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Imagine a cannabis product with the brand power of Sam Adams or Ford. Just five years ago, this seemed like dream. Intellectual property licensing for cannabis and hemp products and services is a core practice area. We are leaders in cannabis brand and IP licensing generally, and have developed extensive niche expertise with respect to celebrity (musicians, actors and athletes, among others) deals.

Regardless of what happens because of the change in Presidential Administrations, the responsible regulation of cannabis has reached a point where unwinding it will present profound challenges. Jobs have been created. Businesses are thriving. The United Sates is doing what it does best—innovates. Oh, and by the way, opioid use is down in cannabis states. John Paul Stevens, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice, stated in 2014,

Yes [marijuana should be legalized federally]. Public opinion has changed . . . The distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction . . . The prohibition against selling and dispensing alcoholic beverages has I think been generally, there’s a general consensus that it was not worth the cost. And I think really in time that will be the general consensus with respect to this particular drug [marijuana].

“Regardless of what happens because of the change in Presidential Administrations, the responsible regulation of cannabis has reached a point where unwinding it will present profound challenges.”

Today, the adult use and medical cannabis markets alone—excluding cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals—is worth $5 billion. By 2020, it could be as large as $13.3 billion. The industry is creating and developing intellectual property in the process. Cannabis entrepreneurs who understand intellectual property and its respective value seek to protect and commercialize it. These entrepreneurs are faced with a wide range of challenges from the primordial—obtaining the capital that feeds innovation—to the complexities of navigating cannabis legal-state to legal-state nuances. Political uncertainties and legal complexities combined with big tobacco, big pharma and big agriculture ostensibly hovering in wait-and-see mode, give rise to a market where national cannabis brands do not genuinely exist and regional- and state-focused brands continue to develop.

A way to distinguish or otherwise position your product to become “the next big thing” in the cannabis and hemp industry is to do a licensing deal with a celebrity. Whether you are the celebrity or a cannabis industry participant (or one in the same), you could benefit from a licensing deal, and, at the same time, promote the responsible regulation of cannabis: A win-win-win.

For example, Snoop Dogg has released Leafs by Snoop, Tommy Chong has released Chong’s Choice cannabis products, Willie Nelson has released his own line of cannabis called Willie’s Reserve, Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah has released a line of vape cartridges called Ghostface Killah’s Wu-Goo, Wiz Khalifa not only has his own strain (Khalifa Kush) but now also has started his own line of rolling accessories with RAW Rolling Papers. Celebrities Melissa Ethridge has a line of Wine Tincture, Bob Marley has Marley Natural and Whoopi Goldberg has even gotten in the cannabis game with a non-celeb business partner.

Intellectual property creation and development as well as its respective protection and commercialization are fundamental building blocks to almost every business. What matters to the cannabis entrepreneurs today and ten years from now is protecting their underlying intellectual property: Know-how, formulas, standard operating procedures, recipes and the brand—and commercializing it. Deals create more value when an entrepreneur simultaneously has strong claims to intellectual property and a pathway to commercialization. In many cases, celebrities and savvy industry participants can forge these paths.

Cannabis product licensing deals can be more complicated than licensing deals in the aerospace, pharmaceutical, software, semiconductor and robotics markets. From ownership of a licensed state cannabis entity to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s stance on entitlement to federal trademark protection, a cannabis licensing deal has complex legal and business barriers, but risks can easily be mitigated with proper guidance and great partnerships with a well known name can be a great option for a budding business.

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