As cannabis becomes increasingly legal around the world, the industry surrounding it has begun to pick up steam.
Research by BDS Analytics suggests that the value of the American market alone may reach $22 billion by as early as 2022, while recent polling found that up to 60% of US residents support full cannabis legalization.
Many countries have also begun launching medicinal marijuana programs, bringing relief to millions of patients around the world.
The cannabis industry is finally beginning to enter the mainstream, and there's no greater indicator of this than the growing number of well-known celebrities who are lending their star power to the marijuana marketplace.
Over the last few years the idea of a celebrity cannabis brand has become increasingly commonplace, as competing pot stocks look to leverage the star's built in name recognition and fan-base. At the same time, these deals can also be particularly lucrative for the celebrities involved, offering them a chance to get in on the ground floor of what will soon be a multi-billion dollar industry.
However, it's also important to remember that having a famous name attached to a cannabis company is not necessarily an indicator of long-term success.
Here are a few of the biggest celebrity players who have already jumped into the cannabis game.
There is probably no celebrity more iconically associated with marijuana than Snoop Dogg, so it makes sense that he was one of the earliest big names to throw their hat into the cannabis market.
Since October 2016 Snoop has been in a partnership with the Canadian cannabis giant, Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC). Working with Tweed Marijuana Inc—a smaller subsidiary of Canopy—they've developed a product line under the Leafs by Snoop brand label, in an attempt to leverage the rapper's well-publicized love affair with the plant.
The company claims that it worked closely with Snoop to develop the strains, which represents the highest quality of commercially available cannabis. The president of Canopy Growth, Mark Zekulin, announced that the Leafs by Snoop brand will continue to expand until it develops a full spectrum offering of diverse strains, including high CBD and mid to high-range varieties.
"At this stage in his career, Snoop is much more than an artist, entertainer and entrepreneur," Zekulin said.
"He's also one of the most trusted voices in cannabis the world over. With this partnership we're welcoming a cannabis culture icon into the Canadian industry, and as a true partner of the Tweed team."
Snoop Dogg was similarly enthusiastic about the partnership's launch, saying that "like hip-hop, cannabis is as much a lifestyle as it is a culture".
"Leafs By Snoop is an expression of my experience with that culture over decades on the scene."
"What started for me in the 90s in Cali now has a home in places like Colorado, where real progress is being made. Now that Leafs By Snoop is coming to Tweed, I'll be able to share my passion for the best cannabis on the planet with Canada."
Since then Snoop has continued to expand his involvement in the commercial marijuana space, and in March 2018 he co-founded a cannabis-focused venture capital firm, Casa Verde Capital. The firm raised $45 million before closing to new investors and is currently seeking seed and series A investment to tackle the ancillary end of the market.
Some of the company's current investments include a $3.3 million stake in Green Tank Technologies—a developer of vaporizer technology—and LeafLink, the creators of a business-to-business cannabis marketing platform.
According to the managing director of Casa Verde Capital, Karan Wadhera, the firm is "writing seed-stage to Series A-size checks, so $1 million plus, with roughly half our fund reserved for follow-on investments, where we can write another $3 million to $5 million [to a limited number of breakout companies]."
"And we're only focused on the ancillary part of the cannabis industry, so we won't invest in companies that touch the plants. No dispensaries or cultivators or manufacturers. We're investing in the picks and shovels."
"Our biggest investment to date is LeafLink, a marketplace for retailers and brands. If you were Walmart and logging onto a platform to order from vendors, that's what LeafLink has created for the cannabis space. A dispensary can log in and order from vendors on one consolidated platform," he said.
Following the success of the Leafs by Snoop brand, agents from Stampede Management—which is the same agency that represents Snoop Dogg—approached Canopy Growth about adding legendary lifestyle guru Martha Stewart to their roster of celebrity spokespeople.
Stewart is now working with the Canopy to develop a new line of hemp-derived CBD products for humans and pets.
The founder of Canopy Growth, Bruce Linton, was highly enthusiastic about the partnership agreement, as Stewart's endorsement will provide significant exposure to the mainstream lifestyle market.
"I was probably more excited to meet Martha than I think almost any other celebrity I've been introduced to," Linton said.
"I'm running a very large marijuana company, and here I am meeting a person considered a leader on all things etiquette."
"As soon as you hear the name Martha, you know exactly who we're talking about. I am so excited to be able to work alongside this icon to sharpen our CBD product offerings across categories from human to animal."
The product line is currently expected to be distributed through a subsidiary of the Sequential Brands Group (NASDAQ: SQBG), which is the parent company of Martha Stewart Omnimedia.
Seth Rogen may be a little late to enter the cannabis game, but he made a big play earlier this year when he announced the launch of a new cannabis company called Houseplant.
Co-founded with his long-time filmmaking partner, Evan Goldberg, the brand's first product is expected to be released in early April and will be called the Houseplant Sativa. Following its' release, the company plans to develop a Houseplant Hybrid and Houseplant Indica strain, before eventually moving on to pre-rolled joints and gels.
Rather than cultivate the plant themselves, Houseplant will instead be sourcing the cannabis they sell from Canopy Growth, which also owns a minority stake in the company.
