BY LAUREL ROSENHALL
The sandwich baggie brimming with buds is gradually becoming a thing of the past in California. In its place, an era of name-brand marijuana is emerging.
Celebrities—including actress Whoopi Goldberg, rapper Snoop Dogg, rocker Melissa Etheridge and the family of reggae legend Bob Marley—are branding their own herb. Law firms have sprouted to help marijuana sellers brand their goods. Pretty packages of cannabis-infused products bear labels like “Highland Pantry” (almond butter), “Madame Munchie” (cookies) and “Sweet ReLeaf” (skin cream).
Branded pot products gained footing in recent years as California sanctioned medical use of marijuana, and other states began permitting recreational use. Now that California voters have approved a ballot measure allowing all adults to use the drug, cannabis businesses want more authority to brand their products.
But officially trademarking marijuana is a tricky legal task. The federal government still considers it an illegal drug, and won’t grant patents or trademarks for pot or anything made from it. Cannabis brands fear they are at risk of being copied. So marijuana businesses in California—eyeing what could become a $6.4 billion industry—have turned to the state government for help.
“Not being able to trademark your brand is a huge setback if you’re trying to get capital investment,” said Nate Bradley, who lobbies for marijuana sellers as the executive director of California Cannabis Industry Association. “If you’re not able to protect what you’re asking people to invest in, you’re not likely to get investments.”
A bill recently introduced in the Legislature would create a state-level trademark for California cannabis products, providing marijuana businesses new legal protections and greater access to cash from investors as the state ushers in a sanctioned commercial marketplace.
The California Secretary of State already has the power to register state-level trademarks, but only for items recognized by federal trademark law. Assembly Bill 64 would change that by allowing the Secretary of State to register trademarks for cannabis goods and services.
“Cannabis businesses are like other businesses, lawful and regulated. They should be able to protect their intellectual property,” said bill author Assemblyman Rob Bonta, a Democrat from Alameda.
THE REMAINDER OF THE ARTICLE CAN BE FOUND AT: https://calmatters.org/articles/branding-bud-marijuana-companies-want-california-to-issue-trademarks-for-pot/