Understanding Celebrity Cannabis Licensing

Article by TG Branfalt Jr, Ganjapreneur

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Celebrity product licensing is nothing new — Michael Jordan has sneakers, Elizabeth Taylor has perfume — but the practice is beginning to permeate the cannabis space with the introduction of celebrity-branded cannabis products, such as Leafs by Snoop from the hip hop superstar and Willie’s Reserve, a line featuring the country music icon Willie Nelson.

Wiz Kahlifa, Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah, and Melissa Etheredge join the estates of counter culture icons Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix as musicians either already involved in, or seeking to enter, the cannabis industry. Actor and director Kevin Smith partnered with a dispensary to create two strains to help promote his horror flick “Tusk,” and Tommy Chong, who was once jailed for nine months for his role in Chong’s Glass company, has launched his own brand Chong’s Choice. Whoopi Goldberg has also entered the fray with Whoopi & Maya, a line of bath soaks, balms and tinctures targeted toward women.

How celebrity licensing deals work
According to Olivia Mannix, co-founder and CEO of the Denver-based marketing company Cannabrand, the celebrities are the ones responsible for coming up with a brand and they work with industry partners to find cultivators and distributors in different markets in states where the product will be sold. The celebrity plays an “integral role in the development process,” meeting with potential growing partners and (of course) trying the product to “make sure it is something that that they like” and are willing to stake their reputation on, she said.

“They’re the last and most important people to sign off because it’s them, it’s their brand, and they want it represented in the best way possible,” Mannix said in an interview with Ganjapreneur.

Unlike traditional products, cannabis products must be sourced from the state in which they are sold — so while a customer will have an option for a celebrity-branded product in both California and Colorado, those products will not come from the same grower, Mannix explained. If the brand is tainted in one state — tests positive for a banned substance for instance — it could negatively impact the brand in both states even though it doesn’t have the same source.

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