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Snoop and Chung: The Marijuana Dream Team

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Ted Chung may not stand out as a house-hold name in the celebrity pantheon, but he’s well known in the music business as the longtime manager of hip-hop giant Snoop Dogg. Ranked No. 2 along with Snoop on Billboard’s Pot Power List of music industry players, Chung heads the Cashmere Agency, an L.A.-based branding firm.

In an interview with Freedom Leaf, Chung says Snoop’s presence in the cannabis industry evolved over decades, dating back to the early 1990s when he had hits like “Gin and Juice.” Their business efforts on this front intensified after adult use in Colorado exploded.

“Snoop is the leading figurehead for the cannabis lifestyle movement, especially on a global basis,” Chung contends. “Expressing his liberties in the cannabis movement had been primarily through his content—audio, TV, film and tours. At the early stages of legalization, he was always a strong proponent for cannabis usage. A few years ago, we put together a real think tank with our companies and with outside executives to focus on how we’d enact our strategy in the cannabis space.”

In 2015, Snoop Dogg and Chung launched Leafs by Snoop, the rapper’s branded cannabis product line now available in more than 120 retail stores in Colorado and Washington State, with plans to expand to Canada.

“We’re very particular in our [product] offerings, and respectful of local regulations,” Chung explains. “We have a spectrum of flowers—indica, sativa and CBD strains. We offer infused products, such as chocolate bars, gummies and lozenges as well.”

Chung also spends a good deal of his time on Merry Jane, his and Snoop Dogg’s other major cannabis enterprise, a digital media content and data provider aimed at millennials. “There was a point in time, especially for those in entertainment, when you could categorize demographic groups by the genre of music they listened to,” Chung observes. “But nowadays, certain millennials wake up and listen to Drake or 21 Pilots or Taylor Swift or Kanye West or Florida Georgia Line. Everyone has a very diverse palate when it comes to content.”

But cannabis cuts across all of these differing tastes for the post-2000 generation. “Every generation wants to leave its mark as early as they can on society, and this is one of those changes of counterculture going mainstream—like rock & roll in the mid-20th century, or social media of this century. People can unite around [cannabis] and leave a mark, with a positive impact for generations.”

Merry Jane has made a major impact with its TV shows—MTV’s Mary + Jane and VH1’s Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party—concert tours (The High Road, featuring Snoop and Wiz Khalifa) and festivals (Snoop Dogg’s Mount Kushmore Wellness Retreat). The business also produces Snoop’s online talk show, Double G News Network, as well as Rolling with Rogen (Seth Rogen and Miley Cyrus are Merry Jane investors).

Finally, as the third prong of their strategy, Snoop and Chung founded Casa Verde Capital, a venture-stage investment firm that seeks opportunities in the cannabis industry to fund companies that provide related supplies and services; the company is focused on investments in media, technology, agriculture, health, wellness and consumer products. A distinct business entity in Snoop Dogg’s empire, run by its own set of executives, Casa Verde listed a target of $25 million from investors in a 2015 regulatory filing.

Along with its stake in Merry Jane, in November Casa Verde invested in Denver-based FunkSac, which makes Funk-Guard child-resistant packaging, Funk-Sac cultivation bags and FunkZip security bags at manufacturing sites in Ohio. The dollar amount of the investment was not disclosed.

In 2015, Casa Verde took part in a $10 million round of financing for Eaze, a cannabis delivery service known as the “Uber of weed.” In 2014, Snoop invested in the social media site Reddit.

To be sure, even the star power of Snoop and Chung doesn’t guarantee a rich future for their companies. Any start-up faces plenty of risks; if a venture capital fund gets one or two winners out of 20 investments, it’s typically considered a success.

But with Merry Jane and other ventures, Chung sees an opportunity to ride a big wave comparable to the swell in social media companies in recent years. “With cannabis legalization advancing forward, the economies of scale are tremendous,” Chung says. “You’ll find entrepreneurs coming into the space at a very rapid rate.”

Asked if he sees a possible bursting of the cannabis bubble if too much capital flows in too quickly, Chung thinks it’s possible, but the business will survive: “Every industry has its ups and downs. The cannabis industry has been around long enough on the medical side that it has a more predictable market size. That means it’s more secure as an investment.”

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