Coda Signature, a cannabis business located Denver, Colorado, announced recently that they would be including a sample of their chocolate edibles in this year’s Oscar gift bags, handed out to all the nominees in the acting categories, as well as Best Director.
After launching in 2016, Coda found success with their infused edibles, topicals and concentrates in their home state, and soon began looking for opportunities to expand. After the California bill legalizing recreational cannabis was passed later that year, it seemed like adding a new wing in the Golden State would be the next logical step.
With an eye towards a spring 2019 launch, the company set up a facility in Oakland, and attained a a temporary license in California for manufacturing and distribution. With all that in place, the only thing left to do was find a way to make a big Hollywood entrance.
The best way to do that? Through the Oscars, naturally.
"If you think about the excitement surrounding the Oscars – it’s one of the most watched media events in the world," said Coda co-founder and CEO Mark Grindeland. "We felt that this was a great platform for us to participate and bring brand awareness."
The company developed a partnership with Distinctive Assets, the company that - while not officially connected with or sanctioned by the Academy - are responsible for the much talked-about Oscar gift bags.
The chocolates contained in the gift bags will not actually contain any cannabis, but rather a non-infused sample along with a certificate for the infused version, to be delivered at a later date.
"Some of the celebrities feel that they need to shy away from cannabis, so what we did was include non-infused versions in the gift bags themselves, along with a certificate with which they can go onto a unique webpage and place an order," Grindeland explained.
The reasons for this are two-fold. While cannabis does remain a hot-button topic for celebrities (many of whom might be contractually forbidden from endorsing cannabis products) the fact that Coda is just ramping up its California operations with a temporary license make distributing infused products more complicated.
Last year at California’s first post-legalization Oscars ceremony, cannabis company Flow Kana gifted packages of pre-rolls and jars of cannabis to those stars with dressing rooms at the event. This was done with the express permission of both the Academy and the Dolby Theatre.
So, had the company been up and running in California before this time, Coda Signature could have gifted fully-infused versions of their products to the Oscar contenders, legally speaking - but not without considerably more expense.
"We would have had to go through a third party to do so, as Distinctive Assets doesn’t have a license to deliver cannabis products," explained Marjorie Chimes, Coda’s chief marketing officer.
Given that the company is unable to sell or gift their products in California just yet, they weren’t quite sure what to expect from the promotion.
"We don’t really have any metrics for success, like a celebrity promoting to the product" said Grindeland. “Sure, that’d be nice to have, but our real goal was to drive awareness, and based on the web traffic being driven to our site, and the number of requests coming in – we’ve already far exceeded what we hoped to get out of it.”
While the move was certainly a way for the company to make a big splash as they enter into the California market, Chimes said that the company feels that it is indicative of the changing social climate surrounding cannabis - something that the company wishes to encourage.
"We’re looking at a whole industry that has to take some responsibility," she said. "I think that associating with the Oscars, we’re putting our best foot forward in terms of normalization. It’s making the whole idea of cannabis accessible to a wider market."
A good sign of this normalization? This year’s inclusion of a cannabis-adjacent product into the Oscar gift bags has been utterly without controversy. This, during a year that has been replete with Oscar controversies, including their contentious decisions to air without a host, as well as the recent ratings nose-dive the show has seen over the past couple of years.
Next to those concerns, it seems, a few cannabis chocolates are nothing to get uptight about.