Variety Magazine on Celebrities & Cannabis
Whoopi Goldberg, Other Star-Powered Pot Products Hit Retailers’ Shelves
By Nick Clemenet – Variety Magazine
As the stigma surrounding marijuana begins to erode, celebrities have started to either create their own pot-related product lines, or lent their names to cannabis products.
“Pot culture is quickly becoming Pop Culture,” said David Rheins, executive director of the Marijuana Business Assn. (MJBA), a leading cannabis industry trade organization based in Seattle, Wash.
“In the ’90s, celebrities were creating their own perfume brands, (but) today they are embracing cannabis,” says Rheins. And it is not just Cheech & Chong, though Tommy Chong has lent his name to everything cannabis, from pre-rolls to rolling papers, hemp water and water pipes. Musicians Willie Nelson’s and Snoop Dogg have rolled out full lines of branded pot products that they are selling via licensing deals in the legal recreational states [Colorado, Washington and Oregon].“ ‘The View’s’ Whoopi Goldberg has launched her line of medical marijuana menstruation products, and Melissa Etheridge is headlining cannabis conventions in between concert appearances these days, both evidence of the fact that women 55-plus represent the fastest-growing segment of cannabis consumers.”
Rheins, a former senior executive at both Spin and Rolling Stone magazines and the former editor of Marketing Thru Music newsletter, sees a lot of parallels in the mainstreaming of cannabis culture with how rock & roll and alternative music cultures were assimilated into the fabric of mainstream consumer culture.
It’s a growth (pun intended) area: National legal sales hit $5.4 billion in 2015, up from $4.6 billion in 2014, according to cannabis industry ArcView Market Research and New Frontier. Legal markets are expected to grow to $6.7 billion this year.
Goldberg formed her company, Maya & Whoopi, with influential cannabis businesswoman Maya Elisabeth, with the hope of meeting the specific needs of women during those uncomfortable days of the month, by harnessing the soothing qualities of CBDs, which are contained in the plant and offer relief from a variety of ailments.
“Listen, if men got cramps the way we do, this would have hit the market a lot sooner,” Goldberg says. “This type of pain is real, and what we’re trying to do is offer genuine help. This isn’t about getting high.”
With a product line that includes cannabis-infused edibles, lotions, bath products, and tinctures that vary in potency, Maya & Whoopi offers something for almost everyone who needs relief.
“It was very important for people to know that there’s something out there for them. I want serious discussion to be born from this and for people to pay attention because this is real,” Goldberg says.
|The marijuana industry is big business.
|National sales of legal cannabis-related products in 2015.
|Sales of legal cannabis-related product expected in 2016.
|California’s estimated percentage of the country’s total medical cannabis sales.
|Amount California is projected to add in one year to the adult-use market if Prop. 64 is passed.
Northern California- based the Natural Cannabis Company has several celebrity-backed product lines in its High Life Series. Margaret Cho, Tyga, and Baby Bash are among the performers with branded lines. They just signed a deal with South African rap group Die Antwoord, and will be launching a series of products with the band in conjunction with their anticipated final album, “Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid,” and tour.
“Our High Life series showcases our passion for art and its connection to cannabis. We’ve partnered with incredibly talented artists who find that cannabis enhances their lives and their work,” says Dona Frank of Natural Cannabis Company, noting that it sponsors an international High Art contest that focuses on visual art, and plans on adding more celebs to its roster.
Tommy Chong has lent his name to everything cannabis, from pre-rolls to rolling papers, hemp water and water pipes. “When you’re making uphill progress, you have to take some steps back in order to move forward. I’m more than happy to be the pope of pot,” Chong says.
His brand, Chong’s Choice, is huge, and includes high-grade medical marijuana products that he hand-selects for sale in more than 25 California dispensaries. “We control the packaging and we’ve hooked up with the premium growers so that Chong’s Choice will be the very best you can buy.”
Chong, a lifelong advocate for marijuana legalization, couldn’t be any happier about his latest venture. It keeps him involved with a subject that is very close to his heart. “If you see pictures of me, you’ll always notice a little smile on my face, even when I went to jail. I’m enjoying all of this.”
