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SETTING NEW HEIGHTS

In Massachusetts, cannabis advocate and Joint Venture Co. founder Ann Brum helps cannabis businesses and brands market globally...
By Andrew Ward
Photo Courtesy - Ann Brum
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The way Ann Brum tells it, the community has been her focus since before she was born. A child of immigrants from the Azores, the nine autonomous Portuguese archipelago islands roughly 1,000 miles from the mainland, Brum learned firsthand what family and community were. 

Like many expatriates in the United States, the family maintained a strong sense of community with immigrants from their native country. Ann’s parents and extended family helped build the Portuguese-American community in Massachusetts towns like Cambridge and Somerville. She tells Sensi that the early and ongoing exposure to community building, cultural traditions, and meager living showed her just how important community support can be. 

“Literally when I was in the womb, I was already around this community building, supporting one another, doing Portuguese traditional stuff like folk dancing and fundraising a lot of our weekends,” she says. 

Those foundational years helped shape Brum’s lifelong commitment to service and community. The importance became that much more apparent when Ann’s father became ill when she was 18, eventually leading to his passing. 

“It led me on to this journey of personal development, spiritual development, and what self-care and the most sustainable way meant to me,” says Brum. 

New education

She studied nonprofit development, earning a certification from Boston University, and learned from nonprofits like Braintree. Additional education included attending an herbalism school in Salem, Massachusetts. 

“When I was growing up, my parents did not grow up with antibiotics. It was folk medicine from the land that’s been passed down for years and generations,” she says. 

The combination of new education and traditional herbalism would shape Brum’s approach to care going forward. By her mid-20s, Brum was back in the workforce, volunteering in hospice as part of what she described as her healing journey. Volunteer work led to the next step in her career, working at Ascend Hospice. There, her work focused on developing noninvasive patient therapy programs, which included singing. The experience and learning about end-of-life care helped her better comprehend staying present and what she considers the meaning of life. In time, she realized the need for increased cannabis education. 

Layoffs saw her time in the hospice end around early 2016. What may be seen as a letdown provided Brum with the next opportunity in her career and healing journey–a year working in retail ops for In Good Health, Inc., the second dispensary to open in Massachusetts. 

In 2017, she joined the telemedicine brand MedWell Health & Wellness Centers, working on the company’s business and brand development across the state. “We created access to communities that didn’t have access to becoming a state-certified patient,” says Brum, who worked with patients from the Berkshires to Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, and numerous other locations across the state. 

In her two years with the company, Brum helped establish a home visit program for non-ambulatory patients and those with various social or emotional needs. Brum tapped into her community of hospice professionals, pediatric care centers, and healthcare professionals to help spread the word about the program’s launch. 

Raising awareness

In 2018, she also began work co-founding the Cannabis Advancement Series, an effort to raise awareness around the Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Study. Through its research, the group intends to take a “systemic approach of creating access and choice for our veteran population,” according to its website. 

That same year saw Brum foray into another cannabis-centric venture. Due to state laws, she could not simultaneously work for a patient care provider and a state-certified dispensary or cultivator. However, she wanted to provide help to brands that were planning on launching in Massachusetts. After a meeting with an industry colleague, she realized that launching a brand marketing agency was the solution. 

In September 2018, Joint Venture Co. (JVC) was founded. Brum found happiness at JVC, noting that the position allowed her to work with plant-touching and ancillary brands. In either sector, her goal was to build brands and communities around them. 

The following year, the group released its  Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Study. The results found that of the 565 military veterans surveyed, including 201 from Massachusetts, every person reported using medical cannabis to treat or help with mental health issues related to depression, anxiety, or panic attacks.

The endeavors were moving along and progressing fine until the pandemic. However, the company survived the downtimes and is back on stable ground. Now celebrating their fifth year of operation, Brum and JVC are focused on helping brands market with intention. 

To do so, JVC offers various service levels, including improving stock imagery and content and serving as a de facto chief marketing officer if the client needs it. Brum says a company must be ready to invest in success regardless of the level of marketing help required. But the investment can only take a company so far. In many states, including Massachusetts, state and municipal regulations can often hinder or cancel the progress of a would-be brand.

Brum urges marketing teams to know the rules to counter potential setbacks while valuing a “hyper-localized marketing approach,” she says. 

Part of that approach goes back to community building among cannabis brands. Brum emphasizes that plant-touching brands should remember that ancillary brands are not only there to collaborate on business, but they also can help with regulations, especially on the municipal level.

“They have been in the community for a long time,” says Brum. “They know the ins and outs of timeline, the turnarounds of things getting approved.”

Cover, Massachusetts, Winter 2024