Joint Ventures

As more states legalize marijuana and THC for recreational use, following the federal legalization of hemp (and effectively CBD) in 2018, licensed properties continue to enter the cannabis space at a healthy pace. Collaborative products range from accessories and lifestyle goods to consumables such as beverages, snacks, and joints, with some containing the psychotropic (high-producing) cannabinoid THC and some a variety of non-psychotropic cannabinoids, including CBD. IP owners from a range of industries are testing the segment, although musicians continue to dominate the landscape.

A selection of deals announced this year and in the second half of last year illustrate the variety of initiatives taking place in this category:

  • In April—specifically on 4/20, the unofficial holiday celebrating cannabis in all of its forms—comedians Cheech & Chong paired with Bent Paddle Brewing Company for a line of THC Delta-9 seltzers in four flavors, with 5 mg of hemp-derived THC in each can. The products are sold at retail and in dispensaries. This is the first THC beverage deal—described as a co-manufacturing project—for Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, who operate their own cannabis company.
  • MLB’s Chicago Cubs paired with Mynd Drinks, with the latter becoming the Official CBD Partner of the Cubs. This marked the first time an MLB team has forged such a partnership. MLB as a whole became the first sports league to partner with a CBD company, in 2022, releasing a tincture with Charlotte’s Web, which also became its Official CBD Partner. MLB also began allowing its clubs to form local partnerships in the category that year. Mynd Drinks are described as hemp-infused wellness and recovery drinks that help users relax, refresh, and recover.
  • Country music singer Margo Price announced a collaboration with Dad Grass for a line of smokable hemp in the form of CBG joints and flower, a special edition of the company’s Mom Grass line. Like CBD, CBG is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid; while CBD promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety, CBG offers heightened focus and creativity. Handmade Margo Grass tie-dye t-shirts and embroidered denim hats were also released.
  • Dirty Heads, an alt-rock band, paired with Koi CBD for a line of hemp-derived Delta-9 THC gummies in three flavors, all inspired by the group’s latest album, Midnight Control, and each named after a different Dirty Heads song title. Each variety combines 10 mgs of Delta-9 with a different cannabinoid, CBG, CBN, or CBD, which spur relaxed focus, tranquility, and happiness, respectively. One of the band members created the artwork and the jar design.
  • Musician Erykah Badu and her cannabis company Apple Trees paired with Cookies, the cannabis lifestyle brand founded by rapper Berner, for a line of products called That Badu, formulated for women and their wellness needs. The first items were released on International Women’s Day in March 2023, with a second release planned for Mother’s Day. Apple Trees sells cannabis accessories, while the new product is a strain of cannabis for both leisure and medicinal use. A line of Badu x Cookies apparel, topical creams, edibles, and non-psychoactive mushroom tea will accompany the May 14 Mother’s Day release.
  • Evander Holyfield collaborated with Mike Tyson’s cannabis company, Tyson 2.0, for an ear-shaped THC gummy called Holy Ears, which recalls the two boxers’ 1997 match in which Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear. Tyson previously released a separate ear-shaped gummy called Mike Bites in another reference to the incident.
  • Snoop Dogg joined forces with TSUMo Snacks for Snazzle Os, a THC-infused salty chip in onion and spicy onion flavors. TSUMo is one of the few marketers that specializes in savory THC snacks rather than sweets like gummies or chocolates. The 100-mg bags are meant for sharing. The product launched in MedMen retail locations, before rolling out in dispensaries throughout California. Through social media contests, fans can win periodic drops of TSUMo Snacks x Uncle Snoop limited-edition merchandise, including tracksuits, socks, and gold chains. A custom “snacking throne” designed by Snoop Dogg was also auctioned for charity as part of the deal.
  • Skate and streetwear brand HUF and Lost Farm by Kiva Confections collaborated to release HUF’s first-ever cannabis product. The assortment includes a capsule merchandise line, including graphic t-shirts, socks, and clock, along with limited-edition cannabis chews and gummies. The edibles are available in dispensaries in California, while the lifestyle goods are sold through HUF locations, Zumiez, and skate shops. The products are inspired by L.A. and San Francisco and the connections between cannabis and skate and street culture.
  • Rock the Bells, the LL Cool J-founded lifestyle brand celebrating hip-hop culture, partnered with House of Kush to launch a health and wellness lifestyle brand called Strictly OG, which encompasses THC and CBD product lines, including cannabis flower, pre-rolls, CBD edibles, accessories, and so on, as well as apparel. The new brand celebrates the traditional connections between hip-hop and cannabis.

THC and products containing it are fully legal in 21 U.S. states, according to DISA, a third-party administrator of drug tests and background screens that tracks the legality of marijuana nationwide in real time. In two additional states, marijuana use is not legal but is decriminalized, and in six it is legal for medical use only but decriminalized for adult leisure use. In nine states, THC is legal for medical use only, and in seven it is legal only when present along with CBD (e.g. in hemp-derived THC products). THC is completely illegal in only four states as of May 1, 2023. And the landscape is changing rapidly, with bills introduced in several states to expand legalization.

While entering the cannabis arena is complicated, highly regulated, and fragmented, it will likely remain a growing opportunity, given increasing consumer, legislative, and regulatory acceptance, at least for those licensed properties whose positioning, objectives, and consumer base are in alignment.

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