Says Steven Saxton, president and CEO of Green Gorilla, “Coming from the world of film, music and entertainment, it’s exciting to be at the forefront of this burgeoning cannabis industry.
“At Green Gorilla, with our legal hemp and olive CBD line of products, we have been extremely proactive, branding our lip balm, single servings and various flavored hemp and olive CBD oil, through various entertainment themed events and programs.”
Saxton, who exec produced “Lone Survivor” and “ The Kids Are Alright,” among many other films, notes that Green Gorilla products “have been seen backstage at the Oscars and on the red carpet at the Grammy Awards this past year. It’s truly the Wild West and it reminds me of the early days of the music business. At Green Gorilla, we’re having great fun finding new ways to interact with all things entertainment.”
If there’s any sort of progressive momentum that the commercial marijuana movement creates, chances are that Willie Nelson isn’t too far from the scene. A legendary marijuana activist and country music icon, Nelson has long favored sweeping legalization reform, and insists that the time is now for the various states, with their different marijuana laws, to all get on the same page.
He recently unveiled his own personal brand of marijuana, called Willie’s Reserve. “I’ve smoked enough and now I want to give back,” Nelson stated in a recent press release. “Now that legalization is spreading across the country, there’s a great opportunity to build a company that can help a lot of people.”
Willie’s Reserve is on store shelves in Colorado and Washington, with the various strains being cultivated by state licensed growers, with strict quality control overseen by Nelson himself. Also for sale are pre-rolled joints and vape pens/cartridges that come with CO2-extracted cannabis oils.
Bob Marley’s name and influence when combined with the world of cannabis is ubiquitous, so it made perfect sense that the Marley estate would move into marijuana sales in the state of California through the various dispensaries.
Teaming with Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that focuses on “cannabusiness,” they launched Marley Natural, which aims to provide premium grade buds, accessories, and body care products. “Bob Marley … believed it could have a positive and peaceful cultural effect,” says Marley Natural spokesperson Berrin Noorata. “In many ways Bob helped start this movement 50 years ago so it feels natural that his voice is helping to further the movement as it gains momentum. Marley Natural is a brand crafted with deep respect for Bob’s legacy and belief in the positive potential of the herb to heal and inspire us.”
Rapper Snoop Dogg has transitioned from stage and screen to even greener pastures with his new marijuana line, Leafs by Snoop, which made him the first A-list celebrity to roll out a name-branded line of commercial pot products. Launched in November, Leafs by Snoop took Colorado-based marijuana storefronts by storm, with expansions planned to states that support the legal sale of the much hyped strains that Snoop has to offer.
Meanwhile Skinnygirl founder and “Real Housewives of New York” star Bethenny Frankel is taking things in a unique direction, with plans to offer marijuana that has been specifically engineered to not trigger the munchies.
Gaynell Rogers is a former showbiz executive who is now a top cannabis media relations expert. She put together TV series “Weed Wars” for Discovery in 2011 with Steve DeAngelo of California’s Harborside Health Center, the nation’s largest medical cannabis dispensary. She helped found Bloom Cannabis Group and works with many entertainment industry brands and celebrities.
“This is a medical and health justice right,” Rogers says.
Bloom recently announced Power Plant Fitness, a cannabis friendly gym and wellness center backed by former NFL star and Bloom client Ricky Williams set for a November opening in San Francisco.
Bloom Cannabis Group also works with Epic Rights, which manages legacy artists and licensing. Bloom’s pact is to vet and connect their artists — such as the Doobie Brothers, KISS, Chicago, and Jefferson Airplane — “to ‘the right fit’ of cannabis products and services if they choose to enter the cannabis space,” according to Rogers. She notes that Bloom is working with other recording artists that want to enter the space — not only because they can keep their names in the public eye, but to gain another revenue stream.
A recent Gallup poll indicates that 13% of American adults consume cannabis, up from 7% since 2013. With this figure doubling, and with successful legalization efforts in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, a nationwide push seems likely, with other states expected to fall in line.