"Houseplant is a passion we've brought to life through drive and dedication. Every decision we've made for the business reflects the years of education, first-hand experience and respect we have for cannabis."
– Seth Rogen
Currently, Houseplant's product line is expected to be limited purely to the Canadian market and will be made available through regulated retailers and certain online vendors. Additional products are already scheduled to be rolled out at a later date in 2019.
Canopy Growth also published an official statement announcing the partnership with Rogen and Goldberg, saying that "Houseplant represents years of product expertise and unmatched attention to detail within each strain that has been carefully selected and grown".
"Commitment to cannabis quality begins with selecting the best genetics and doesn't stop until the customer opens the jar."
"Canopy Growth has witnessed how carefully Houseplant has chosen each component of their offering to deliver the highest quality product to Canadians."
Gene Simmons might seem like an odd choice for a cannabis spokesperson, as the "perpetually sober" KISS frontman describes himself as a person who's "never rolled anything, smoked, ever been drunk, nothing in my mouth save Aspirin maybe. I'm straight, and always have been".
However, that hasn't stopped him from partnering with Invictus MD Strategies Corp (CVE: GENE) to become the company's chief evangelist officer.
"Three years ago, I was dismissive, arrogant and about medical cannabis and thought the whole notion of its medical uses as so much smoke and mirrors," Simmons said.
"But over the last few years, I've started to see the tremendous new information that scientists and researchers have been telling us about the incredible uses for this humble plant that just grows there in the ground. I'm incredibly bullish on the product and, particularly, on this company."
"I am devoted to Invictus and my other business partners, and the tour provides me with an opportunity to put them on an international stage. I work around the clock no matter where I am in the world."
As the company's chief evangelist officer, Simmons is planning on meeting with the partners, stakeholders, and constituents of Invictus as part of a worldwide promotional blitz he is currently undertaking. To that end, he has already begun hosting backstage meetings with investors and board members on his KISS End of the Road concert tour.
Following the completion of his tour, Simmons will continue to represent the company at business investor conferences throughout North America.
Invictus also recently secured a deal with Canopy Growth Corp that will see one of its' subsidiary companies supplying "high-quality cannabis grown by a diverse set of producers" to Canopy's online store.
Controversial Instagram celebrity and entrepreneur, Dan Bilzerian, officially launched the Ignite Cannabis Company in 2018.
The company is a subsidiary of Bilzerian's larger cannabis investment firm, Ignite International Brands (CSE: BILZ), and describes itself as a "high-end global cannabis brand" that is dedicated to delivering the best THC and CBD products to its' customers.
Ignite already has a line of vaporising products on the market, as well as a range of CBD oils and "CBD toothpicks". According to their website, Ignite's CBD-infused toothpicks make use of a fast-acting design which allows for the ingestible sublingual delivery of 55mg of CBD, making them perfect for on-the-go consumption.
The President of Ignite, Jim McCormick, said that the toothpicks are an expression of the "edgy" attitude favored by Bilzerian's fanbase. "We are very excited to add CBD-infused toothpicks to Ignite's national offering," McCormick.
"These toothpicks are an entirely new, highly effective way to consume CBD and add an element of 'swagger' to those who use them, which is perfect for our brand and its fans."
Bilzerian is best-known for posing with guns and scantily-clad women on Instagram, so it seems fitting that he would adopt a similarly lascivious approach to marketing his cannabis company. Ignite has already rolled out a series of adverts across California featuring sexualized puns and women in lingerie, which has attracted condemnation from a number of different sources, including the CEO of marketing firm Cannabrand, Olivia Mannix.
"Honestly, shame on them," Mannix said. "It's not only putting a damper on the cannabis industry, but it's putting a damper on the women's movement and women's rights."
According to Bilzerian, he elected to found Ignite in 2017, after uncovering category research showing that there was a gap in the high-end marketplace for premium cannabis brands.
Like other premium lifestyle products—such as fashion, spirits, and luxury cars—market leadership is typically driven by top-down quality control and successful product positioning, which Bilzerian well-suited to leverage thanks to his status as the company's owner, brand totem and super influencer.
"I've never half-assed anything I cared about. Everything I do is based on executing at the highest level and Ignite is going to top everything I've done before. I'll spare no expense, cut no corners, and do whatever needs to be done in order to build Ignite into a world- renowned cannabis brand."
– Dan Bilzerian
Although the brand's product line is currently focused on CBD-based products, Ignite have confirmed that they intend to expand to THC sales in California, with plans to move into other states pending future legislative changes.
While the endorsement of a famous spokesperson might seem impressive, many celebrity-based product collaborations are ultimately destined to fail.
Leveraging an existing celebrity brand can be an effective way to build a substantial customer base, however, to achieve long-term success the partnership needs to be a substantial commitment, rather than an attempt to boost the company's bottom line. Celebrities who authentically embody the brand will always have a greater market reach than those who are simply lending their name out to the highest bidder.
The presence of celebrities is also beneficial to the industry as a whole, as their influence will help to further de-stigmatize cannabis use, as well as incentivizing further research into the plant's medicinal and recreational applications.
If this trend continues, then it seems undeniable that the cannabis industry will soon be on its' way to the top of the A-list.
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