Mar­quee Names Grow Like Weeds

Con­sumers care more about qual­ity than brand name in cannabis prod­ucts

Variety - - Legalization And Entertainment - By CRAIG TOMASHOFF

Doo­bie Brother

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,

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