The recent announcement of Willie’s Reserve, singer Willie Nelson’s new branded marijuana strain and dispensary chain, garnered a lot of attention for the legal cannabis industry last week, but Nelson isn’t the only—or first—celebrity to get into the pot game.
First announced last year, Marley Natural, the Bob Marley estate’s line of strains and merchandise, helped raise $75 million in a recent round of funding for Privateer Holdings, the private investment firm behind the licensing deal.
Another famed singer and marijuana advocate, two-time Grammy award winner Melissa Etheridge, entered into a partnership with California dispensary Greenway Compassionate Relief in 2014 to produce a line of cannabis-infused wines created through a “cold extraction” process that promises a full-body buzz without any negative side effects. Etheridge has been a supporter of medicinal marijuana since using it to cope with the effects of chemotherapy in 2004.
While writer-director Kevin Smith has always made marijuana usage a feature of his films—”Clerks,” “Mallrats,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”—Smith himself didn’t become a habitual smoker until 2011. Since then he’s become well-known as a marijuana advocate.
In 2014, Smith partnered with Los Angeles dispensary Buds & Roses to produce two new strains in order to promote the release of his film “Tusk.” The strains, a sativa called White Walrus and an indica called Mr. Tusk, were sold with a limited edition grinder sporting the film’s logo. The film failed to make big bucks at the box office—more widespread consumption of these tie-in products might have been helpful in that regard—but it might go down in history as the first to take advantage of this type of marketing.
Members of the hip-hop community seem to have leaped into the cannabis industry most readily, which is unsurprising considering that the fetishization of both marijuana and cash are a common trope of the genre.
Snoop Dogg first lent his name to vape pens and his lyrics to specially printed rolling papers in 2012. B-Real, a 2014 MJINews Power Celebrity, has partnered with the cannabis-based social network MassRoots in the past. In addition to developing his own award-winning sativa strain, B-Real is also behind the culture site Breal.tv which features content geared towards marijuana enthusiasts.
Wiz Khalifa, arguably known as well if not better for his love of marijuana than his music, sells his Khalifa Kush brand through The Cookie Co. chain of dispensaries in California and is also partnered with RAW Rolling Papers for branded accessories.
It is worth noting how these celebrity endorsers cover a wide range of age and appeal, and it is easy to imagine a day in the near future where musicians or actors lending their names to marijuana strains is as ubiquitous—and possibly more lucrative—as professional athletes making deals with Nike.