Heady NJ has been built over the last few years into an independent media company covering New Jersey cannabis news in politics, industry, and culture.
As Heady NJ Editor & Publisher I am marking my fourth year building this business this October. So, it’s time to look back as we contemplate what the future holds.
We’re looking to grow and find investors as the market is poised for growth. So we want to take a look back at how we got here.
Building the Independent Media Company Heady NJ
Heady NJ was founded in November 2017 by Heady Bryan Walsh following the election of the Democrat Phil Murphy on a pro-cannabis platform. He began covering the New Jersey adult use cannabis legalization he also interviewed NORML Founder and cannabis advocate Keith Stroup. However, with the failure of legalization via the legislature in spring 2019 he began focusing more on family and his real estate career.
We met summer 2019. I had been thinking of building a New Jersey cannabis news site from scratch as an independent media.
Behind the Scenes on Heady
I have been treating inflammation and anxiety with cannabis. Cannabis is also a great icebreaker.
I was previously a leader in the Fight for $15 an hour in New Jersey which Governor Murphy signed into law in winter 2019. Also, I was also a Campaign Manager for a Democratic candidate for Assembly in Ohio in 2016 who did better than Hillary Clinton in the area but lost amidst Republican victories.
I have been a professional writer since 2010 when I began covering local government in Central Jersey. I began writing about cannabis and politics in 2018 and saw the potential.
In 2017 as a first-generation Peruvian American on one side, I became the Latino Action Network cannabis policy leader and a leader of the NJ 2020 legalization coalition.
When I put out feelers on launching an Independent New Jersey cannabis media company, I was told by a friend of Heady NJ and introduced to Bryan. We got along and had similar visions of what we were trying to build. So, it made sense to become a partner.
The New Jersey cannabis industry is poised to grow to $2 billion in 2025 or 2026. I could always see if we were able to get past resistance in the Statehouse it would be like a booming Wild West town founded in the middle of nowhere after the discovery of gold and silver.
However, when I became Heady NJ Editor & Publisher neither of us could write a large check to fund it. What I did have was time and many transferable skills.
Building Heady NJ on the Editorial Story Side
I covered many stories in the early months. There seemed a hunger for the sort of thing I was doing from humble New Jersey cannabis entrepreneurs. Those first few months I covered Gary George’s Real Cannabis Entrepreneur Conference. The cannabis entrepreneurs Jesse Villars and Cord Schlobohm of Baked by the River also were getting into CBD and were fascinating.
In 2020, I interviewed legendary New Jersey independent filmmaker Kevin Smith on opening up a pop-up Mooby’s restaurant from Clerks 2 and Dogma.
I self-published a book during COVID called Cannabis 101 for uninitiated newbies detailing some of the history and culture of cannabis and the fight for legalization.
I consistently covered the New Jersey cannabis referendum and legalization fight. The effort to include provisions favoring small business minority-owned companies with owners affected by the War on Drugs was intense.*
The bill passed the legislature in December 2021. But over issues with cannabis and minors, it had to be passed again for Murphy to finally sign it into law in February 2021.
Covering Legal New Jersey Cannabis
I interviewed NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission Chair Diana Houenou on the New Jersey adult use cannabis market after she had become Chair. Despite having known her as a good person working on a good cause casually it was quite the thing to do. DH was a senior advisor to Governor Murphy at that time.
As Heady NJ Editor I have consistently covered underground legacy operators as unique businesspeople and advocates like the notorious Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion along with many others like Mo Weed of Treton among many others. It was also good to cover the release of Mario Ramos from prison for suspected cannabis-growing charges.
I have done a lot of great original investigative reporting while building HNJ.
It has been fun watching the establishment of the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC). Starting with little and with many demands for progress, it has worked very hard. They finally resolved the 2019 medical cannabis license game in December 2021 after 29 months. It was delayed due to a lawsuit and COVID.
Covering the implementation of Social Equity in New Jersey cannabis policy has also been a great priority of ours. We seek to highlight the local small business Goldilocks owners who were adversely affected by the War on Drugs
Covering New Jersey Cannabis Policy in Towns
Heady NJ has been covering cannabis on the local level in New Jersey. There have been many struggles and setbacks.
In Jersey City, City Council President Joyce Watterman’s daughter, Hudson County Clerk Junior Maldonado, and Hudson County Commissioner Jerry Walker have licenses and local approval. But with 33 dispensaries approved by the council that might be the cost of doing business in the big city.
In smaller places like Morristown, it is especially shady with no room for anyone else.
