It's been a tough couple of years for the cannabis industry as new regulated markets fight it out with legacy sellers in urban areas like New York. Celebrity brands are feeling the effect as well, with the fewest company launches since the trend was kicked off by Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and the Marley Family in 2015.
What accounts for this decline other than a weak stock market for cannabis companies?
TheLAand opined in 2022: "People inhale celebrity weed brands for their novelty and familiarity, ignoring the fact that most of the time, they only exist because the 'V.I.P.' wants to cash in on an easy payday. I mean, does it even matter if a famous person releases a line of cannabis, but doesn’t actually smoke? Not really. Does it matter if their weed sucks? Barely! Does it matter if their product tastes like scorched hay-dust and costs $30 for one pre-rolled joint? If it did, this semi-formal complaint to the culture would not need to exist."
Shouldn't there be room in cannabis for celebrity players who aren't Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg?
Here's Uproxx's take: "Just because a celebrity puts out a brand doesn’t mean smokers are going to like it. Even if they’re fans. These days, celeb brands are actually given more scrutiny than normal weed brands. Why? Partly because there are so many of them now. But also because as cannabis culture is devoured by the mainstream, stoners have grown wary of business Chads and celebrity vultures swooping down to cash in on our magical plant and the subculture it’s created.
"There’s very much a sense of 'where were you when we were getting high?' If the celebrity in question was not in the trenches, using their platform to advocate for cannabis use with the stoners they’re now trying to sell weed to, the brand has a major problem and is likely going to get ridiculed within the community. It’s also the brands from non-stoner celebrities that tend to have the worst weed."
That's a good point. But should only celebs who advocated when weed arrests were at all-time highs be allowed into the cannabis market? Baseball Hall of Famer David Ortiz and actor/comedian Jim Belushi are good examples of this. Both have jumped into the business without having track records of advocacy. Shouldn't there be room in cannabis for celebrity players who aren't Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg?
A 2023 Bloomberg article headlined, "Celebrity Star Power Has So Far Had Limited Impact on Cannabis," says famous names have led to "mixed results":
"Their products face a crowded market that’s struggling with tumbling prices, a thriving black market that’s undercutting the legal one and a complex patchwork of rules that varies from state to state. Not to mention stalled efforts at federal legalization that limit cannabis companies’ access to credit and banking services.
"So while celebrity-backed brands have generated a lot of press, most haven’t become top sellers in the highly fragmented and still-nascent cannabis market. Some retailers in states where marijuana has been legal the longest say that celebrity-linked brands have struggled to seriously compete with bigger labels."
The entire industry is struggling, which inevitably leads to the shake-out that's currently happening from state to state. Celeb brands might be the first to lose shelf space if they'e not selling. Like in any industry, the cream – and the best built companies with significant financial backing – will stay at, or rise to, the top.
I'll be discussing "Cananbis & Celebrities" with Branding Bud Live hosts David Paleschuck and Adriana Hemans on Thurs., June 15 at LinkedIn at 2 pm ET.