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Branded Weed in Full Bloom

2016 may be the year the market for celebrity licensed marijuana products finally takes off. Marley Natural, the official Bob Marley cannabis brand, went on sale in California in February, with plans to expand to other U.S. states where cannabis is legal in 2016 and internationally in 2017. Whoopi Goldberg’s Whoopi & Maya brand, a line of cannabis products created to relieve menstrual pain, is expected to go on sale in California this month; and country music star Willie Nelson’s Willie’s Reserve “legendary stash” is due go on sale in Washington and Colorado sometime this year.

The activity follows the November launch in Colorado of Leafs by Snoop, a line of smokables and edibles from Snoop Dogg, the rapper who is building a small business empire out of weed.

In each of these cases, the brands are at least partly owned by the celebrities, rather than strictly licensed, but industry observers expect licensing to broaden in the category, with music, video game and entertainment brands considered to most likely matches for marijuana products and accessories.

In case you were wondering, the Cheech and Chong movie Up in Smoke is licensed by Paramount Pictures for smoking accessories. (The studio would never license Up in Smoke for actual marijuana strains, however, a source told TLL.)

At stake is share of a rapidly expanding market, with 86% of Americans living in states that allow some degree of legal marijuana use, according to ArcView Market Research and New Frontier Data. That includes three states that allow legal adult recreational use (Washington, Oregon and Colorado) and 23 plus the District of Columbia that allow medical use. National legal sales grew to $5.7 billion in 2015, up from $4.6 billion in 2014, according to the market research firms. They expect the legal market to grow 26% to $7.1 billion this year and to $22 billion by 2020 as more states legalize marijuana.

So, expect more celebrities to jump on board as legal tussles over unlicensed use of brands on marijuana grow. High Times’ 2014 list of the “40 Strongest Strains of All Time” included the surely unlicensed Bruce Banner #3, Girl Scout Cookies (Thin Mints), Master Yoda, Tiger’s Milk and Hello Kitty strains.

Here’s the breakdown on the current state of celebrity marijuana marketing:

  • Whoopi Goldberg: Created the Whoopi & Maya brand with ganjapreneur Maya Elisabeth of Om Edibles. Their line, to be sold through California medical dispensaries beginning this month, includes a THC-infused bath solution, topical rubs, tinctures and cannabis edibles.
  • Betheny Frankell: The Real Housewives star told Us magazine last year that she has plans to extend her Skinnygirl brand to a strain of pot engineered not to give the munchies (but so far that seems like only so much smoke).
  • Bob Marley: Marley Natural products available initially in California include four categories of cannabis flowers and oil; body care products that combine hemp seed oil with Jamaican botanicals; and a collection of smoking, storage and preparation accessories.
  • Willie Nelson: The Web site for the singer’s company, Willie’s Reserve, shows three varieties of “legendary stash” that it promotes as “Coming soon to Colorado, Washington and everywhere voters say yes.”
  • Snoop Dogg: Leafs by Snoop (aka LSB) is backed by Casa Verde Capital, a venture capital group in which the rapper is a managing member. He also reportedly has invested in medical-marijuana delivery startup Eaze and the packaging company FunkSac. He lends his name to a line of Grenco Double G vape pens and started the cannabis culture Web site Merry Jane.

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