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In the Cannabis Business, Not All Star Strains Are Created Equal

With the cannabis green rush in full swing, many celebrities are jumping into the fray with their own brands, including such well-known stoners as Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong.

But as it turns out, not all star strains are created equal, so we assembled a trio of crack experts to put the product to the test, including longtime activist and dispensary owner Dina Browner (aka Dr. Dina), whose Alternative Herbal Health Services was one of the first to open in West Hollywood and served as the model for Netflix’s “Disjointed”; YouTube star Thomas Araujo, better known as Dope as Yola to his hundreds of thousands of followers; and Kenny Morrison, a longtime cannabis activist with his own thriving edible business, the Venice Cookie Co., known as VCC Brands.

Browner, who runs three dispensaries, was arguably among the first to spark the celebrity strain craze when she named certain flavors of flower after her pals, including Snoop Dogg and the cast of “Sons of Anarchy” (SAMCRO OG).

Still, and somewhat ironically, celebrity brands have had a rough time getting into Los Angeles dispensaries. A well-publicized venture such as Nelson’s Willie’s Reserve is available in only a few retail locations, mostly outside the immediate L.A. area; Snoop Dogg’s Leafs by Snoop blend can be bought in Colorado and Canada, but not yet in California. Seth Rogen’s Houseplant is available in Canada, but not in the U.S.

It doesn’t help that “in the industry, there’s almost a stigma against a celebrity weed brand,” says Morrison. “Look at alcohol. When celebrities like George Clooney or P. Diddy own a tequila or vodka brand, they don’t put their names on it.”

“There’s a difference between craft growers and commercial cannabis, and the latter is what most often appears as a celebrity brand,” notes Browner. “When you think of the people frequenting dispensaries these days, it’s not the Willie Nelson crowd per se.”

Araujo contends that celebrity weed is aimed at “amateurs” who don’t know any better.

Could it be so? Has marketing won out over quality in the recreational marijuana wars? We endeavored to find out and gathered a group of cannabis connoisseurs to sample products by Tommy Chong, System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian, The Game, Jenny Lewis and Bob Marley.

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