When Show Biz Meets CannaBiz

Willie_Nelson_at_Farm_Aid_2009bw Snoop_crop Melissa_Etheridge_Live

It is not news that celebrity sells, and famous folk have been using their fame to sell us products for ages. It is only recently, however, that stars have been getting involved in the nascent cannabis industry as investors, entrepreneurs and advocates. There seem to be more celebrity canna-brands popping up every day, and here are the stories of three artists who have embraced the business opportunities that cannabis legalization has presented.

Willie Nelson has been expressing his love for cannabis since long before it was socially acceptable. Now his “premium cannabis lifestyle brand,” Willie’s Reserve, which is available in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and is soon to be releasing sun-grown products, is so mainstream that it will even be one of the sponsors for this year’s official Newport Folk Festival after-shows. A recent round of funding raised $12 million, making the company worth $30 million and cementing Willie’s role as an entrepreneur and advocate for legalization. At 83 years old, Willie remains a clear voice for the cannabis community.

Snoop Dogg’s name also has been synonymous with marijuana for decades. The music mogul was quick to capitalize on the burgeoning cannabis industry when he created Leafs by Snoop in 2015, making him the first well-known celebrity to launch a self-branded line of cannabis products. A year later, he created a venture capital fund, Casa Verde Capital, which has raised $45 million thus far and is dedicated to the ancillary businesses associated with the industry. Snoop’s entrepreneurial savvy continued to be ahead of the curve as Leafs by Snoop became one of the first international licensing agreements under the Canopy Growth Corp, one of the largest cannabis companies in the world. Based in Ontario, Canada, Canopy Growth Corp was the first federally regulated and publicly traded cannabis producer in North America, and is likely to dominate the Canadian industry for years to come. Snoop has also invested $10 million in the British cannabis research firm Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (along with fellow celebrity Patrick Stewart), which focuses on research related to medical uses of the plant.

Unlike Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg, Melissa Etheridge has not always been known for her relationship with marijuana. In fact, she didn’t even start using cannabis regularly until she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 43 years old. From that point forward, she became an influential advocate for the benefits of medical marijuana, as well as an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry. Her company, Etheridge Farms, is located in California and produces sun-grown cannabis products in the form of flower, edibles, oil cartridges, topicals and even a wine tincture. But for Etheridge, it’s always been about more than the money. Much like her experience as an advocate for the LGBT community, she uses her platform to promote the rights of medical marijuana users everywhere, whether they are cancer patients going through chemotherapy or professional athletes dealing with pain. As a football fan, she supports the players’ right to use cannabis, and was even a moderator at a panel on the topic at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition.

These celebrities are more than just cannabis enthusiasts or business investors. They are an important part of the movement to make the cannabis industry one that is authentic, diverse and well-intentioned. One thing is for sure: It will be an exciting day when these products are finally available on Rhode Island shelves.