Marquee Names Grow Like Weeds
Consumers care more about quality than brand name in cannabis products
A Willie’s Reserve booth sells marijuana paraphernalia during the 420 Games in Santa Monica earlier this year.
Retail cannabis sales in 2017 reached $10 billion. By 2021, that amount is expected to hit $24 billion. Meanwhile, adult use is now legal in nine states while 30 states have established medical weed programs. And polls find more than 60% of the U.S. population supports legalization.
However, there’s an even more significant indicator of success: celebrities have moved into the marijuana marketplace.
As cannabis’ popularity has increased, so has the number of celeb-branded pot products available in legal weed states. Some of them come from performers whose careers are already synonymous with marijuana: Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Tommy Chong and Bob Marley’s family among them. Such rappers as Wiz Khalifa, Ghostface Killah and Master P have also dabbled in the weed business. So have retired pro athletes including former NBA star Cliff Robinson and EX-NFL star Ricky Williams who each launched product lines. Meanwhile, mainstream stars Whoopi Goldberg, Montel Williams and Melissa Etheridge have leveraged their celeb status to get involved in medicinal marijuana-based projects.
It’s easy to see why big names are getting in on the big business of legal weed. According to George Jage, CEO of Dope Magazine, a popular marijuana industry publication, “the future of cannabis is going to be about brands.” And what’s better branding than featuring a name that cannabis consumers already know and trust on your label?
“The advantage of having a celebrity cannabis brand, especially like Snoop Dogg’s, is the immediate recognition of our product from a wide variety of demographics, including international tourists, consumers looking for unique and interesting gifts,” says Tiffany Chin, co-founder of Leafs by Snoop, which sells a variety of flower, edibles and concentrates in the U.S. and Canada. “That’s why I believe we’ll see more participation from mainstream celebrities and brands as the industry grows.”
The good news for artists who have long been known as marijuana ambassadors, like Snoop and Nelson, is that selling their own cannabis is a natural next step. They bring a certain amount of authority into a marketplace that is still relatively new and expanding. Their name on a vape pen or pack of pre-rolled joints will mean something to the cannabis community.
“People will follow you because they trust you,” says Cypress Hill’s B-real, who recently opened up a dispensary called Dr. Greenthumb in Sylmar. “You’re already someone they know, a brand they trust. The flip side, though, is you can’t please everyone no matter how good your product might be. People will scrutinize and troll and stain your name if they don’t like what you sell them.”
That’s why celebrities “coming into this business should know it’s not something to be taken lightly, It has an impact on your life and reputation,” says Elizabeth Hogan, a spokeswoman for Nelson’s company, Willie’s Reserve. She says the operative philosophy behind all of Willie’s Reserve flowers, vape oils and infused- chocolate bars is to let users feel like they get “a little taste of what it’s like to smoke with Willie.”
To that end, Hogan adds, Nelson plays the role of “chief tasting officer,” personally trying as much of Willie’s Reserve’s products as he can to judge their quality before they go out for public consumption.
Just because a cannabis company has a famous name attached, though,