Is Hollywood The Ally The Cannabis Industry Needs?
By Roger Malespin
While the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana is being fought in federal and state legislatures, the other front in the battle is that of public perception. Undoing several generations of the demonization of pot will not happen overnight, and businesses and entrepreneurs are looking to Hollywood to help in that endeavor.
There are several names that come to mind when one thinks of celebrity pot endorsers - Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Seth Rogen; but with California as one of the premier states in the new legalization frontier, there is an increased push to broaden the scope of big names who could publicly support the movement.
One business looking for such endorsements is Medmen - the most dominant cannabis company in the country. They have a trust fund of over $100 million for that purpose, and they are about much more than simply getting high. Skin creams, bath bombs, and teas are just some of the products available, but getting A-list talent to sign on is what they believe will take the industry to the next level.
Company spokesman Daniel Yi said “This is not about marijuana, this is about the people who use cannabis for all the reasons people have used cannabis for hundreds of years. Yes for recreation, just like alcohol, but also for wellness."
Medmen are one of several cannabis companies looking to Hollywood award show gifting suites and lounges to pick up endorsements. During the run-up to the Academy Awards this year, there was a flea market of sorts at the Beverly Hilton in L.A. featuring 4 companies selling their products - all non-psychoactive. This sort of groundwork is necessary due to the federal laws which place many restrictions on radio and TV advertising for cannabis companies. Many stars attended but remain unnamed, as the industry is still wary of associating itself too strongly with cannabis at this time.
But the ever growing number of Americans who support decriminalization are part of what’s fueling the industry to continue breaking down the barrier. Maya Cooper, director of marketing for Snoop Dogg's cannabis platform Merry Jane, said "We're getting requests to broker deals with cannabis brands for product placement in movies. Instead of someone smoking a generic joint onscreen, brands are underwriting costs to give shine to product." and "We're looking for people who you would say, 'I didn't know she used marijuana!'
The federal barriers still loom high despite the shifting attitudes of the people, however, and remain the biggest obstacle preventing more Hollywood inclusion. "A lot of Hollywood stars have contracts with morality clauses," says Clement Kwan, co-founder of Beboe. "They tell us, 'Until the federal government is OK with cannabis, I cannot endorse it.”
Fortunately, every citizen has some measure of power to help. It’s important to keep the pressure on politicians at every level of government to pass legalization bills. Great progress has been made in the past few years alone, and with continued activism we could see federal legalization sooner than later.