Mickey Hart, Chelsea Handler, Willie Nelson among celebrities rolling out marijuana brands
In a crowded field of celebrities lending their names to marijuana brands, Grateful Dead drummer and Sonoma County local Mickey Hart wants his new line of prerolled joints to “transport your mind.”
Comedian Chelsea Handler aims to help women manage stress, ditch the sleeping pills and overcome memories of bad highs through a line of vape and low-dose edible products made at NorCal Cannabis’ Santa Rosa manufacturing plant.
Americana music legend Willie Nelson’s “my stash is your stash” philosophy is being sold in California under the brand name Willie’s Reserve, a line of products made from marijuana grown by small farmers with Flow Kana’s Mendocino and Humboldt county network.
It’s a full-throttle race for brand recognition in California’s cannabis industry. Faced with steep legalization costs and strict advertising regulations, cannabis companies and famous people are pairing up to make a profit.
“The fact that they’re coming to Sonoma and Northern California businesses really speaks for the high regard there is for Northern California cannabis culture,” said Jigar Patel, NorCal Cannabis president.
Legal cannabis business sales hit $10.3 billion across the country last year and could reach $25.7 billion by 2025, according to Washington, D.C.-based cannabis research firm New Frontier Data.
The traditional stoner-type consumer only comprises an estimated 14% of legal pot consumers, indicating the majority of people buying marijuana have not yet developed preferences or expertise that influences purchase decisions, according to the firm’s research.
The cannabis industry is emerging after decades “almost absent any branding that has shaped the rest of the consumer economy,” said John Kagia, New Frontier Data’s chief knowledge officer.
As a result, companies are now branching away from branding focused on experienced consumers who know the difference between strains like Berry White, Mendo Breath, Blue Dream and Sour Diesel. Instead, companies are describing the effect, such as Santa Barbara -based Canndescent’s line of smokable oil cartridges named after desired bodily effects: calm, cruise, create, connect and charge.
“Celebrity endorsements have become a natural spoke within that marketing strategy,” Kagia said.
And that’s partly what brought Handler into the sector, according to her social media posts and public statements about her venture with NorCal Cannabis, announced in April at the Hall of Flowers trade show at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
Handler told an audience at the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa that she used to “smoke weed and get too stoned and get paranoid,” which caused her to think cannabis didn’t work for her. But she found low-dose cannabis edibles through the medical market helped her immensely with stress, and she’s been an outspoken pot proponent since. She’s described her goal as making it possible for people who wouldn’t normally try cannabis to benefit from its uses.
“People don’t have to be so scared to dip their toes in the water again,” Handler said. “It’s changed my life, it’s changed so many of my friends’ lives. It cut my drinking in half.”
Others like Hart are building on an established connection to cannabis culture.
Hart’s joints are packed with the legendary cannabis strain Chemdog, named after a loyal fan who discovered the strain in 1991 outside a Dead show on Shakedown Street in Indiana, germinated the seeds and popularized it.