Has Celebrity Weed Gonzoed Too Far?

Katelyn Baker

Well-Known Member
Hunter S. Thompson's widow is the latest entry to the growing celebrity-branded marijuana market. Anita Thompson kept 12 bags of the famous journalist's marijuana and hash stash and has sent them to a lab in Boston to be analyzed. "I will be looking for a grower as soon as I know what I will be growing," said Anita Thompson. "I could afford DNA testing for half the bags at this time. They may all be the same strain, or could be 12 separate strains. I won't know until the tests come back."

Celebrities who might have paid a price for endorsing marijuana in the past, such as Willie Nelson, who's been arrested for possession, are now looking to cash in on that notoriety. Rappers see it as an extension of their persona and even Skinny Girl mogul Bethenny Frankel is developing a diet-friendly strain designed to not give smokers the munchies. Cannabis customers could get overwhelmed by this star saturation as the field of green gets crowded.

The response to celebrity-endorsed marijuana is mixed both among consumers and in the industry. Alex Canto, owner and operator of the high-end dispensary Diego Pellicer, said that some of his younger clientele are turned off by the branding. However, his older customers are drawn to it. "They feel it's a product they can trust and they believe that the brand will have the desired effect they are looking for," he said.

According to Canto, Snoop Dogg G-pens are also a big hit. This dry material vape pen retails for $19.95. Another popular celebrity brand at the dispensary is a strain created for rap group Tha Dog Pound. The group includes Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg. Cannabis grower Seattle Private Reserve has created a line called DPG BUDZ for Daz and the first products are the "Meteorites" and "Moonrocks." "Daz Dillinger is exclusive with us in the state of WA," says a spokesperson. "He will also have his own personal strain called the Kaboom next year."

According to cannabis research from Headset, stores on average are allocating 2% of their category inventory to celebrity products. Those products however only make up 1.3% of total sales. Headset also found a 15% premium being paid by customers for celebrity-branded products when compared to similar products at the same store. Marijuana Business Daily believes the number is much higher and pegged the average markup across brands and states to be 23.8%

It seems to help out the checkout basket as well. Headset also found that customers purchasing a celebrity product have 2.6 items in their cart on average, well above 1.8 items on average for other customers. They are also spending 25% more per transaction. Headset said this could indicate the celebrity products are working well as an add-on or impulse purchase item where people are otherwise shopping for their normal products and decide to also sample something new.

For their part, growers have little experience in dealing with celebrities and marketing deals. "There's a lot of education on both sides of the coin," said Josh Shelton, partner in the Green Street Agency, a cannabis centered creative company. "The marijuana industry is a small, tight-knit community and celebrities with their big management teams rubbed some people the wrong way." Shelton pointed out that some growers were doing very well and didn't really need to give away 10-20% of their profits just to link up with a star. Others approached the celebrities hoping to make big bucks off of their name, which wasn't very realistic.

"It's hard to place a value on these deals. There are no metrics to review for these contracts. We've never been here before," he said. Shelton also warned that some in the industry view celebrity products as unauthentic. It's one thing when Wiz Khalifa personally oversees the strains bearing his name, another when a celebrity just licenses his name to a special strain of cannabis and can't answer basic questions about the product.

"We're starting to see more and more people who care about these issues, coming into the space," said Duncan Levin, a managing partner at New York law firm Tucker Levin. "The industry is expanding away from stoners and turning more professional." He helped Wiz Khalifa start up his cannabis company called "Young Wild and Free." The branded products include Khalifa Kush and a wax concentrate call Wiz Wax. Khalifa licenses out his brand to products he has tested and are highly curated.

"When you go into a dispensary, products have names like Bubblegum Kush and you don't really know what you're getting. A branded product ensures consistency across the market," said Levin. Customers can trust that Wiz has tested out the product for them and that gives them comfort in their purchase.

The market is in its infant stages and it's too soon to determine which brands will be the leaders. Here's are some of the early celebrity pioneers who could become marijuana moguls:

Snoop Dogg promotes his Leafs by Snoop brand of marijuana, which is sold at LivWell dispensaries and other retail outlets in Colorado. Leafs by Snoop is a cannabis super market with a variety of products like edibles, wax and flower. It is billed as the "finest quality cannabis one can imagine." Snoop says he has personally selected his favorite strains for others to enjoy.

Country music legend Willie Nelson has gotten into trouble with the law for marijuana many times over the years. His own strain is called Willie's Reserve and is available in Colorado and Washington. The products include flower, joints and vape cartridges. Nelson came under some criticism when he couldn't define whether his strain was indica or sativa, but his long-time commitment is enough for most fans.

Wiz Khalifa backs his own Khalifa Kush, which is characterized as having an active cerebral buzz that is ideal for morning and daytime use. Several reviews on Leafly though suggest that it could be too strong for new smokers or for lightweights to use cautiously. On the plus side, the lemon and pine flavors get positive reviews.

Bob Marley is the OG from Jamaica. The reggae king has a legacy that his children are passing along. Marley Natural sells body products, smoking accessories and herb. The company says on its website, "Each of our offerings is a direct reflection of the Marley ethos that integrates nature's goodness with a belief in the positive potential of herb. As agents of change, we promote positivity, connectivity and personal transformation. And as believers in progress, we offer an exceptional lifestyle line that is inspired by Jamaica's vibrant culture."

Tommy Chong was one of the first comedians to make a living playing a stoned character. In the 70's, he and his partner Richard "Cheech" Marin made hit comedy records and movies playing stoned BFF's. Now, Chong is once again cashing in on his fame as the face of stoners. His signature strains is called Chong Star. It is cultivated and sold by Marisol Therapeutics in Colorado. The ratings on Leafly are mostly in the exceptional category.


News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Amid Plans For Hunter S. Thompson-Branded Marijuana, Has Celebrity Weed Gonzoed Too Far?
Author: Debra Borchardt
Contact: Forbes
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Website: Forbes
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