East Orange has sought to expand its ordinance which should help smaller local companies.
Atlantic City has consistently sought to promote itself as a cannabis hub due to its reputation as a center of entertainment despite its relatively small size
Becoming the Independent Hub of New Jersey Cannabis Media
I covered the opening of the New Jersey adult use cannabis market in April 2022 with speeches from Governor Murphy, Senate President and cannabis legalization sponsor Nick Scutari (D-Union), and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middelsex).
Heady NJ has consistently covered cannabis home grow and its advancement in the New Jersey legislature under the leadership of Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) and Troy Singleton (D-Monmouth). It is popular among our readers.
In most states with cannabis markets, it is also legal. In New Jersey, it remains a felony.
I was also happy that the NJ-CRC will allow edibles like pot brownies soon.
We have not only covered New Jersey as our goal is to go national.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke at the 2021 New York City cannabis legalization parade and rally after they won. He noted the need to push equity in federal cannabis legalization.
The underground legacy to legal operator Happy Munkey in New York City has also been fascinating to watch.
We also began covering the legalization of other mind-altering drugs that are therapeutic like magic mushrooms or psilocybin.
Heady NJ’s Publishing Side: Building a Business
While the stories side are the exciting part of building Heady, the publishing/business side is equally important.
HNJ was cited by mainstream press outlets for our coverage of legacy operator Daniel Kessel. Heady NJ was also been cited by the Gannet Chain of newspapers, Marijuana Moment, Leafwire and Budsfeed on home grow.
We have consistently built a following by making agreements with apps like NewsBreak. I have been working to expand our following by experimenting with social media and improving our SEO.
We have built a following of nearly 23,000 on Instagram despite their dislike of us and getting shut down and posts removed.
LinkedIn as a professional business networking site is funnily enough the most pro-cannabis social media. I have worked diligently to build a following on Reddit too.
We have also worked consistently to expand our newsletter, The Heady Chronicle (THC).
As Heady NJ Editor and publisher, I was named the 35th most influential person in New Jersey Cannabis by InsiderNJ.com last fall.
I have spoken on panels like at the Boardwalk Budz New Jersey cannabis convention in 2021 and the 420 Expo in 2022 and 2023 along with many political and industry webinars. Also, I have also been on several podcasts like the Cannabis Legalization News show on YouTube and the Respect My Region in 2021 and 2022.
I also served as Master of Ceremonies at the UFCW union cannabis mixer party this past August which featured NJ-CRC Commissioners Krista Nash and Charles Barker.
It has been a lot of work. I have put blood sweat and tears into this.
The stress has been intense as I have learned to become a successful entrepreneur. However, while difficult, practice makes perfect. I’ve enjoyed learning to be a charmer and a little like Roger Sterling in Mad Men.
I became accredited by the New Jersey Society of Press Journalists and the NJ Press Association. I got my press passes in January 2021 after struggling for months.
It also enhanced our coverage significantly. People with badges respect badges. It has made covering New Jersey cannabis easier and more enjoyable.
It was the only barrier to entry we faced that could not be solved with time, effort, or money.
As an ancillary cannabis business, Heady NJ has also had issues with banks and the GoDaddy web host provider. Most recently MailChimp like other anti-cannabis companies gave us problems and we ended our relationship with them.
Like many other digital companies, the algorithms on Facebook and Twitter have been difficult for us to master.
We have had great people advise us and help us with communications, marketing, tech, and events.
Building Revenue Streams
We have hosted several events which was quite the process.
Heady NJ has been experimenting with revenue streams in the very unique and turbulent media and cannabis industries.
We have sold ads to CBD companies, New Jersey cannabis conventions and conferences, medical cannabis services, and dispensaries.
They are Great ones like Zenco which handles cannabis payment transactions for dispensaries.
Puffin Dispensary and Indigo Dispensary along with the upcoming Rec House have sponsored our events. We were also happy to have the support of Tom Spooner’s US Payments which provides ATMS for dispensaries.
Heady NJ was very happy starting this August to have made deals with independent cannabis dispensaries.
We’re proud to be working with independent New Jersey women-owned companies and micro businesses to promote them. We are especially happy Brute’s Roots cannabis is now being sold in the adult use cannabis market.
It only took four years.
Heady NJ has also built a humble base of Patreon supporters.
However, However, HNJ needs to investors to continue and truly grow to its full potential.
We’re looking for private individual investors or strategic corporate investors.
This is a labor of love. But we hope it to grow into a national cannabis media company with a podcast and YouTube channel with a little help from our friends.
Let us know if you can.