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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, March 03, 2019 1:00 am

Martha Stewart joins CBD trend

DEE-ANN DURBIN | Associated Press

No, you're not smoking something. Martha Stewart has entered the fast-growing – but still legally murky – cannabis market.

The domestic diva who brought us hemp yarn is now partnering with Canada's Canopy Growth Corp. to develop new products containing CBD, a compound derived from hemp and marijuana that doesn't cause a high.

First to come, she said, will be a “sensible product for pets.” Neither Stewart nor Canopy Growth is saying whether that would be a dog or cat treat, an infused pet food or some other product.

Proponents say CBD offers health benefits, from relieving pain to taming anxiety. Others urge caution until more research is done.

The U.S. legalized hemp cultivation at the end of last year, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently warned that is still illegal to add CBD or THC – the compound that gives pot its high – to human or animal food and transport it over state lines. It has also cracked down on CBD-infused products that make health claims.

Still, most in the cannabis industry expect those hurdles to eventually fall as the federal government clarifies the law and public opinion changes. Already, 33 U.S. states allow adult use of medicinal marijuana.

The global market for legal and illegal cannabis is estimated at $150 billion today, according to Euromonitor; by 2025, it estimates the legal market alone will be worth $166 billion.

Stewart's tie-up with Canopy may not be a surprise to her fans. In 2015, she baked brownies on “The Martha Stewart Show” with marijuana aficionado Snoop Dogg and hinted that Snoop could add a little weed if he wanted to.

Bruce Linton, Canopy Growth's founder, chairman and co-CEO, said the company has been producing Snoop's Colorado-based Leafs by Snoop cannabis line – which includes THC-infused gummies and chocolate bars – for more than three years. Snoop has even performed on the company's lawn in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Linton said.

About six months ago, Linton said, Snoop's office facilitated an introduction to Stewart, who visited Canopy Growth's headquarters last fall. He said Stewart asked many questions and liked the company's science-driven approach.

“She had to be sure we were competent, because her reputation is of great value,” Linton told The Associated Press.

Kelly O'Keefe, a marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's Brandcenter, said there's not much risk to Stewart. If her reputation was going to take a blow, it would have happened when she partnered with Snoop Dogg. Instead, he said, that partnership has helped her look more youthful, relaxed and connected.

“She's already taken a walk on the wild side,” he said.

Stewart could also help Canopy Growth and the larger cannabis industry reach new audiences, says Giadha Aguirre de Carcer, the CEO of New Frontier Data, a cannabis research firm. In a study last fall, New Frontier found that the fastest-growing group of cannabis users is older females whose kids are grown, not the tie-dyed hippies of old. They want brands they can trust with nice packaging – which is Stewart's expertise.

“She is nailing it. This is her audience,” Aguirre de Carcer. “This is an underserved demographic that is growing very fast and is willing to pay.”