Seth Rogen was a proponent of weed well before it became cool. He got arrested for smoking a joint on an L.A. beach in 1998. He was named 2007’s “Stoner of the Year” by High Times magazine for his role in Knocked Up. A year later, he co-starred in and co-wrote Pineapple Express, the highest-grossing stoner movie of all time. All the while, he’s professed that his work wouldn’t be what it is without marijuana, proving to the world that stoners can be successful, too.
More recently, Rogen and his love of weed have grown up: He’s become a full-on cannabis legalization activist, speaking out about the need for reform and promoting events like National Expungement Week, which is all about helping people who have marijuana convictions.
In fact, Rogen’s cannabis company Houseplant has a whole page on its website that makes strong declarations about the systemic issues that play out in the weed industry and their commitment to being part of the solution. “We will always use our platform to educate people about the devastating history of the War on Drugs and help end the senseless, racist cannabis laws that, despite progress, still exist today,” it reads. “We support several like-minded organizations, including the Marijuana Policy Project, Cannabis Amnesty, Cage-Free Cannabis and Black Lives Matter, whose missions include eradicating white supremacy and helping end anti-cannabis policies at the local, state and federal levels.”
All of this is to say that if any celebrity has the right to a weed company, it’s Rogen. However, it’s also to say that my disappointment was tremendous when Houseplant released a rolling tray for the excruciating cost of $485.
The cement plate is a byproduct of Rogen’s love for ceramics, a hobby that took shape during the pandemic. It comes with a grinder, an ashtray and complimentary Houseplant-branded rolling papers and tips (as it should for that price).
To be clear, I don’t hate the tray itself. It’s pretty, and I’m sure it serves its purpose. However, it’s an exemplar of high-class, celebrity weed gear that loses sight of the underprivileged stoner. On Reddit, the consensus is that if the average smoker bought Rogen’s rolling tray, they wouldn’t have any money left for weed.
It all begs the question: If Rogen truly supports the people who’ve been economically battered by anti-weed laws, why would he make a product they most likely can’t afford?
I could get all snobby about old-school weed culture and the sentimentality that comes with rolling a joint directly on your IKEA coffee table, but my gripe is greater than just personal preference. It’s also not only geared toward Rogen: Snoop Dogg, Bella Thorne, Ice Cube, Travis Barker, Martha Stewart, Jay-Z (who’s brand Monogram sells ridiculously expensive $50 pre-rolls) and many other celebs all have posh weed brands and are part of a larger problem.
For starters, when a superstar becomes a weed entrepreneur, they needlessly take up space that someone else could benefit from. Rogen already has an estimated net worth of $80 million (and likely more), so why does he need to turn his quarantine hobby into a money-hungry business that sells rolling trays for as much as a new Xbox?
“There are so many talented artists and thoughtful people angling for a place in this crowded market,” says cannabis reporter Jackie Bryant. “Can’t you just find a local artist and highlight them? Do you have to be the everything weed guy? Don’t you have enough?”
Likewise, while you could argue that luxury weed accessories bolster the plant’s reputation, you can also contend that they further divide stoners by class. As Bryant points out, ritzy cannabis gear is all about “sanitizing” marijuana for many of the same people who not long ago supported its criminalization. If the weed industry becomes overly high-end, those same people may be inclined to continue looking down upon anyone who can’t afford expensive goodies. “Let’s not make weed too precious,” she says. “It’s fucking weed.”
The greatest problem, however, is the role celebrities seem to be playing in turning the weed industry into something of an oligopoly. A few weeks ago, Rogen and Sarah Silverman launched a legalization campaign led by the U.S. Cannabis Council, a dominant pro-cannabis lobbying group. Just a couple days earlier, it was reported that leaked documents say the same group is pursuing an industry that rejects small players in favor of massive corporations (they deny these claims).
It might sound conspiratorial, but we’ve seen signs of these sorts of capitalistic plays in the weed industry for some time now. For example, so-called “equity programs,” which are intended to guarantee licenses for people of color and individuals who were harmed by the War on Drugs, have been scooped up by white weed entrepreneurs posing as woke. Moreover, small businesses that rightfully earn “equity” licenses still have to compete with massive cannabis corporations that are often in cahoots with celebs.
Again, I’m sure Rogen has good intentions, and he really does want to help legalize weed and get people out of prison. I’m not convinced, however, that using his fame to sell $485 rolling trays before those people are released is the answer.