Chelsea Handler Gets Into the Cannabis Business

As the comedian gears up to launch her new cannabis line, she reflects on how the plant has changed her life.
Chelsea Handler Gets Into the Cannabis Business
Image credit: Cara Robbins
Magazine Contributor
Editor in Chief of Green Entrepreneur
8 min read

This story appears in the October 2019 issue of Green Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

For Chelsea Handler, perhaps the only positive thing to come from the 2016 election was her reintroduction to cannabis. She’d tried it casually, but the Trump presidency caused her to hit the edibles hard.

“I really just needed to take it down a notch, to be still, to not watch the news on a loop, and to chill out,” she says. Cannabis helped Handler slow down and, at the same time, up her creativity. Soon she was telling anyone who would listen about her newfound best friend.

Now the comedian, author, and talk show host is gearing up to add another job title to her impressive résumé: entrepreneur. Early next year, Handler will launch a cannabis line (at press time, she hadn’t finalized the name) featuring a variety of pre-rolls as well as edible chocolates and gummies in multiple flavors

Perhaps as a sign of the times, her vape products have been put on hold indefinitely. “Creating an extremely high-quality product and positive experience for our consumers is so important to me," she says. "For this reason, we are pivoting our product assortment for launch and holding off on releasing our set of vapes until we fully explore all formulation options, ensuring the quality, transparency, and safety of all of our products” 

Her pot adventure is being sourced and supplied by NorCal Cannabis Company in San Francisco.

Handler wants to empower the canna-curious by educating them about its benefits and decoding the best ways to use it. She also wants to destigmatize the plant and make it less shameful.  

Related: Post Malone Launches Shaboink Hemp Pre-Rolls and Announces Partnership With Icon Farms and Sherbinskis

Image Credit: Cara Robbins

Explain what happened to you after the 2016 election.

My outrage was at a high that wasn’t getting suppressed with alcohol. [In fact, alcohol] was enhancing my outrage, so I decided to pivot. I’d smoked pot casually, but I was more of a drinker. Edibles reintroduced me to taking my time with things. A whole new world opened up. I was able to start meditating because of edibles. I was able to just chill out. My nature is really intense anyway, so I like to cut my reaction time in half. For me, it’s better that I’m slower.

Also, cannabis became legal in California. All the information that came along with the legalization of cannabis made you realize how much of the landscape has changed, how you can microdose, how you can take a 2.5 milligram mint just to take the edge off. You don’t have to take 50 milligrams. You don’t have to get a cookie from some party in Newport, Rhode Island, and wake up three days later. It’s not about being blotto.

Why did you pivot from having this great experience with pot to wanting to get into the canna-business?

I wanted to show anyone who’s had a bad experience with edibles, who is too scared to come back: It’s like, “No, no, no -- it’s safe now.” I’ve always been vocal about whatever I’m interested in. So then I started pursuing it. But I wanted to do my due diligence, so I met with a bunch of companies. I flew up to a bunch of grows and got as informed as I could. I’ve done my research back and forth. I’ve had every edible under the sun. You could probably give me 100 milligrams of pot right now and you would not see a difference. It’s a constant learning curve. It feels like this whole business is going to get still more informed every day.

Related: 23 Celebrities in the Cannabiz

Image Credit: Cara Robbins

What did you learn about the business?

It was just a little bit shady, like the wheels weren’t spinning. That’s why I love [business partner] NorCal so much, because when I sat down with them, we were all professionals and on the same page, like “What are our goals here?” They wanted to back whatever I was interested in, really putting my name behind something that I cared about, that I thought was going to help. I mean, I’ve seen the amount of people in my own life who I’ve enabled to use cannabis and who have had such a great response, so I know what that means.

Take us through the process of building the brand once you decided to partner.

I sat down with them and told them about all the things that are important to me. There is such a healing component to cannabis. For someone like me to talk about my own experience validates it for a lot of people who would be like, “Healing cannabis? That’s such bullshit.” 

I can’t put anything out there that I can’t back up with information. I want transparency. I’m known for being honest, so that’s what I want to continue with this brand. My messaging is like, “Come over here; I’ll introduce you to cannabis in a safe way. You’re safe with me.” I’ve spent my career telling everybody what’s going on with me. So, if I’m at this space, they know that they can rely on me. 

How are you getting that message across to your customers?

On all the packaging, there’ll be little notes from me to the new user, saying, “Hey, this is what you can expect. If this is your first time, then I want you to try this. If you’ve smoked pot and you’re excited to dig in, then I would say to do this.” I want every new or returning cannabis user to feel totally safe. I’d rather you get no high than too high. We’re all going to work together and find out what we like and really capitalize on it and learn. I learned that when you’re smoking and using cannabis a lot, you have to take one day off a week or one month off a year. It totally changes your tolerance, so I do that. Every week I take a day off.

Image Credit: Cara Robbins

How did you decide on the strains of cannabis you wanted to use?

First, we went over all the flavors I like. I don’t like the hard-core husky scents. I don’t like it when it’s too skunky. I like a fruit vibe. I love grapefruit, I love raspberry, I love orange. We just mixed and matched a bunch of things. 

Related: 10 Super Successful People Who Don't Care That You Know They Enjoy Cannabis

Your blend will include a cannabis compound called THCV. Why is that?

The biggest complaint I hear from women about cannabis is that they get the munchies. THCV works as an appetite suppressant. It varies from person to person based on your constitution and physiological makeup. [The problem is,] to isolate that strain alone would make the pens super, super expensive. I don’t want to do that to people. That may come out; I may do that in the future. 

Image Credit: Cara Robbins

How is being an entrepreneur in the cannabis space different for you?

I’ve never partnered. I’ve never really started a business model. I’ve always had TV shows, or I had an endorsement deal with Belvedere [vodka] years ago, but that wasn’t a brand of mine. It’s a huge learning curve that I welcome. When I started using cannabis more, and I started giving it out to my friends, our nights of being drunk and shit-faced and gross and sloppy changed to having interesting conversations -- no one’s having a hangover, no one’s bloated. For me at 44, that makes a huge difference. That’s a huge selling point, to not put on the weight or the bloat from alcohol. And then it’s just so much more civilized, and it’s much more fun.

As I was developing this line, I shot a documentary, wrote a book, released a book, did a stand-up tour, did a sit-down tour, and I smoked pot every day. So, hey, let’s change the language here. You can totally be productive. You can be even more productive if you are very particular and scrupulous about how you organize your day with regard to consuming cannabis.

Are you surprised that cannabis is becoming so mainstream?

The way the cannabis laws are all changing, it’s so ridiculous that it’s happening under this administration, but it just shows you how powerful this movement is. It’s not going away. I say this in my book: The world’s only getting browner, gayer, and higher, so you’d better hop on the bus.

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