With 2020 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look at one of the few things that wasn’t locked in the house for most of the year: Celebrity cannabis brands.
For better or worse, there was a lot of new celebrity cannabis in 2020, and there would have been even more if not for the pandemic throwing wrenches in people’s plans since March. Other celeb brands with a little more time under their belt also gained traction this year.
There are a lot of different subplots intertwined with the way celebrities dipped their toes into the game in 2020. Some are tales of perseverance, good pot and the reasonable quest of making a buck without blindly robbing their adoring fan base that followed them into the world of cannabis.
Sometimes those fans weren’t even remotely in it for the weed – just that piece of the star they adored. One dispensary told me stories of boxing memorabilia collectors calling, trying to get Mike Tyson’s lineup shipped out of state. They didn’t even want the weed; they wanted the dispensary employee to take the weed out of the jar and mail them the packaging. Other collectors didn’t have a concept of shelf life, and that the nugs would eventually lose their visual prowess.
The first rule of celebrity weed should be to smoke it. Nobody wants to see some brown nugs next to an autographed headshot in five years.
But after that, you get into the different approaches people used to find success, or at the very least, temporary internet torment. With the Tyson Ranch product that’s now doing well on shelves, you’re looking at the results of a few years of effort to build its current momentum. It’s been a phased build to the steady pace of growth and results seen now.
But not everyone looking to attach their identity to a cannabis brand in 2020 was looking for that kind of development cycle, and it’s certainly fair to say some proved they didn’t need it to find success if their model was right.
While there has been a lot of talk about the price of celebrity weed running a bit expensive in terms of quality in recent weeks, to coincide with some of the year’s final launches, one person proved deals and steals are always in. In a world currently defined by $60 to $70 pretax top shelf eighths, Carlos Santana and his team decided to sell twice as much weed for the same price.
Now was it the absolute heat you’re going to write home about? No. But certainly reputable pot for a $65 quarter. When I talked to Santana about his methodology on the project, he was a riot. So many times, you’ll hear about celebs scouring through pheno after pheno to put their name on in hopes of it being the next Instagram sensation, but Carlos simply wasn’t about it. He told me he wouldn’t need to see all the wine in Wine Country either, just two glasses. Regardless of his mentality in development, he certainly has one of the more positive debuts in 2020 to look back on, both with the initial announcement revving up excitement and when the jars finally hit the shelves.
One of the people that took a very different approach, but found equal levels of acclaim in their 2020 debut, was Rick Ross.
When we talked with Ross early in the summer, a few months into lockdown, he sounded like a guy that loved to work and smoke blunts. He smoked two of Pink Rozay during our interview. At the time, Ross noted he only got involved with stuff he loved, like beards and 25 Wingstop Restaurants. When he talked about his Collins Ave. collaboration with Cookies, you could hear the hype levels within his own voice as he literally exhaled what he was speaking on.
The collaboration approach proved successful. The combination of good weed, what Cookies had already built, and his own hype machine proved a success in getting the upper echelons of cannabis enthusiasts excited. And these are the kind of folks that needed the heat to go with a name. They weren’t just going to keep purchasing based on his discography.
In the final category of celebrity cannabis entrepreneurs in 2020, you have the people that didn’t set the bar too high for themselves. Maybe they launched the brand with good pot and switched it out to an inferior product after winning a few hearts and minds. Maybe they just sold trash the whole time, completely removed from the brand, process and product they found themselves so willing to endorse.
Yes, there was certainly a charlatan or two, and who knows how many were turned off by the idea of working a little harder given the current shape of the world. But there was a bunch of good pot being sold by people who have found success in other fields of life.
The celebrities who jumped in the game in 2020 found themselves facing the same challenges of a wider industry that became essential. Many met those challenges head on – some will try again next year.