FRESH FACES: A new crop of influencers are promoting California’s legalized cannabis industry with questionable motives.
The culture clash that has characterized the cannabis business since before California voters legalized adult use in 2016 shows few signs of abating, despite the pandemic and all the other struggles the industry faces. Many of the people who worked in the state’s pot industry in the years and decades before legalization worry about venture capitalists and “Big Weed” stomping into their world, pushing out smaller players and placing the market in a few, powerful hands. So far, their worries have been largely justified.
Lately, complaints have turned to another issue that might prove even more ruinous—from the perspective of “traditionalists,” at least—than industry concentration and unfair competition. I’m talking about insufferable industry hype.
Right from the get-go, celebrities from Tommy Chong and Roseanne Barr to Martha Stewart have flocked to weed to enhance their “brands.” They put their names on products that in some cases they might be wholly unfamiliar with. In other cases, like that of Jim Belushi, they are actively involved with running pot companies. But most show up for appearances at bacchanalian industry events—or at least, they did so before the pandemic hit. Now that nearly everything is happening online, people are starting to complain about “influencers.”
Influencers have been all over social media for years. They are sometimes established stars, and sometimes just people who have built up big social-media followings, which they then leverage for profit by hawking everything from perfume to sneakers.
This group is newer in the cannabis space, thanks largely to the fact that it’s difficult for many pot companies to advertise because of all the legal restrictions and regulations. They can’t run TV or radio ads in most cases. In many markets, even print and billboard ads are forbidden. Putting influencers to work is one way to deal with that problem.
Published: October 14, 2020