My first cannabis client: VPR Brands

A couple years ago, I had an opportunity to onboard an interesting client.

“They want me to write about cannabis and pay me in bitcoin,” I told my social media followers. “I offered to write about bitcoin and get paid in cannabis. Negotiations are ongoing.”

Nothing happened as far as that potential client went, but I now have a new, dollar-paying client in VPR Brands — ticker symbol VPRB, as CEO Kevin Frija would have me add. By the way, it has to be “VPR Brands” on all references since “VPR” means Vermont Public Radio.

My first scope of work for VPR Brands was quite ambitious, and I’m grateful to Kevin for having the faith in me to take on an issue advocacy assignment while I’m still fairly new at public policy writing. It was also a relatively major piece of data journalism. Here’s the link to the VPR Brands website where the Voters’ Guide to 2020 U.S. Presidential Candidates on Cannabis Issues lives.

Please read the study, spread the word and let me know what you think!

Below is the press release I wrote up to support it:



Media contact: Eddie Freed
Phone: (516) 587-1063;

New Cannabis Voters’ Guide Ranks 2020 Presidential Candidates
June 18, 2019 (FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.) – The 2020 presidential election is the first in which candidates find themselves, willingly or not, taking controversial public positions on cannabis issues. Although many candidates in the crowded 2020 presidential race support less restrictive policies governing cannabis, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) would be the best choice for single-issue voters who use the substance. That is the finding of the VPR Brands Voters’ Guide to 2020 U.S. Presidential Candidates on Cannabis Issues.
Gabbard’s first-place ranking – based on a combination of her legislative leadership, positions stated, other actions taken, and willingness to emphasize her support for cannabis issues during the current campaign – exceeded those of runner-up Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and third-place candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).
The highest-ranking non-legislator recognized by the VPR Brands Guide was former Alaska senator Mike Gravel, who now serves as CEO of a cannabis company and emphasizes his support for the industry more prominently than any other candidate. He is followed at that tier by a tie between former Massachusetts governor William Weld, the highest-rated Republican on cannabis issues, and former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper.
“The time has come to elect a president who’ll establish a nationwide standard for cannabis as a legal substance, distributed through a regulated industry with access to capital markets, with pardons and reparations considered for those who found themselves ahead of the law,” said Kevin Frija, CEO of Florida-based vaporizer and e-cigarette marketer VPR Brands, the guide’s sponsor. “So I went about the task of educating myself about the various 2020 presidential candidates and their positions. I looked for a single point of reference that clarified each one’s stances and accomplishments in the cannabis space. I couldn’t find it. I don’t think it existed until today.”
Of the 27 candidates profiled in the VPR Brands Guide – 24 Democrats, two Republicans and an independent – 25 were net-positive on cannabis issues. Only former Health and Human Services secretary Julian Castro and incumbent President Donald Trump scored negatively. The full, 24-page VPR Brands Guide can be found at
About VPR Brands (OTC: VPRB): VPR Brands (VPRB) is a publicly traded technology company whose assets include U.S. and Chinese patents for atomization-related products including technology for medical marijuana vaporizers as well as e-cigarette products and components. Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the company also develops such vaping products as e-liquids, e-cigarettes and Vaporizers for use with Cannabis and CBD. For more information, visit
(Following two pages: ranking table, pull quotes)
Final ranking
Candidate Final Score
1 Gabbard 245
2 Bennet 189
3 Booker 176
4 O’Rourke 110
5 Warren 110
6 Moulton 108
8 Sanders 96
7 Ryan 78
9 Gillibrand 76
10 Swalwell 57
11 Gravel 50
12 Harris 50
14 Delaney 45
13 Hickenlooper 40
15 Weld 40
16 Buttegieg 30
17 Klobuchar 30
18 de Blasio 20
19 Inslee 16
20 Yang 16
21 Bullock 7
22 Messam 3
23 Biden 2
24 Schultz 2
25 Williamson 2
26 Castro -1
27 Trump -2
Source: VPR Brands Guide

Quotes from the VPR Brands Guide

“The only candidate to have declared favorable positions on each of these concerns was Buttegieg, which contrasts sharply with his absence of direct action on any of them. Eight candidates have made public statements favoring five of the topics; this includes Inslee, who has taken stands on all six but his position on the legality of home-grown cannabis is unfavorable.”

“Biden, Bullock, Castro, Schultz, and Trump … appear to be doing all they can to avoid addressing cannabis as a campaign issue. Biden, Castro, and Trump clearly have anti-cannabis stances in their recent histories, but Bullock’s and Schultz’s reticence is surprising. As the governor of a western state, Bullock has seen how successful his neighbors have been as laboratories of pro-cannabis public policy, and has personally taken some significant actions on behalf of users in Montana. Schultz, to be fair, is still playing coy in terms of whether or not he is actually going to campaign full-time for the presidency. Still, as CEO of Starbuck’s, he is possibly more likely than any other individual in the United States to benefit financially from unrestricted federal legalization of CBD.”

“Bennet opposed Colorado’s legalization referendum in 2012 but has since changed position. Deemphasizing support for recreational use, he focuses on hemp, states’ right to legalize or decriminalize, and cannabis finance.”

“Biden was an outspoken proponent of the War on Drugs and on-record up to at least 2014 as being anti-legalization. He now favors reclassifying cannabis to Schedule 2.”

“For Booker, support for ending the War on Drugs dates back to at least his tenure as Newark mayor. A 2014 statement that he would not commit to full legalization has been mooted by positions and actions taken since 2017.”

“Gabbard is a full-throated proponent of legalization. Still, she remains more focused on foreign affairs and defense issues.”

“Gravel is the closest to a pure-play cannabis candidate in the race. … He is a decades-long advocate of decriminalization and currently CEO of a cannabis company.”

“Initially opposed to legalization as Denver mayor and Colorado governor, Hickenlooper had often set aside his personal views to honor the will of the voters. He restricted the sale of edibles in shapes that could entice children, and ordered an investigation of pesticide use.”

“As on other issues, Trump is unpredictable on this one. His first attorney general was anti-cannabis but his current one is not. The president has signaled support for medical cannabis, but not through the VA. He supports the STATES Act but it has not hit his desk yet, prompting The Hill to speculate about a surprise pro-cannabis announcement late in the campaign.”

“Weld has evolved on this issue since working for Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department, where he served as prosecutor for many high-profile DEA cases. Since then, though, he has been at odds with Republican establishment regarding cannabis legalization.”

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