Hollywood and marijuana have long been inextricably linked, with Cheech & Chong establishing the stoner comedy genre with the 1978s Up in smoke to beloved cannabis-based tubes like The great Lebowski, Harold and Kumar go to the white castle and Pineapple Express. In recent years, however, Hollywood’s involvement in marijuana has shifted from the screen to the corporate world, with celebrities launching their own cannabis lines and companies. Seth Rogen, Jay-Z, Jim Belushi, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Wiz Khalifa, Bella Thorne, Jaleel White and Melissa Etheridge are just a sampling of the famous personalities who entered the cannabis industry since 2012, when Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational use.
“If you’re smart enough you come in, you know how to take your stardom and build a real business for yourself,” Snoop Dogg said of the booming industry and his brand, Leafs by Snoop. “Especially those like me, who have been an advocate and insisted on it, who went to jail for it, who stood up before it was cool, before it was in fashion. Now, so that we can take advantage of my losses, my criminal record, things that maybe got a bad rap on me, we can clean up and do some good business in the same area.
And that’s a good deal. Analysis firm BDSA reports that in 2020, global cannabis sales reached nearly $ 21.3 billion, a 48% increase from 2019, with sales forecast of $ 55.9 billion. in 2026. In the United States, legal cannabis sales topped $ 17.5 billion in 2020, up 46% from 2019, and are expected to reach $ 41.3 billion in 2026. The market Californian cannabis alone grew by $ 586 million in 2020.
“It’s like being part of a gold rush,” says Tommy Chong, who, after becoming one of the founding fathers of weed, is preparing to go public with his business, Tommy Chong’s Cannabis. “People literally throw money at us. It’s like Field of dreams. Build it and they will come.
Some of the biggest builders in the space have been Snoop Dogg, who with his own lineage runs the Casa Verde Capital investment fund, which is said to be worth over $ 200 million with its portfolio of cannabis companies; Belushi, which grows and sells its Belushi’s Farm products on 100 acres in Oregon; Monogram from Jay-Z, whose team spent nearly two years cultivating the premium product; and Khalifa Kush by Wiz Khalifa, which offers a full line of flowers, pre-rolls, vapes and edibles and has partnered with Gage Growth Corp. in July to launch a premium cannabis line in Michigan, its first expansion into the Midwest. Rogen’s Houseplant, which the actor launched with his partner Evan Goldberg in March, has also grown into a major player, selling his flower and weed accessory products within hours of launch.
Ryan Jennemann, CEO of THC Design, a Los Angeles-based artisan flower grower that supplies products to Houseplant and Method Man’s Tical brand, says Rogen has the potential to lead the biggest star-owned brand on the market. walked, and not just because of the depth of the star. personal investment (“Every flower has to go to Seth and Evan so that they personally smoke and agree,” explains Jennemann). As the cannabis market is dominated by business and celebrity brands make up “a very, very, very small percentage of cannabis sales,” says Jennemann, that could change if cannabis were legalized at the federal level. (Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said ending the cannabis ban is a priority this year.)
With a brand like Houseplant, says Jennemann, “[consumers] know who you are in Florida, they know who you are in New York, “so if and when producers are able to ship over state borders,” people will be comfortable with a name they recognize when they buy cannabis for the first time. “
Another big change to come in the industry: the user base. While marijuana has historically been dominated by men as buyers and sellers, women are increasingly consumers in the space. Cannabis data company Headset found that Gen Z women represented the fastest growing user population from 2019 to 2020, growing 151%. Millennial women have also increased by 51%, creating a client base that Chelsea Handler hopes to serve when her cannabis company launches at the end of the year.
“My intention is to encourage and empower women to use cannabis in the same way as men. They don’t have that drug, ”said Handler, who has become a noisy marijuana user in recent years and has collaborated on special editions for the presidential inauguration and his HBO Max special. She and her business partner Allison Azoff Statter are building a female-led, vendor-to-CEO business for first-time women users and with the message, says Handler, of “” Hey, we’ve got something for you, you guys. “You’re safe with us, and we’ll explain everything to you. I want women to know that they can trust me and that I’m going to show them the way.
Statter adds, “We want to be a cannabis brand in the market that is reliable, trustworthy and that everyone feels they can be a part of without being intimidated by it. “
Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rebel Wilson also entered the industry as investors in the Cannabis tonic Cann as part of the Women’s Shift. “I feel like it’s such an untapped market,” said Sara Foster, another Cann investor. “I don’t smoke weed, and I don’t vape, but I like the feeling of being slightly buzzed.”
And the celebrity cannabis space, already full, is sure to expand. Jennemann says that over the past year and a half he has been contacted by at least one new Hollywood personality per week who is interested in getting into the business.
“Years ago, celebrities wanted their own wineries, and now it looks like they want their cannabis brands,” he says, adding that with “everyone pouring in, I think the supply is going. become surplus and there are only a few that will raise the top. “
One thing is clear: having a quality product with an authentic voice behind it separates the winners from the losers.
“We’ve been so marginalized for so long that I think there’s a lot of healthy skepticism about marketing and the hype,” says David Bienenstock, author of How to smoke pot (correctly) and podcast co-host The great moments in the history of cannabis. “The only celebrity brands that will be successful will have to start with someone who has real credibility with people who buy cannabis. If you’re a celebrity with 10 million Instagram followers, you can get a lot of attention, but if you don’t have the respect of the community, that’s not a recipe for success.
A version of this story first appeared in the July 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.