Why Are Cannabis Companies Pretending to Be Mike Tyson?

The culture of celebrity pot brands may have finally jumped the shark.

At a glance, former professional boxer Mike Tyson doesn’t seem like the world’s most compelling cannabis spokesman.

For one, Tyson is a convicted rapist who spent three years in prison. There is no barometer beyond society’s tolerance to determine what precludes one from continuing to live a (largely) consequence-free life in the face of such heinous actions, but it would be nice if sexually assaulting people made it more difficult for one to remain a millionaire. As most of us recall, Tyson also once bit part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off.

Neither episode comes across as a sterling endorsement for the calming, tranquil benefits of CBD.

Nevertheless, the dollars keep pouring in.

Established in 2017, Tyson Ranch is the boxer’s personal cannabis empire, offering a range of flowers and extracts. The Palm Springs-based company says edibles are “coming soon” and is now reportedly bringing in $500,000 a month.

That’s a massive figure, and in an industry where legal ramifications are hardly cut-and-dried, it’s perhaps inevitable that there are now reports of unregulated entrepreneurs attempting to grab a cut of the profits by claiming to be partners with the brand.

As first reported by The Blast last week, “a big target for scammers has been Tyson Ranch’s CBD isolate manufacturing and distribution.” That makes sense, especially given it’s far more difficult to prove a CBD product is bunk without laboratory testing when compared with THC. The article goes on to say that staff at Tyson Ranch are now “actively sifting through and identifying grifters who erroneously claim to be partners with their brand.”

What’s fascinating about this development isn’t anything specific to Tyson, but instead what it proves about the power of celebrity and the public’s willingness to make false equivalencies when it comes to smart buying choices.

These days, it’s hard to keep track of every actor, musician, comedian, and athlete who has endorsed something associated with cannabis. While the first celebrities to jump aboard were largely the names those with knowledge of the culture would’ve expected (comedian/activist Tommy Chong, rapper Snoop Dogg), the range of famous folks taking an interest in pot — and its potential profits —  these days has expanded dramatically over the past year.

Former New England Patriots tight end and Tide Pod safety expert Rob Gronkowski, for instance, is investing in a topical called CBDMEDIC. He even got his former teammate (and White America poster child) Tom Brady to say he thinks the NFL should consider removing CBD from its banned substances list during a recent radio show appearance. Musician Jenny Lewis paired the release of her most recent album with a co-branded tin of pre-rolls in conjunction with Glass House.

Suffice to say, the days when a celebrity needed a pre-existing association with pot to endorse cannabis have long passed.

A lack of public education when it comes to making informed cannabis purchases is bad for the industry. Consumers should choose a product based on brand quality instead of who’s touting it. This issue is hardly limited to cannabis, of course, but more important for an industry with murky regulation.

Celebrity cannabis brands are particularly susceptible to illegal knock-off competitors thanks to their proven sales history.

This is a problem that needs to be solved: Consumers purchasing unregulated products — especially those who don’t realize they’re making an illegal purchase — based on a false sense of safety due to celebrity packaging are at risk. Given that people are unlikely to suddenly stop paying attention to celebrity endorsements or brands, it’s more important that the cannabis industry get the resources it needs to help legitimate businesses stay clear of fraudsters. 

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix here. Until government officials at all levels can stop fighting with themselves, it will be incumbent on brands like Tyson Ranch to remain extra vigilant.

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