take time for recreational marijuana to gain the same type of social and political acceptance as other vice products and consumer goods. Second, to fix this image problem, recreational marijuana must be “seamlessly integrated” into Colorado society (and other places), meaning that it has minimal, if any, negative social consequences. Many people are wary of recreational marijuana, which they think will disrupt and change society for the worse. Third, compliance and transparency within the industry is the key to achieving this “seamless integration” that will ideally lead to national legalization. The majority of players in the industry want to do things right and aim for self-regulation. Fourth, there is a divide between those who want to preserve community standards and those who want to maintain their individual rights; in Denver, rule makers are striving to strike a balance between both groups. Fifth, as similar as the medical and recreational marijuana industries are, there is a fundamental difference, which is that the recreational marijuana industry is profit driven. This industry has already become much larger than the medical marijuana industry, and it will continue to grow as it becomes more established.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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