The green revolution has seen the cannabis industry become one of the fastest-growing industries in America, and the pandemic has only helped its cause. Recreational cannabis is now legal in 18 states and medical cannabis in 38, which explains the rapid expansion of cannabis brands across states in the last five years.
According to BofA Securities, cannabis sales in the U.S. increased 40% in 2021 to $25 billion. While that’s not as much of an increase as the 67% jump 2020 saw, it still easily surpassed the $18 Billion in sales from 2020.
Among other things, resilient brands in the CBD industry have contributed the most to the explosion, but celebrities seem to be the ones making all the splash, and for a good reason too.
Hussein Rakine explains what he considers the two sides of celebrity involvement in the industry. Rakine is the Founder of JustCBD, one of the industry’s largest CPG brands, and a board member of the US Hemp Roundtable and the Florida Hemp Council.
“It’s a great thing for an emerging and fast-growing industry to have such star power backing it,” Rakine opines. “But there is way more to this game than celebrity endorsements and involvements at the end of the day.”
As CBD becomes more and more socially acceptable, we see more celebrities jump on the bandwagon and begin to launch and endorse CBD brands. This phenomenon cuts both ways; while many celebrities waited till cannabis became cool before jumping on the train, a few like Snoop Dogg have been on the train long before it left the station.
“Star power has been incredibly important in advancing the industry,” Rakine explains, “Celebrity involvement has the uncanny ability to remove social stigma, and this has certainly helped us advance a little faster. However, it is those stable and resilient CBD brands that have fought regulations doggedly for years. It has been a profitable partnership between Hollywood and the industry; Hollywood supplies the star power we need to market and do the PR bit, while we stay in the trenches and fight the fight.”
In the last five years since Rakine started JustCBD, he has been honored with being a Forbes 30 Under 30 listmaker for his company’s immense strides in the industry and for building some of the most successful CBD-based products. JustCBD has braved multiple industry-wide PR nightmares in the bid to stand against harsh regulations and has gone on to win the High Times Hemp Cup twice for best edible and the Jack Herer Hemp Cup once.
There has to be a significant cash injection for any industry to grow at the CBD industry’s rate. Luckily cash is not something that most celebrities lack, at least not those who have plugged into the green revolution.
From Snoop Dogg to Seth Rogan, Jim Belushi to John Legend, some of the biggest celebrities have invested millions of dollars into the industry. While some like Rogan and Snoop have started successful CBD brands themselves, others like John Legend have invested heavily into existing brands.
“Running a CBD business is capital intensive, especially if you are running an entire value chain, from cultivation to product processing. The availability of more cash in the industry is undoubtedly responsible for not just the quality of the products on the market but also the number of brands out there,” Rakine said.
Houseplant by Seth Rogan and Belushi’s farm by Jim Belushi are probably two of America’s more successful celebrity-run CBD brands. This is largely because of their hands-on involvement in the industry. Rogan especially has built a reputation for going low-down and dirty in getting his brand off the ground.
“Plastering a celebrity’s face on a brand may bring some short term success, but succeeding in the CBD industry requires more than that,” Rakine explains, “You have to actually be passionate about what you are creating and selling and not just looking to make a quick buck in a fast-growing industry. This is usually the difference between the celebrity brands that stand the test of time and those that go belly up.”
As much as some celebrity brands have closed down in the last few years, it is pretty clear that entrepreneurs like Seth Rogan have given a lot to the industry.
Are celebrity brands the future of the industry?
“Not necessarily” is Rakine’s simple response, “Celebrity reputation is such a fickle thing. A lot of celebrities who are cashing out in 2022 were not even on the scene during the early days of the legalization battle. The celebrity brands that are passionately building valuable CBD products will survive, but we will have to see about those who are merely seizing the opportunity of the industry’s current boom. We are not yet close to where we want to be as an industry; there are fights ahead. The celebrities that are willing to risk their reputation to stay in that fight are linked to the brands that will be here in the future.”
CBD trailblazers like Rakine are cautious about the explosion rate of CBD brands in general, and celebrity brands specifically, and for good reason too. The industry has been haunted by shrewd businessmen who have drained their companies’ coffers for personal gain. Many blue-chip companies have gone belly-up due to greedy C-suite mismanagement and a general lack of experience or understanding of the industry.
It may be true that America’s most recognized CBD enthusiasts are celebrities. Still, when the veil is lifted, it is the stable brands that have been grinding for years and building genuine products and honest businesses that are the bedrock of this industry. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have some famous faces on the team; It’s a win-win for everyone involved.