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It seems like every other day we learn about a new celebrity investing in a cannabis business or endorsing a brand. Just look at this ever-expanding list.
- Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah
- Cypress Hill’s B-Real
- Blues Traveler’s Brendan Hill
- Melissa Etheridge
- Margaret Cho
- Kevin Smith
To find out what drew these famous folks to the cannabis business in the first place, I reached out to a bunch and asked them to share their thoughts. From KISS’Gene Simmons, Blues Traveler’s Brendan Hill, and Bob Marley’s son Julian Marley, to rappers like Twista, Berner, and The Game, to former pro athletes like Super Bowl Champ Marvin Washington and UFC undefeated champ Frank Shamrock, here's what they said.
“Putting patients first is fundamental,” says Marvin Washington, NFL player turned cannabis activist and entrepreneur. “Cannabis is medicine. It’s important to remember that to always put patients over profit."
He believes it's this kind of compassion that makes the cannabis industry unique. “Celebrities who are getting involved really care, and are firm believers in the potential of the plant.”
In other words, they're checking their egos at the door. Says Brendan Hill, drummer of the Grammy-winning band Blues Traveler "the focus should always be put on the product or service; the endorsement or involvement of a celebrity should be just a cool little extra.”
For other celebs, getting involved in the cannabis industry is a natural extension of their interests. Last year, hip-hop old-schooler The Game told me: “I've been involved with this community for most of my life. I'm proud to be alive during a time where we have the opportunity to responsibly bring cannabis to the public."
Saying “it's a dream come true for me," The Game was happy to be getting in the game from the groundfloor. "I simply want to build with the right people and brands so I can be a part of shaping what this industry looks like. It's exciting to know that my ideas, my words, my voice … make has a difference in the industry. That's the kind of stuff that keeps me inspired to be pushing limits with the best in the biz.”
Similarly, Julian Marley notes, “The reason I got into the marijuana industry’s, is because of my spiritual faith in Rastafari and the connection with the plant. I only see it fit to partake in this business because it is part of my life.”
Berner, a famed rapper and frequent collaborator with such artists as Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and B-Real says it's a no-brainer for them to get involved in the business side "because a lot of them love cannabis." In fact, I'd say a lot of people just love weed in general and a lot of them see the business opportunities around it: It's one of the fastest-growing industries in the world right now."
Jonathan Hay is a celebrity publicist and music producer who works with (or is friends with) uncountable pro-cannabis artists, including several in this article. He's also the guy who got my strong-worded poem on cannabis legalization on a Billboard-topping album earlier this year.
He told me, "Celebrities are getting more involved because they can actually publicly endorse it without as much resistance. The cannabis industry is booming right now so there are many opportunities for branding and product placement."
And it's not just about the money. "I think it’s about finding ways to use your endorsements and the fan bases to be in a business that does something good for the world," says Hay. "But it’s not easy; people think you can just put your name on any product. You have to pick wisely and understand that to breed something, to build it from scratch, takes a couple of years.
Finally, UFC champ Frank Shamrock noted that celebrities like himself have a duty to educate the people on the benefits of cannabis and help them access the plant. “It’s a plant, and it’s medicine. Prohibition makes no sense,” he told me during a recent chat about his long journey in the industry.
“In California celebrity-branded products are some of the top-selling and we feel like there is an opportunity to bring aboard passionate supporters of medical cannabis and create valuable brands and content to help educate the masses on the plant medicines,” he concluded.
Some celebs aren't afraid to admit they got into the business for economic gain, at least at first. Commenting on a recent partnership between himself and publicly-traded Invictus MD, KISS’ Gene Simmons said, “At the end of the day I came on [to Invictus] as a financial play. This is a remarkably expanding marketplace, which means people want it. The legislation is far, far behind because there's not enough research.”
But Simmons has since come to see cannabis's value beyond the bottom line. "For me, cannabis was initially a financial play," he said, confessing "I, myself, was arrogant about the whole thing; I’m a straight guy who’s never smoked and never been drunk – although I think it’s OK for people to do so." But he added "now I’m really proud of being associated with something I discovered has great medical potential. I want lawmakers to really get educated on cannabis-related topics. I want them to get their information from people who don’t have a political agenda, like a six-year little girl with epilepsy being prescribed cannabis-based products, which seem to be (miraculously) either minimizing or completely curing various ailments."
Blues Traveler’s Brendan Hill is happy to see another convert. “It’s been so encouraging seeing the recent dramatic shift in attitudes towards cannabis. It is finally being recognized as an effective, non-habit forming alternative to many prescription pharmaceutical medicines. Not to mention how much it has inspired artists from all fields–music to culinary, painting to poetry. Having a large group of ambassadors with name recognition across a variety of fields brings even more legitimacy to ending the failed ‘war on drugs’ policy that has ruined so many lives.”