illicit named Brand of the Year

illicit named Brand of the Year


Since the launch of medical marijuana sales in 2020, Illicit has stood out as one of the most loved brands in the cannabis industry.

Blending a rebellious edge with a brand built on activism, Illicit has pushed the boundaries of societal and regulatory restriction more than once.

With Best of the Industry, Greenway allows readers, consumers, and industry participants to lend their voice to who they deem deserving.

Time after time, Illicit is regarded as one of the top brands in the state. In 2024, Greenway readers named Illicit Brand of the Year, while also awarding the company for Best Brand Design and Best Packaging Design, further underscoring Illicit’s blend of creativity and social advocacy with its commitment to aesthetic excellence and innovative marketing strategies that resonate deeply with consumers and industry insiders alike.

Illicit Gardens’ VP of Marketing, David Craig, articulates the brand’s ethos as one that strives not only for commercial success but also for cultural significance within the cannabis community.

Greenway spoke to Craig about the successes of 2023, and what it takes to make a unique brand as the company looks ahead.

“2023 was a whirlwind and was something of a dream. Growing up as a cannabis enthusiast in both Kansas and Missouri, I never thought the day would actually come, but here it is. Since our first harvest in 2020, we made a goal from day 1 to be the number one-selling brand in the state. We kept our heads down and put in the long hours, relentlessly investing time and resources into sustainable, prolonged growth. Both Headset and BDSA’s data sets for 2023 indicate we accomplished those goals. With invaluable data and feedback from customers, patients, wholesale partners, and industry employees, we continue to review, correct, and modify every step of the way whenever possible.” 

What about your company differentiates you from others in the space?

Missouri is home to some seriously good growers across multiple brands. All the positive energy and skill in the state keeps everyone on their toes. At Illicit we’re always trying to find a way to make our products not just unique in terms of quality, packaging, and overall vibe, but also our cultivation operations. To close out 2023, we received the coveted Clean Green Certification, which is the closest legal equivalent to USDA organic cannabis can achieve. As of now, less than 0.5% of brands in the state have achieved this rating. What it means is that if cannabis were suddenly legalized at the federal level, we would immediately qualify for the USDA organic seal. 

What makes the Illicit brand unique? What do you feel makes Illicit so appealing?

Quality, consistency, and branding. Your product needs to be top tier, it needs to always be top tier, and the messaging needs to stand out. That’s always been our goal. On top of that, we try to get as much face-to-face time with fellow cannabis enthusiasts as we can. We’re always setting up at our partner dispensaries, plus tons of local music and community events. We’ve spent several years now trying to find the perfect combination of techniques to engage with people, and we hope they have as much fun hanging out with our team as we do with them.

What endears your company to consumers and others in the industry?

Popular culture’s pendulum has swung back hard to the 80s over the last decade. Whether it derives as a longing for a simpler time, the result of demographic swings, or the reigniting old franchises – no one can deny we’re living in ‘the new 80s’. Illicit’s packaging and product names were designed to give an analogous tangibility to the retro media forms of that time. We carried that through to our lifestyle imagery, which was designed to capture the nostalgia of the 80s and 90s with subtle retrowave tones. Creating that ‘tangibility to nostalgia’ has been a central focus for our team. 80s movies, music, and TV have always held a special place in our hearts. We started there when trying to develop a brand that would capture that essence.

What does the legalization of marijuana for adult use mean for your company?

It emphasizes more than ever the importance of skilled professionals who care about their work. Nothing fundamentally has changed in our mission or long-term goals, but now we just need to do all of it on a much larger scale. Consistency and quality remain key. Everything we do is designed to make our product better without sacrificing quality or cutting corners. 

With the launch of adult use, what changes did your company see or make in 2023?

On top of doubling our employees, we invested heavily in streamlining our cultivation operations and providing incentives to our staff for performance. Our grow rooms feature some of the most advanced technology available in the space. 

Can you tell me about some of the employees or leadership that help push your success?

Illicit is fortunate to have a deep bench of some incredibly talented people. At all levels, our company has sought the best in their specialties and continuously invests in employee education. With over 200+ incredible employees, it’s truly difficult to point out just one individual when our ethos is based on everyone playing an integral role in bringing Illicit products to market. 

Can you tell me about the company’s community involvement? 

We’ve donated $150,000+ to charitable organizations and local community groups, covering everything from legal fees for cannabis POWs, supporting digital literacy scholarships, to local food drives. We additionally have supported black-owned cannabis businesses through a series of licensing deals, plus provided legacy brands an opportunity to join the legal market through complaint and regulated pathways for locals to bring products to market. Our partnerships continue to yield meaningful results and we hope to expand these initiatives further.

What plans are on the horizon for the company? 

In 2024, our dispensary group From The Earth Missouri, will be opening its 6th location on the western Stateline. We aim to bring more of our brand products to underserved markets in those areas and increase accessibility to legal cannabis. From the brand perspective, Illicit is excited to announce we will be opening cultivation and manufacturing facilities in New Jersey, as well as the first Illicit Gardens brand dispensaries. We’re thrilled to jump into another state and are grateful for all the local support we’ve received in the northeast. And of course, 2024 means news products and stains, including our first hard candies, ‘Gemstones’, hitting stores in just a short while.