The cannabis industry—encompassing both intoxicating THC-based and non-psychoactive CBD-based products—represents one area of the licensing business that has not seen much of a decline in new deals during the coronavirus crisis. In fact, the oft-touted benefits of cannabis-based products, both ingestible and topical, for stress reduction and general wellness are likely bigger selling points during the COVID-19 era than they were before.
While at least some of the deals below were likely in the works prior to the pandemic, all have been announced since the lockdown began in the U.S. in mid-March:
- Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre paired this month with CBD specialist Green Eagle, signing on as a brand ambassador. A focus is touting the company’s products’ role in pain management. Green Eagle offers topical creams and sprays, among other CBD items.
- Jenelle Evans, a reality star known from her role in Teen Mom 2, reportedly partnered with Burnt River Farms Cannabis Company earlier in August for a cannabis moisturizer, with no release date mentioned. Evans has a cosmetics line, of which this product would be part, that has been controversial and has experienced several ups and downs in its short time in existence.
- Magic Johnson paired with Uncle Bud’s Hemp & CBD in July in an endorsement deal that will see the retired NBA great promote the company’s range of products, which are sold at Kohls, Urban Outfitters, Bed Bath & Beyond, the Vitamin Shoppe, and online, as beneficial for pain relief and general wellness.
- High Times, the cannabis-specific media property, announced in June that it had signed an agreement with Red White & Bloom to launch High Times-branded dispensaries and products containing both CBD and THC. The deal covers Michigan, Illinois, and Florida. Red White & Bloom will rebrand 18 existing and planned dispensaries in Michigan (which hold a 20% market share in that state) to the High Times name, as well as opening new locations in the other two states.
- Billy Ray Cyrus paired with Lowell Herb Co. in April for a limited-edition range of pre-rolled cannabis joints. The branding on the pack is tied to the country singer’s Mama Kush project, which encompasses new music releases, animated videos, and cannabis-related products.
- Garrett Leight California Optical, a brand of handcrafted, premium eyewear, paired with Pure Beauty in April for a limited-edition gift pack that included 10 pre-rolled cannabis mini-joints—to mark the 10th anniversary of the eyewear brand—along with a pair of sunglasses in a hue designed specifically for the initiative.
- Easyriders magazine signed five-year licensing deals, announced in April, with two hemp suppliers, Hemp2Lab and Big Top Farms, for a range of branded hemp-based products. They will include items containing both CBD (cannabidiol) and CBG (cannabigerol), two non-psychoactive cannabinoids contained in the hemp plant, both billed as having therapeutic properties.
Not surprisingly, all three of the April examples were timed to April 20, the unofficial holiday of marijuana lovers and counterculturists around the world
This list of recent deals hints at the breadth and depth of possibilities in this space, as it encompasses a wide range of products, deal types, and highlighted benefits, from pain management to supple skin to relaxation. The roster also includes a variety of property types, albeit dominated by celebrities, who join a seemingly unending list of their peers in this category.
The cannabis industry is certainly not without its challenges. But the movement toward wider legality for non-medical uses of THC and CBD continues around the world, creating more opportunities for brands and properties. And the category has a growing reputation for promoting general wellness and stress relief, a consumer priority during the pandemic. These characteristics would seem to predict more licensing and other types of deals involving licensed IP ahead, both in the near term and in the years to come.