Connors’ Plan for ‘America’s First All Natural Cannabis Cigarette’
Chris Connors has been described as enterprising for as long as he can remember. While everyone else was playing video games, he was daytrading stocks. In college, when he was offered a paid sports management internship in New York, he turned it down for an unpaid internship at Dixie Elixirs, shadowing CEO Tripp Keber at the company’s offices in Denver. After that experience, he could finally start a company of his own in the industry: America’s First Brands, a cannabis cigarette marketing and packaging company.
America’s First Brands, or AFB, aspires to become the cannabis industry’s R.J. Reynolds, which is the second largest tobacco company and the owner of brands such as Camel, Newport, and Pall Mall. Unlike the tobacco industry, though, the cannabis industry faces many legal challenges, with the first and foremost being that marijuana itself is still federally illegal. Even in states where it is legal, it can’t cross over state lines; however, since AFB offers an ancillary service, its machine-rolling equipment and packaging materials can cross those borders. So, AFB plans to partner with a grow in each of the legal states, using their licensed and compliant cannabis to manufacture AFB-branded cigarettes with their machine-rolled technology. Then, his team will sell those to dispensaries and market them to consumers.
Connors explained that right now, when you walk into a gas station or a 7-11, you see lots of cigarettes for sale, but most of the brands are only from a handful of companies. With AFB, he plans to bring this same model to cannabis: multiple brands and product lines, each with a small AFB stamp somewhere on the package. “That’s how we’re looking at our company. We have different names, different blends, different colors, everything – but there’s always that one logo in the bottom right or the middle.” It sounds like a great plan, but the question remains: how will America’s First Brands take over the industry? Connors says the company will do this with sleek branding and a professional reputation.
Connors noticed that when he joined the industry with AFB three years ago, most of the brands had a “hippie” vibe with lots of weed leaf symbols. America’s First Brands wants to change that. Its branded tins are clean with modern, eye-catching graphics are something you might see on packaging for another high-end food or beverage. For example, the company’s first line of cannabis cigarettes, Highlands, is encased in a blue tin with graphic mountain imagery and a fresh, bright vibe. Plus, the tin has appeal for out-of-staters who want to remember their trips to the West Coast. “Tourists can bring back the empty tin as a souvenir, as a keepsake for the end of prohibition,” Connors explained. “We also sell them empty online so people can have something to show their friends or simply put up on the bookshelf.”
The cigarettes themselves look sleek and earthy, as they are made with unbleached organic paper. They are the first machine-rolled cigarettes in the industry, according to Connors, which gives them a crisp and finished feel. They also use 100% biodegradable filters, made from their own proprietary blend of raw ingredients. “We were sick and tired of seeing cigarette butts all over the ground,” Connors told me. While typical cigarette filters take 100 years to decompose, AFB’s take only four weeks.
Connors also wants to use the AFB logo on the corner of each package to symbolize that the product is compliant and professionally made. He believes that trustworthiness and reliability is hard to come by in the cannabis industry, and he wants to partner exclusively with great companies who handle their business and product in a consistent, state-compliant fashion. As he puts it, “we’re taking the back-alley joint to the mainstream professional level.”
America’s First Brands will be announcing news about their partnership with a Cannabis Cup-winning brand in the next few weeks, which will kickstart their goal of launching 10 to 15 brands over the next couple of years. Connors believes the announcement will be the first step in delivering on their long-awaited products. “Everyone’s been waiting for the cannabis cigarette to come out, so we went after it hard.”