These days, it seems like every celebrity has a side hustle — a product or line of products meant to enhance their brand beyond their normal sources of income.
In the past, celebrities dabbled with food or clothing, but, in recent years, one hot sign of fame is having a personal brand of cannabis.
Mike Tyson, Martha Stewart and Bella Thorne are just a few of the celebrities promoting their own cannabis brands, and there are plenty of others who are attempting to create cannabis-connected businesses.
There’s even a delivery service in California called Camp Nova that specializes in the pot brands of celebrities and influencers.
Considering that 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational weed, while medical marijuana is legal in 37 states and D.C., it’s a time of budding growth for celebrities wishing to get into the sativa space.
“If anything, it helps a celeb’s image to take part in an emerging industry with deep cultural ties,” Dan Wilson, editor of Visit Hollyweed, a news site about California cannabis, told HuffPost.
Wilson said that musicians are the celebrity demographic most likely to benefit from a cannabis connection “because weed and music have had a natural affinity for decades.”
“Specifically, no genre of music has more directly discussed weed than hip-hop, and so we see a lot of people from the rap game do collabs with weed brands in California. The fans love it, it’s a perfect match.”
“Celebrities who want to get into cannabis need to have a story about their relationship with weed.”
Sports/entertainment agent Klint Briney also thinks retired pro athletes can benefit from a pot profile.
“I mean, who doesn’t know pain like, say, a Peyton Manning or Serena Williams? Pain is the single largest health condition and affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined,” Briney told HuffPost.
Sydney Banta, of the cannabis marketing firm Highopes, thinks the growth of celebrity brands will likely come from people in the culinary space.
“Edibles and beverages are categories that have only scratched the surface, and these categories have a large untapped market,” Banta told HuffPost. “Not everybody smokes, but everybody eats and drinks. In other words, if Rachel Ray released a line of cannabis treats, I’d bet you’d discover a totally new pocket of cannabis-curious consumers.”
But tailoring specific cannabis strains to match a celebrity’s public image is one thing that hasn’t been done very much yet.
A writer for Pacific San Diego noted in 2020 that weed from Tyson Ranch, Mike Tyson’s previous cannabis brand, produced a high that made people chatty but that didn’t “pack a punch.”
In addition, the high that’s connected with comedian Tommy Chong’s brand was more cerebral and not the hoped-for “giggle weed,” the reporter said.
But Highopes creative director Patrick Toste said that celebrity-inspired strains can be successful if done strategically.
“This approach ensures the celebrity’s connection and partnership with the brand feels genuine to consumers rather than an attempt at a cash grab,” he said. “Additionally, it can be a great way to further attract, capture and convert that celebrity’s fans and followers into customers of the cannabis brand.”
“If Rachel Ray released a line of cannabis treats, I’d bet you’d discover a totally new pocket of cannabis-curious consumers.”
However, Wilson said that it’s “not practical to be so narrow as to only offer one ‘experience’ for your weed brand.” He argued that it’s more common for a celeb to do a curated collection of strains and to tell customers, “I tried a bunch of strains and these were my favorite, these are the ones I like and I think you’ll like too.”
Still, he said that a celeb could take the approach of identifying themselves with a certain strain if they’re careful and intentional about it.
“For example, by selecting strains based on an experience that matches their persona and then always offering that same strain,” he said. “They have to have a consistent grow operation to do that.”
Carlos Dew of the LA-based cannabis company superbad said when his company partnered with rapper Lil’ Kim on her new cannabis brand, Aphrodisiak, they worked on multiple strains — but the first one, Hardcore, was intentionally made to reflect her sexy persona.
Pleasing the hip-hop legend had its challenges. Dew said they came up with five strains for Lil Kim to try before she chose Hardcore.
“No, she didn’t try them all at the same time,” Dew said. “You can’t.”
Obviously, the cannabis connection can add to a celebrity’s bank account, but not every celebrity should jump into the cannabis biz expecting to make big bucks, according to Wilson.
“Celebrities who want to get into cannabis need to have a story about their relationship with weed,” Wilson said. “Ideally, they have talked openly about weed in the work/art they’re known for or have advocated for legalization as a public figure. Without this connection, it seems merely opportunistic.”
That matches up with the views of former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne, who has the Forbidden Flowers brand. She takes her role as a cannabis celeb seriously.
“Cannabis is very important to me and is a part of my lifestyle,” she told HuffPost in 2021. “It just took a long time to get it fully up and running because there are a lot of moving parts. I also had to do a lot of research on where I wanted to grow the cannabis, what I wanted the strands to taste like, what I wanted the brand to represent, and the aesthetic.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to Sydney Banta due to a miscommunication from a Highopes representative.