The Secret Agent
This story was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Marijuana Venture, on sale now online at a store near you.
The Secret Agent
Co-founder and CEO | Lucky 420 | Northern California
The increasing legalization of cannabis is bringing an element of fun back to the product.
Step by step, the soulless packaging styles of the original medical markets are coming to life in the hands of innovative, forward-thinking creatives and branding professionals. Repurposed pill jars and generic white envelopes are being replaced with stylish glass jars and die-cut boxes, designed specifically to attract attention, rather than to promote obscurity.
When the Lucky 420 co-founders began conceptualizing their brand, they wanted to create “something affordable that didn’t skimp on style and sex appeal,” CEO Rachel Hazlett says.
The result was a rapidly growing brand with a decidedly retro vibe, inspired by films of the 1970s.
“It harkens back to the time when cannabis started to become more widely used in the states, which really started in the 1960s and people have an association with marijuana and flower power and the hippies,” Hazlett says. “I just love that time period, but the ‘70s is when that lifestyle made its way into film and there was a little bit more grit. There was an edge, almost a cynicism that had set in by the time Hollywood caught up to the ethos of the ‘60s.”
She says that era feels reflective of the current time period.
“Cannabis is becoming normalized in a new way, a legal way,” she says. “But the fight isn’t over. We’re not there yet. It does take some grit and the people who are doing this work have definitely sustained some bumps and bruises along the way.”
The company markets Lucky 420 with a fictional back story of the 1970s secret agent lifestyle, a mishmash of Charlie’s Angels, Cleopatra Jones and James Bond. Its foil-stamped black packaging with red and orange racing stripes looks right at home in the ash tray of a classic Trans-Am. Throughout the intense research and development process, the company continued to develop the brand and the marketing strategy.
“It was the most fun thing I’ve ever worked on,” says Hazlett, who originally studied journalism and got into documentary filmmaking, which led her into the marketing business. She worked as the marketing director for a day spa, before starting her first company, Dinner & Pie, which cooked and delivered healthy meals — including pie, of course — to people in North Carolina.
“In doing that, I knew that I wanted to challenge myself and expand into something bigger,” she says. “It was just a matter of waiting for the right opportunity to come along.”
That opportunity turned out to be a cross-country move to California to work in the marijuana industry.
She and her fellow Lucky 420 co-founders saw many brands in California’s market targeting high-end consumers and aiming to be the most expensive products on the shelf.
After running the numbers and exploring several different models, Lucky 420 settled on a line of cigarette-style pre-rolls, with seven joints in a pack going for a suggested retail price of about $34 and fulfilling what Hazlett calls a need for “nice manufactured products at a good price point.”
Rather than the cone-shaped pre-rolls that have become wildly popular in the older recreational markets, or the ubiquitous vape pens that have flooded the industry, Lucky 420’s strikes an increasingly rare chord.
Smoking, after all, is part of the experience for some people. The cannabis cigarette itself also fits with the 1970s theme, a time when smoking was still glamorous and the stars of film and television dangled an Embassy Filter from their bottom lip.
“We knew we enjoyed the combustion of marijuana,” Hazlett says.
The pre-rolls are manufactured at the company’s cigarette factory in Northern California, with a combination of work done by both machine and by hand. The crew faced some production challenges early in the process, namely the difficulty of working with a product that is sticky and resinous, as well as figuring out the best method to maintain freshness.
The company does not do any of its own cultivation, instead buying wholesale cannabis from selected Northern California growers who use cultivation practices approved by the Lucky 420 leadership team.
“We love our farmers,” Hazlett says.
Lucky 420 officially launched its product line in February, and the response has been overwhelming, Hazlett says. Over the course of the first six months, more than 60 retail outlets have started carrying the pre-roll packs, including both brick-and-mortar dispensaries and delivery services.
“It’s been a fast ride and we’ve had fun,” Hazlett says. “We’ve got a great team and we’re just giving it all we’ve got.”
The company’s growth has been fast — and will likely only continue to accelerate as California’s market transitions toward the adult-use launch — but Hazlett says Lucky 420 is fully prepared to handle the additional work load.
“We’ve been very organized and diligent in laying the groundwork of our operation,” she says. “We have really clear insights into where our operation is at today and what it can grow into. We know that we have all the pieces we need to grow it to the places we want to reach.”