As one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., it comes as no surprise that legal cannabis has attracted a plethora of both currently popular and washed up athletes, celebrities, and musicians all looking to catch a ride on the multibillion dollar hypetrain.
Celebs have been hawking products for as long as we can remember and cannabis presents a unique challenge that traditional marketing minds are hoping to meet by subverting actual cannabis culture for nostalgia and pop culture.
Authenticity plays a major role in consumer decision making in the cannabis market and many, if not most, of the brands that have successfully navigated the strenuous labyrinth of regulatory red tape discover that very few customers care about their pretty packaging and fancy fonts and just want high quality product.
Since high quality product all but sells itself, it is most often the mids-pushers who resort to marketing gimmicks… like employing burnt out stars to back their brand.
Montel Williams is trying to sell us vape carts.
Jimmy Buffett has made the move from Margaritaville to Kushtown.
And Seth Rogen wants you to buy his cannabis-inspired vinyl records.
The list goes on…
Where were these people when weed wasn’t safe?
WHEN THE SHIT GOES DOWN
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Cypress Hill thump through the speakers as B-Real’s iconic voice pierced my eardrums and preached the gospel of getting high like nobody ever had before.
When the group made news earlier this month with an honorary star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood it served as an excellent opportunity to reflect back on nearly three decades of smoking weed to their unique sound and their progressive messaging about cannabis.
There were no shortage of rappers dropping lines and hints about cannabis in their tracks in the ‘90s but nobody was doing it with the audacity and authentic volume that Cypress Hill brought to every album and every live performance.
Long before legal weed was even a seed in our minds, these dudes were banging out chart-topping singles with titles like Hits From the Bong and I Want to Get High giving the cannabis culture anthems all our own.
So when I saw B-Real begin to make the transition into the quasi-legal California medical marijuana market in recent years, it only made sense, and for once I was not left scratching my head or beating it against the nearest wall at the news of another celeb diving into the industry.
As the sun set on Prop 215 and the Wild West of Weed in Cali, and the corporatization of cannabis began to take effect with the passage of Prop 64, the desperate reach of brands trying to attach themselves to a known name has become even more evident and even more disturbing.
JAMIE, PULL THAT UP
On Tuesday of this week, B-Real appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast for over two hours to discuss everything from performing live in front of 380,000 people at Woodstock in 1994 to playing paintball with William Shatner, and of course, some weed was smoked in the process.
The entire discussion is surprisingly insightful. Though I’ve been a fan of B-Real for my entire adult life (and half of my childhood), I can’t say that I have ever really heard him speak so candidly and freely about such a wide range of topics.
That is the brilliance of the long-form discussion format of Rogan’s show.
The bit that stood out to me the most, however, was when the talk turned to legal weed.
Rogan rightfully pointed out that Cypress Hill was, as we mentioned already, at the forefront of the cannabis movement.
“You know, we took a shot,” replied B-Real, half-jokingly. “We were stoners at first, right, that’s how you start. Your friend says, hey man try this or you’re the one who says try this.”
With praise for old school legends like Jack Herer, B-Real went on to talk about how magazines like High Times (and articles like this one!) helped to inform him and his enlightened friends and to steer them toward a role as advocates and activists for the plant.
But it was his analysis of the current state of the legal cannabis industry that caught my attention as everything he said to Rogan was what you hear from the ‘little guys’ trying to make it in a system geared for corporations instead of farmers.
But as the street smart wordsmith pointed out, none of these empty suits have any idea how to cultivate cannabis or effectively move it to the consumer, so they are all in the market for actual grassroots insiders who may not be boardroom-ready, but at least know not to grow a hundred thousand square feet of light dep Blue Dream.
If there was one point that I took exception to, it was B-Real’s take on the distribution license in the California cannabis market.
“Fortunately here in California they have allowed people to have distribution licenses,” he explained to stoned-Rogan, arguing that the intent of that stop on the supply chain was to protect the consumer. “Supposedly the lobbyists that put 64 together were trying to stop it from being a monopoly of corporations coming in and taking over,” he said.
I’m personally not that optimistic about the intent of the authors of Prop 64. To me, the distribution license is a necessary check and balance of the supply chain to ensure that the state gets its share of tax revenue. The distribution stop on the chain is a reckoning – both for tax collection and lab testing compliance.
One area that he and I are in total agreement is his stance that you cannot just throw money at a cannabis operation and expect good results… or profits.
“You’ve got to do the diligence on what this business is,” he riffed, adding, “You can’t cut corners on cultivation you know, you can’t cut corners on quality.”
He rightfully points out that there is more information available to cannabis consumers than ever before, and the average consumer is much more curious than ever before. He warns these pop-up, well-funded, unknown brands that if they try to get over on the market by pushing inferior products the market will know and its judgement will be swift and harsh.
He again gives them a blueprint for possible success – find an established brand with market knowledge and a well-earned reputation for quality and partner with them.
His final prediction also stands to reason. The next five years will be highly consequential for cannabis businesses small and large to see who can weather the storm of crooked regulations, ridiculous taxes, and sky high costs of staying compliant and staying open long enough to see some sunshine on the other side.
Showing a bit of a lack of understanding of the situation, Rogan responded to B-Real’s valid complaints of high tax rates on legal weed by opining that the average cannabis consumer doesn’t give a shit about high taxes as long as weed is cheaper than booze. It was a convoluted stance but the fact is that high taxes all along the supply chain are leading to high retail prices for consumers who are ignoring the legal regulated market and hitting up their homie down the street for a ziplock of some dank like they always have.
B-Real has bought and sold plenty of ziplock bags full of weed so he gets it, he gets us. That’s why we support his efforts in this wacky industry and why we are proud to have him out there spreading the good word from the grimiest streets to the world’s largest stages.