More A-list celebrities like Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg and Seth Rogen are aligning themselves with the budding marijuana business. Getting behind a weed product while staking their reputation pays off big for some, but star power doesn’t always work for others.
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs explains Hollywood’s endorsement signals a big shift in perceptions when it comes to cannabis.
Why are more celebrities entering the cannabis space?
David Downs: Money. It's another revenue stream and it's really aligned with their crowd.
People like Wiz Khalifa, who is an 11-times platinum artist, already have built-in followers and a fan base that drives brand awareness. That's a big deal in the cannabis space, which is really balkanized.
In California, there are 6,000 active farm licenses, and they might be growing 10 or 20 strains each of those farms. With all those thousands of flower products hitting shelves, it's really hard to cut through the clutter and make an impression on consumers.
Celebrities are uniquely positioned to generate an important metric, which is sell-through and velocity. They see that, and they're taking advantage of it now that cannabis is going into its fifth year of legal sales here in California.
Is Wiz Khalifa’s “Khalifa Kush” any good or is it an average product that banks on a celebrity tie-in?
It's good. Wiz Khalifa didn't grow it himself. He contracted with a Sonoma County licensee in Northern California called FloraCal to grow that product out and distributed to California stores like Cookies in Los Angeles.
Wiz Khalifa knows his consumer base. They like really high potent strains, and Khalifa Kush hits the mark in terms of how it looks, how it smells and most importantly, how it feels.
Do you need to be a “stoner star” to make inroads in the industry?
I do think that when a celebrity comes into the cannabis space, there's a lot of suspicion about their intentions and what the product is going to be.
Wiz Khalifa isn't one of those people because he actually first debuted “Khalifa Kush” in 2016 on the medical market here in California. He has been all about that weed life, like a lot of rappers, since way before it was legal. He brings a lot of credibility to this space.
But in general, if you are Gwyneth Paltrow who's endorsing the drink product Cann, a Mike Tyson or the people that are doing Garcia Hand Picked — Jerry Garcia's label — the actual stoners are going to look at you with a certain amount of suspicion and really grade the product heavily.
Have any stars fallen flat?
Mike Tyson in particular with his launch of Tyson Ranch as an experiential destination was a little bit of a misfire. A lot of people want to do lounges or other types of physical locations, and California licensing is very prohibitive with regard to getting people onto your property and exposing them to THC.
Look out for a lot more of those kinds of publicity stunts, celebrity cannabis tie-ins that are less credible than Wiz Khalifa’s “Khalifa Kush.”
Does Hollywood’s embrace of cannabis indicate a bigger shift in perceptions from a business standpoint?
Definitely. We know that in Hollywood, stars were loath to attach themselves to THC for several decades, and they're just now starting to come over that barrier.
When 68% of Americans support cannabis legalization and 90% support medical [marijuana], it's less of a bridge to cross for many mainstream celebrities.
For those who’d rather raise their own flowers than buy pre-rolls from Urkel actor Jaleel White, what are the hottest seed strains for 2022?
There's so many, and it's really about what you want to grow.
For a little background, cannabis is an annual plant. If you want to grow outside, you can plant it in the spring, which means people are buying seeds now, and there's thousands of strains available.
Each strain can be worth millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. So these strains and their debuts are a big deal. Specifically, nurseries like Dark Heart Nursery are coming out with new sativas that are better able to grow outside, like their “Raspberry Parfait” or their “Starberry Cough.”
You have a LA brand called Seed Junky Genetics that was selling $1,000 cuttings of the string called “Super Runtz.”
Los Angeles dominates the strain breeding game. California and LA are to cannabis what Champagne, France is to sparkling wine. It's not something to dismiss.