The news that sitcom star Jaleel White has begun to market “Purple Urkle” cannabis products made us wonder: With recreational marijuana now legal in fifteen states, have we already hit a saturation point with celebrity tie-ins?
White, who played the nerdy Steve Urkle on the ’90s ABC hit Family Matters, may not tick your box as a current celebrity, at least along the lines of Seth Rogen, Jay-Z or Snoop Dogg, all stars hawking their own THC product. But he is a “name,” and while his efforts do highlight a huge disparity in the cannabis realm (more on that below), he is just one of several past or present cultural icons who have tied their name into a growing business.
But is “several” already too many?
“I think [the success of celebrity cannabis brands] depend on the celebrity,” says Verena von Pfetten, the co-founder of Gossamer, a cannabis publication that also makes its own CBD products, which we quite like. “The best ones – which are currently quite rare, feel authentic and true to the celebrity – offer something beyond a name or endorsement, and are built and branded in a way that allows them to grow beyond the celebrity themselves.”
While name recognition helps with launch and awareness – especially since brand marketing in cannabis is restricted due to federal regulation – that cannabis product could live or die by its celebrity identity.
“Fandom can be fickle, and we’ve seen plenty of brands get hit when there’s a misstep or when the star power of a celebrity wanes,” says von Pfetten. “If a celebrity is also spread too thin across different product lines and categories, it can start to feel a little gimmicky. Cannabis is also inherently political: this is a deeply stigmatized plant that has been unequally policed and aggressively used to harm largely communities of color. Brands in the space need to be walking the walk when it comes to equality and social justice.”
With that in mind, a quick overview of the a few celeb cannabis brands (there are dozens) …
Lil Wayne promises the “best high of your life” with his cannabis products, a very wide range you can find via the “Weezy Weed Finder.”
And now, the exact opposite.”No more uncontrollable experiences,” is what this low-cal, THC/CBD canned tonic promises, with celeb backing from Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebel Wilson, Ruby Rose, Darren Criss, Baron Davis, Tove Lo, Casey Neistat and Bre-Z. (We also favorably reviewed Cann last year.)
The Parent Company
The largest vertically integrated cannabis company in California announced the largest cannabis SPAC in history on January 15. Helping matters: the presence of Jay-Z, who acts as the Chief Visionary Officer and (through TPC) has his own cannabis brand, Monogram.
A collaboration with 710 Labs, this is Jaleel White’s cannabis brand, where he’s creating variants of a strain called Purple Urkle. As the actor noted in his interview with the New York Times, “I’d like to see a true multicultural spectrum represented from ownership to employment opportunities [within the cannabis space].” Fair point: According to one study from 2017, only four percent of cannabis company owners are Black and six percent are Latino, while 81 percent are white.
Launched in Canada in 2019, this company is a collaboration between Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg, along with the cannabis/hemp company Canopy Growth Corporation (which is not part of the U.S. launch). “Houseplant is a good example of celebrity cannabis,” says von Pfetten. “It benefits from Seth Rogen’s platform but the aesthetic, positioning and products feel fully formed. You could take Seth out of the equation and the brand would still feel just as strong.”
Via System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian, this new brand includes cannabis but also dives into fashion, music and wellness. Also, it has the most interesting pitch: “Taking inspiration from Shavo’s affinity for numerology and synesthesia, 22Red was created to pay homage to the number 22.”
The most important lesson these stars should follow as they increasingly enter the THC space? “Celebrity-backed cannabis brands need to be using their platform to do just as much good as they are using it to drive sales,” says von Pfetten. “I think consumers will be wary and take notice if they aren’t.”
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