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Celebrities are putting a new face on the cannabis craze.

Over the past few years, Travis Barker, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bella Thorne, Whitney Port and others have been betting big on the green rush launching their own brands or fronting and investing in companies. The result: a landscape that resembles the beauty and fashion spaces with celeb ambassadors holding the cards. But why now?

“The number-one reason why is [the] completely changed legal landscape,” said Stacy Jones, founder and chief executive officer of Hollywood Branded, a Los Angeles-based creative agency focused on branding pop culture.

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Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 24 states and D.C., though the landscape is rapidly changing.

“The stigma around cannabis is now just so much lower, and it’s opening up entirely new markets for celebrities to say, ‘Oh, look, here is another way that I might actually be able to leverage my brand,’” Jones continued.

The cannabis industry is challenging, however, given that it’s still illegal at the federal level, there are ever-changing regulations, high licensing and operational fees and the competition of illegal business with lower prices.

While there seems to be stand-alone dispensaries opening on every corner and new brands popping up all the time, some of the biggest names have struggled. MedMen, one of the most visible retail operations, present in several states with its Apple store-like interiors and merchandise line, has shuttered all but two of its stores, and its stock received a cease-trade order, plunging from a $3 billion valuation.

Even so, demographic trends — chiefly Gen Z and Alpha ditching alcohol for alternative mood enhancers — bode well for the future of the budding business (especially if those younger generations could force movement on changing the status of cannabis at the federal level).

In New York, cannabis sales were expected to exceed $150 million in 2023, according to the Office of Cannabis Management.

“You’re seeing tremendous market growth within different cannabis brands right now,” Jones said.

With this, many celebs are also launching their own brands, and not just OG stoners like Willie Nelson and Cheech and Chong, who have long been in the space.

In February, Travis Barker launched Barker Canna Co., which has edibles, pre-rolls and vapes. Wiz Khalifa has Khalifa Kush, and Bella Thorne’s Forbidden Flowers sells an assortment of strains for different vibes. Following in the footsteps of her bestie Snoop Dogg, Martha Stewart has shown her passion for the plant through her line of CBD-infused wellness gummies. Seemingly synonymous with weed, Seth Rogen has his own brand Houseplant, which sells smoking accessories and home goods.

Whitney Port for The High Confectionary

Whitney Port for The High Confectionary Courtesy

Others are tapping into the category by aligning with pre-existing brands. For example, former “The Hills” star Whitney Port recently joined microdosable edible brand The High Confectionary as its creative director.

“During COVID-19 I started to dabble in cannabis,” Port said, adding that she began sharing her experience on social media. “We’re all looking for healthy ways to relax.…A lot of people following were curious about it, had a lot of questions about how much I was taking, what kind I was taking, what was I taking it for. I was noticing how curious women were about this.”

According to Jones, women are a key target for these types of microdosable brands that act as alcohol replacements. As part of The High Confectionary, Port’s goal is to reach this market of women and demystify cannabis.

“I’m trying to [build] community and educate with my own social while also helping build up the company in terms of finding other strategic partners and investors, thinking of creative collaborations,” Port said.

Similarly, rolling paper company OCB recently tapped Rogen for his level of consumer recognition in the space to create a line of cobranded products with Houseplant.

Seth Rogen with Houseplant by OCB collab.

Seth Rogen with Houseplant by OCB collab. Courtesy

“We were looking for somebody who could authentically represent the culture and somebody that we felt like consumers would trust,” said Becky Roll, chief revenue officer of Republic Brands, which owns OCB. “He’s funny, and rolling papers can be kind of boring.…Seth says things like, ‘It’s the paper my weed deserves. It’s paper so good you almost don’t need weed.’”

While celebrities are looking at cannabis across the board, one trend in particular stands out: microdosing. Many experts say this can be attributed to the sober curious movement, in which more people are opting for small doses of cannabis as a replacement for drinking.

Cann, a THC-infused beverage brand, is a prime example of a microdosable format that celebrities are betting big on — in fact, the brand has more than 40 celebrities on its cap table, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Rosario Dawson.


Cann Courtesy

“They cut across all different types of entertainment: sports, music, media.…We took, from the beginning, an approach of we want an army,” said Cann cofounder and CEO Jake Bullock. “We didn’t want to be confined to one person or another.”

As the brand has seen support from a slew of major celebrities, including Kate Hudson, Alison Brie and Kris Jenner, given their lifestyles it makes perfect sense why they want in on the category, Bullock explained.

“You can’t be hungover if you’re waking up for a 6 a.m. call time. You can’t be hungover if you need to sing every night,” he said. “What we found was that these early celebrities were familiar with and had some relationship with THC.…They’re like, ‘My body is my product in my business and so it’s really important that I think carefully about what I put in it.’”

Cann, amongst other brands in the category, has strategically partnered with celebrities who may not automatically seem aligned with weed, but that’s exactly what the brand needs to evolve the conversation around THC and position themselves as an alcohol substitute.

“Most of the brands out there, they have already gone out and secured all the ‘cannabis guy’ type of celebrities,” Jones said. “[Brands] have to look beyond. There’s only so many ‘Seths’ or this or that who are aligned to the cannabis lifestyle.”

Furthermore, experts say that celebrities are a helpful way to promote weed brands, as ad regulations in the space can be a difficult hurdle. Even so, celebrities can have their posts taken down, as Meta regulations continue to evolve in the space as well.

“It’s kind of the wild west right now,” Jones said. “It’s not ‘Hire a celebrity for your cannabis brand and it will become an overnight sensation.’”

Still, celebrities help break down the stigma further, per brands. Alongside all of the brand newness, a Jimmy Kimmel-produced reality series “High Hopes,” about a Hollywood-based dispensary, is launching this weekend on Hulu, bringing weed into the pop culture conversation in a different way.

Experts say innovation and the increasing legalization in the category is opening up new opportunities, which will likely lead to even more celeb activity.

“Part of the evolution on this is because cannabis product lines are very innovative,” she said. “You don’t have to be someone who’s going to be a bong-hitter…because there’s now beverages, candy, edible food of all types that you can do that has cannabis in it, it’s very similar to any other consumer product line.”