Cannabis and the Problem of Celebrity Endorsements


Madison Avenue advertising execs have long lived by a principal that suggests celebrity endorsements are like gold. As the thinking goes, getting a celebrity to endorse a product or service translates into higher profits – in some cases, a lot higher. Is it any wonder that the cannabis industry is turning to celebrity endorsements in greater numbers?

Whether or not you see this as a problem likely coincides with your view of cannabis in general. People opposed to cannabis in any form probably find no pleasure in cannabis companies relying on celebrity endorsements. Those who are open to cannabis tend to be open to such endorsements as well.

Looking at the issue from a perspective that is neutral on cannabis itself changes things. In other words, just looking at the effect of celebrity endorsements on marketing efforts shows us where we could be going in the cannabis space. That may or may not be problematic, depending on your point of view.

  1. People Trust Celebrities

The thing about celebrity endorsements is that they create brand trust. This is rooted in the fact that people have a bad habit of trusting celebrities for no other reason than they are what they are. For some reason, modern society foolishly believes that one can only achieve celebrity status by being superior. And when we view someone as superior to ourselves, we tend to also believe that this person deserves more trust and respect.

In terms of cannabis, trusting what celebrities have to say may not necessarily be wise. It is not as though celebrities are stalwarts of sound financial management, marital bliss, and unquestionable moral integrity. With the exception of having plenty of money, your average celebrity lives a life we would not want for our own children. So why do we blindly follow them like we do?

  1. The Partying Lifestyle

There is another aspect to celebrities endorsing cannabis that should be alarming: the fact that we equate celebrity with the partying lifestyle. Think about it. What do we assume celebrities do when they are not working? We assume they are out having a good time. They are going to parties, nightclubs, and luxurious vacations in tropical destinations. They are using their wealth to buy everything and anything that might make them happy.

Conflating celebrity with the happy-go-lucky, partying lifestyle sets a dangerous precedent for cannabis users. Should cannabis be used as a partying drug? For that matter, should alcohol be used the same way? Common sense and decorum would both suggest not. And yet, isn’t that exactly what celebrity endorsements bring to the table?

  1. Medical vs. Recreational Use

There is little doubt that celebrity endorsements in the cannabis space target recreational users. They target adults in the eighteen states that currently allow recreational cannabis. They are not intended to target medical users in any of the thirty-six states with medical programs. But can that be helped?

This sort of thing creates quite a conundrum in states like Utah, where Utah Marijuana says lawmakers are intent on preventing recreational use. Utah has a strict medical program that has been developed with tight controls on production and distribution. But state residents can still be influenced by celebrity endorsements just like their counterparts in Oregon or California.

Despite growing support for cannabis around the country, Americans still have a legitimate concern over misuse and abuse. It is no different than the concerns we have over alcohol misuse. Celebrity endorsements only add to those concerns by giving the impression that using cannabis will make us more like those people we idolize. It is dangerous ground to tread.

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