When it comes to exploring new licensing and branding opportunities in cannabis and CBD, celebrities have been at the forefront. Personalities from Snoop Dogg to Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop brand have been entering this sector by forging licensing or other types of deals for CBD-infused products or cannabis strains, by launching or investing in new companies active in this field, or by endorsing cannabis or CBD brands.
Typically the focus for celebrity-connected ventures is on products for recreation or general wellness. But a trend is emerging for preparations that have been developed at least in part to alleviate specific health ailments or conditions (although other benefits are typically also touted):
- Talk show host Montel Williams has a CBD brand with Cura Cannabis Solutions called Montel by Select that is meant to address the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, among other benefits. Williams found CBD to be helpful in relieving his own MS symptoms.
- Musician Melissa Etheridge was one of the first in this space when she formed Etheridge Farms to develop medical marijuana products to moderate the aftereffects of chemotherapy in cancer patients. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. One of the brand’s products is wine that contains THC and CBD.
- Whoopi Goldberg, another pioneer in CBD and cannabis for medical purposes, founded Whoopi and Maya with Maya Elisabeth to create CBD and THC products to reduce menstrual cramps, as well as to address glaucoma symptoms.
- NFL Hall of Fame member Terrell Davis co-founded Defy, a flavored, coconut-based performance drink infused with CBD. The product is positioned as helping relieve pain from migraines, from which Davis has suffered throughout his life, among other health and wellness benefits.
The number of celebrity-tied CBD and cannabis products with specific health goals in mind may increase, as celebrities become strong advocates for particular benefits through their own experiences. Some of the celebrities that have become proponents of cannabis or CBD for specific reasons after relying on it themselves include Morgan Freeman (fibromyalgia and severe pain), Michael J. Fox (Parkinson’s Disease), Steve Kerr (as a substitute for prescription painkillers for intense chronic pain), and Oliver Stone (PTSD).
Some celebrities who are already involved in cannabis and CBD for recreation or general wellness also have become supporters of specific health uses, making brand extension a possibility. Comedian Tommy Chong, long a backer of pot use for general wellness, credits CBD oil with assisting in his recovery from a 2012 diagnosis of prostate cancer. His Chong’s Choice brand of marijuana (in partnership with Shango) and CBD (with Diamond CBD) currently focuses on general wellness. Similarly, Seth Rogan co-founded an Alzheimer’s charity with his wife after her mother developed the disease, and has become a champion of cannabis to help the patient deal with its symptoms. He already focuses on recreational use with his new Houseplant brand of cannabis, co-founded in Canada with Evan Goldberg and marijuana marketer Canopy Brands.
Most of the products mentioned above are marketed as much or more for all-around wellness than for the specific conditions that drove their development. It should be noted, however, that focusing specifically on particular ailments may be a way to lure first-time customers to the CBD and marijuana markets. Even consumers who are leery of cannabis in general may relent if it addresses a specific medical need with which they are struggling. In addition, many more countries and states around the world have legalized cannabis for medical use than recreational, creating a potentially significant market. Of course there needs to be much more testing in order for these products to be allowable under a medical marijuana regime, which requires scientifically proven medical benefits.
If you are interested in an introduction to the legal landscape that underlies the growing cannabis market, take a look at Global Cannabis Industry: An Essential Primer. Written by Karen Raugust for Meritas Law Firms Worldwide, a global network of small and mid-sized law firms, the paper is not about licensing opportunities per se, but it provides a starting point for anyone who wants to know more about the legal and regulatory status that impact commercial ventures in this complicated and ever-changing industry.