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5 Canadian Cannabis Brands Backed by Celebrities

Published on November 20, 2018 · Last updated July 28, 2020
tragically hip celebrities cannabis
Image courtesy of @thetragicallyhip/Instagram

When the federal government unveiled its plan for marketing and promoting adult-use cannabis last Spring, a collective groan could be heard in marketing departments across the country.

The rules were far more restrictive than industry executives had hoped, and celebrity endorsements were specifically prohibited.Learn About Cannabis in Canada“The law is explicit and clear, that celebrity endorsement, lifestyle advertising is not allowed with cannabis,” said Bill Blair, the Liberal government’s point person on cannabis legalization.
“It’s not the government’s intention to promote the use of this drug… We are not allowing the heavy marketing that we’ve seen with other products, alcohol for example, and so there will be severe restrictions on things like celebrity endorsement and [company] sponsorship.”

But resourceful marketing executives have found workarounds—innovative ways to sprinkle their brands with celebrity stardust. Some high-profile entertainers are affiliated with cannabis companies as executives, business partners, and major shareholders.

Their cannabis-related activities generate media coverage which, in turn, boost brand visibility.

Tragically Hip

In May 2017, iconic Canadian band Tragically Hip partnered with Newstrike Resources. The Ontario-based cannabis producer said it was interested in “tapping the artistic and business acumen of the band members in brand development.”

CEO Jay Wilgar noted that the arrangement was a business partnership, not a marketing deal, and he added that the band had also become significant investors in the company.

Following the death of Hip frontman Gord Downie in October 2017, the remaining band members heightened their involvement with the company by meeting with company executives on a regular basis to discuss brand marketing strategies.

“When we started out, we knew we were going to be a national brand so we wanted it to resonate with Canadians across the country,” Wilgar told Leafly in May 2018. “The Hip has spent time in every small town and big city in every province. The band members understand Canada as well as anyone so they have made a great contribution to our branding and marketing plans.”

Wilgar told Leafly that his company’s working relationship with the band has played out just as he hoped it would. “We didn’t want a partner that was just a name affiliated with us—and the Hip is certainly more than that. This has been a real working relationship.”

In July, Up Cannabis, a subsidiary of Newstrike, unveiled five cannabis strains named after Tragically Hip songs.

The Trailer Park Boys

In November 2016, New Brunswick-based Organigram formed a strategic partnership with TPB Productions, which owns and manages intellectual property rights associated with Trailer Park Boys, a popular Canadian television series. The plan was to “develop branding, packaging, and a competitive product portfolio targeted towards recreational marijuana consumers.”

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Less than two years later, in June 2018, the cannabis producer released Trailer Park Buds, a line of cannabis products aimed at consumers who “appreciate a sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously.” It includes custom blends and pre-rolls—all of which are sold with a TPB logo that has the same look and feel of the Trailer Park Boys logo.

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Snoop Dogg

One of Canada’s biggest cannabis producers, Ontario-based Canopy Growth, has a strategic partnership with world-famous rapper and cannabis advocate Snoop Dogg.

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In 2016, Tweed, a subsidiary of Canopy, signed a deal giving it exclusive rights to certain content and brands owned by the entertainer’s company, LBC Holdings. In exchange, he received an undisclosed amount of cash and stock in the Canadian company. Tweed launched three strains of Leafs by Snoop (LBS) eight months later.

Snoop, who is heavily involved in the cannabis industry in the US, has also invested in Toronto-based Trellis, a cannabis inventory management software provider.

Noah Shebib

A.k.a 40, Shebib is a founding member of OVO Sound and the record producer behind all of Drake’s albums. “I’ve been on the forefront of pushing a cannabis agenda for a long time…”  says Shebib announcing the cannabis line BLLRDR in a video posted to Instagram earlier this month.

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While details about BLLRDR are still scarce, the brand’s social media pages are peppered with images of Shebib and rappers like Baka Not Nice and Joey BadA$$ smoking joints. Alas, us common folk looking to try 40’s bud might be out of luck. Submitting an email to the BLLRDR website will be met with an elusive reply that reads “Thank you for submitting your email for consideration. As you likely know, BLLRDR products are produced in VERY limited quantities. Should you be selected to purchase from  BLLRDR, a member of our services team will be in touch via email.”

Gene Simmons

Since shooting to stardom strutting across a stage in platform boots while covered in black-and-white face paint, Gene Simmons has been turning heads. More than 40 years after KISS burst onto the music scene, the band’s co-founder is making his mark as “chief evangelist officer” of Invictus, which operates cannabis companies in Canada.

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When the BC-based business made the announcement last Spring, it said Simmons’ responsibilities would include “providing marketing counsel, serving as a spokesperson in the media, public appearances and participation in the company’s annual general meeting and investor meetings.”

Dan Kriznic, Chairman and CEO of Invictus, described Simmons, whose television show Gene Simmons Family Jewels aired for eight seasons, as a “branding and merchandising genius.” Simmons holds shares in Invictus.

The company uses GENE as its trading letters.

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Randi Druzin
Randi Druzin
Randi Druzin is an author and journalist in Toronto. She has worked at several major media outlets, including the National Post and the CBC, and has written for dozens of publications, such as The New York Times, Time magazine, ESPN The Magazine, and The Globe and Mail.
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