Carlos Santana decided to launch a brand of premium cannabis products, the 10-time Grammy Award winner said he and his partners worked to ensure the products reflected the image the guitar icon spent decades cultivating within the music industry.
Santana, during a panel discussion presented Tuesday as part of the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Business Cyber Summit, talked about how the Mirayo brand – its name combines the Spanish words for “my” and “ray” – honors his mother and aims to uplift users by helping to bring out their own personal rays of light.
“Once you recognize your light, you’re able to create miracles and blessings,” he said, describing some of his own spiritual beliefs and experiences.
While Santana and his partners at Left Coast Ventures, an investment firm heavily involved in developing and acquiring cannabis brands, are confident the musician’s product line, released in October, will resonate with consumers, not everyone is as sold on the power of celebrity branding in cannabis.
Santana and Left Coast Ventures CEO Brett Cummings spent a portion of Tuesday’s discussion outlining the tremendous effort they put in to ensure the Mirayo brand would be seen as authentic and connect with Santana fans and others.
While some industry analysts agreed that a celebrity can provide a major boost to a brand, others in and around the industry are more skeptical about celebrity pot brands. Those same analysts were also divided on how celebrities will be involved in the industry going forward: Some predicted they would shift into more of an endorsement model similar to most mainstream industries, while others envision a future when the vast majority of celebrities in the space will be intimately involved in their own brands, like Santana.
“Having a celebrity brand may help get you to first base quicker than other start-ups, but in the long run, I would advise building a great brand with a high-quality product,” said Randall Huft, CEO of Innovation Agency, a public relations firm that builds brands. He recommends that brands consider using celebrity endorsements rather than building an entire brand around one celebrity,
Greg Huffaker, a director at Canna Advisors, a consulting firm for cannabis businesses, said celebrities in the cannabis industry typically fall into three camps: Silent investors whose personal brands don’t mesh with cannabis, celebrities who license their names for products but are otherwise uninvolved, and those who are passionate about the product and are heavily involved.
Huffaker said that first group has seen a precipitous drop, while most celebrities are currently in that second group. He projects the third camp to soon take over and become the majority.
He anticipates professional athletes will comprise the next wave of celebrity branders, particularly as many of them have already embraced CBD for therapeutic purposes.
“There are a lot of professional athletes that use cannabinoids regularly for recovery,” he said. “I think as we continue to see the products differentiate, you could see how somebody at a golf club might buy something like a Phil Mickelson CBD bomb.”
Mixed martial arts is another area ripe for cannabis partnerships, he said, both due to its high penchant for injury and its rising popularity.
Huffaker predicted that 10 years from now we may see MMA-themed dispensaries with products branded by all the top fighters.
“Ultimately, I think you’re just going to see it as more common because cannabis is just becoming that more mainstream, common thing,” he said.
Legendary Mexican-American musician Carlos Santana is no stranger to la mota. In fact, he’s been using it for decades to stimulate healing and spiritual enlightenment, as his ancestors did before him.
“Cannabis is a frequency that’s been around since before the white people came from Europe,” he explained during an exclusive interview conducted in Spanglish. “All the shamans, the curanderos, knew how to use this medicine to heal and correct molecular structure and consciousness. So, basically, it’s been around since they brought Jesus to America.”
Even Santana’s mother used the plant to medicate: she’d make her own ointments to relieve physical pains and stiffness.
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Yet in spite of having been around for centuries, only now are people in the U.S. coming to accept what the musician’s family realized long ago, which is that cannabis has myriad medicinal properties.
To illustrate this, Santana brought up an analogy: when you notice your car is misaligned and tilts to one side instead of driving straight, you need to take it to the shop to get it fixed. The same applies to human beings.
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“When you’re sad, miserable or angry, you have a misalignment too. So, what I’ve learned is that people who were smoking the herb, from Bob Marley to Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, or whomever, they have a different way of looking at life than what we were programmed,” he voiced.
“Jesus is not the only one who has a light. You do too. When we were born, we were given, imbued, celestial, heavenly powers. This means you can make miracles and blessings, but in order to do that you have to expand your mind to accept the spirit. And it’s not what religious, corrupt institutions feed you.”
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On the matter of prohibition and the lack of political will to legalize cannabis and mend the damage inflicted by the plant’s illegality, Santana explained it’s all about fear: politicians and religious institutions are “afraid to let people think for themselves.”
“If everyone is healthy and sane, you don’t need therapists; if everyone is saint, you don’t need the Pope. Governments and institutions are in the same business of selling you fear. So, when you light up, you begin to feel like a little child again, fearless. Children laugh at fear because they know it’s phony: Frankenstein, Dracula, a mummy, an illusion created to scare you,” he said.
“But when you realize your light, tu luz, te salva de toda la estupidez, la oscuridad [your light saves you from all the stupidity and darkness], they are out of business. You won’t pledge your money to the Pope; you’re going to pledge your money to schools, to help people get clean water and roads…
“It’s all about consciousness, man. I’m just talking about consciousness. I'm not talking about communist or liberal, Democrat or Republican, I don't care about any of that. All I care is: con ganas, se puede hacer todo si lo haces del corazón [with willpower, you can do anything, if you do it from the heart].”
Cannabis being a central element in Santana’s life and heritage, it was only befitting he would eventually have a brand of his own, one that upheld his values and ideas.
This is how Mirayo (“my ray,” or “my lightning”, in Spanish) came to be.
Mirayo by Santana
Launched in partnership with Left Coast Ventures, the line of premium cannabis products joined a family that includes brands made in collaboration with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and the Bob Marley estate.
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“This particular family [Left Coast Ventures] came to me and offered to join Bob Marley and Mickey Hart. I’m grateful to be able to add my name to a place where we can utilize this financial energy, currency, to help American Indians, Navajos, Apaches, bring fresh pure water, education... So I don't mind pledging all of it to help my brothers and sisters. Everyone knows that Santana is not just about playing the guitar. I have the Milagro Foundation that helps children in Africa, India, South America...
“It's a blessing to be a blessing, una bendición ser una bendición,” he added.
Mirayo by Santana
Mirayo by Santana Courtesy Photo
As he himself explains it, Mirayo by Santana is all about inviting human beings to invest emotionally in their own lives by accepting the light inside their hearts.
“When somebody programs you like a laptop, and separates you from your light, and tells you only Jesus is the light and you’re darkness... I'm like no. God put light in all of us.”
Embracing La Hierba
Santana himself has often found his light through cannabis, both personally and creatively.
“You can tell when you listen to Abraxas. There’s a certain consciousness, a certain frequency that Abraxas, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix… certain bands that you knew what they were doing,” he explained, referencing cannabis use. “When you hear the music, it sounds different. It sounds all encompassing. This music stands outside of time.”
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For him, cannabis is like water. He consumes it when he needs it, whenever he’s “thirsty for knowledge, understanding, or wisdom.
“Once I take a toke, I immediately know where to go, what to read, or what guitar to play and what to say… Ok, ahí te va [here it goes]: If you want to paint with watercolors, you need water to dip the brush to be able to paint. To me, lighting up, smoking herb, is like dipping in water to enhance your imagination. The more you expand your imagination, then abundance comes to you with creativity.
“I’ve been saying this since 1967,” he concluded.