Friends, hot on the heels of participating in the excellent Wine & Weed Symposium earlier this week, where I chatted about the crossing of the streams of alcohol and cannabis with Rebecca Stamey-White and George Christie (link), word hit the wires that Cann Social Tonic, a THC-infused beverage, has raised new capital and backing from a host of personalities and a lifestyle brand venture capital fund. (link)
To me, this announcement hits home a number of points about the evolution of cannabis in the US as a consumer product. First, the list of celebrity backers spans across genres, from movies to music to sports to online. Celebrities have been backing cannabis products for a long time, not just as sponsors, but as investors and founders as well. At the same time, branding and marketing has been a significant challenge for the industry, due in large part to the fragmentation of markets. Perhaps this move signals a shifting approach to brand awareness and open up new markets.
Second, it’s notable that Cann has raised money from Imaginary Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on early-stage retail, and with a portfolio of lifestyle-focused, brand-focused consumer products. (link) (Note that I don’t have any insight into how they structured the investment, and I apparently missed that they actually announced their investment back in January. (link))
That a non-cannabis-focused investment fund leapt into the cannabis industry, and accepted the regulatory risk surrounding that, is further evidence of how more traditional institutional capital is getting comfortable with investing in this industry. The same can be said for the risk acceptance of personalities putting their name on the product. As we possibly move into a new era of cannabis policy that could bring about a seismic shift in the landscape (or not (link)), it’s worth keeping an eye on these incremental moves that have kept the industry progressing.