The cannabis industry is a confusing industry to navigate. Each state has its own unique cannabis laws, which breaks all the way down to the county and city level. On top of that, you have federal laws that still have cannabis listed as a Schedule I drug, but industrial hemp (hemp containing less than 0.3% THC) has just been legalized. Companies strive to meet federal guidelines to put CBD products on shelves. CVS and Walgreens stores across the country have them stocked. CBD is becoming a driving force in mainstream business and marketing. Unfortunately, there's still a stigma surrounding anything labeled "CBD".
Recently, Monster Energy sent an email to their contract models:
“To our Monster Girl family:
We at Monster Energy are very proud of our Monster Girls. Monster Girls are at the forefront of our brand, becoming as highly visible and recognizable as the Monster Energy itself. They have earned an outstanding reputation for being beautiful and friendly to fans not just in the USA but in over 100 countries worldwide. With that being said, we must be protective of our Monster Girls image, influence and respected reputation as well as the image they represent for our brand. The strong influence of social media does not recognize the difference between a model promoting Cannabis vs a model promoting Cannabis merchandise. While Cannabis is now legal in very few states here in the USA, it is still illegal throughout the rest of the country and the majority of the world. We are a globally recognized brand and must both think and act accordingly.
In order to maintain this iconic image of our Monster Girls, we find it necessary to be proactive, thus prohibiting any link or relationship between a Cannabis brand and our Monster Girls.
Moving forward, effective 8am on June 24th, 2019, Monster Energy prohibits any Monster Girl from promoting (paid or unpaid) any Cannabis brand, Cannabis lifestyle, and/or its merchandise, including but not limited to, apparel, swimwear and accessories on any social media platform. This applies to our Monster Girls worldwide.
We appreciate your cooperation and look forwards to your support with our new policy. Please feel free to reach out with any questions.”
The Cannabis brand they may be referring to is Dan Bilzerian's Ignite Cannabis Co., which offers a line of CBD products. Several models who worked with Monster Energy have also worked with Ignite. One of these models posted a photo of fellow models Dessie Mitcheson, Kayla Fitz, and Billie Jo Powers promoting Cannabis in a “4/20” Instagram post for Ignite.
One of the comments in this post suggested Monster may not hire them back, which appeared to be confirmed in Monster's email to their models. A representative from Ignite responded, saying Ignite would be happy to bring them on board, "(Ignite) wants you to pay your rent on time. I’ll connect you with Bang Energy too. Because Cannabis and CBD brands are nice and inclusive and don’t judge."
If you compare the Monster Girls Instagram account with the Ignite Instagram account, you'll be hard-pressed to find many differences. Still, that didn't stop Monster from forcing these women to choose between working with them or Ignite. With Bilzerian's welcoming attitude, Ignite may be the better option. Monster also clearly ignored what could be a lucrative partnership for them; soft drinks are exploring adding CBD to their formulas.
Social media is one thing; what about the products they produce? Ignite's CBD oil has the following ingredients:
- All-natural, hemp-derived CBD oil
- Fractionated coconut oil (MCT)
- Lavender essential oil
While in Monster Energy, you'll find:
- Carbonated water,
- citric acid,
- taurine, natural flavors,
- sodium citrate,
- Panax ginseng root extract,
- ascorbic acid,
- sodium chloride,
- guarana seed extract,
- pyridoxine hydrochloride,
Most people can't even pronounce those ingredients, much less know what exactly they are. Monster Energy is a mixture of chemicals that look like they were dreamed up in Dr. Jekyll's laboratory, while Ignite's ingredients, all four of them, can be found naturally.
In other words, Monster would rather have their Monster girls promote a toxic mix of chemicals than an all-natural mix designed to alleviate pain.
Stigma in the News
Monster is not alone in its opinion of cannabis and the budding cannabis industry. The conflict between federal and state laws, not to mention the vague wording in existing laws, has caused confusion and frustration for people who rely on CBD products.
Last month, a 69-year-old great grandmother was arrested at Walt Disney World in Florida for having CBD oil to treat her arthritis in her purse. Florida law currently prohibits CBD oil even though it is available on shelves throughout the state. She was eventually released on $2,000 bond, but she was only trying to alleviate her pain. Even a note from her doctor wasn't enough to keep her from being harassed by authorities.
Up until last week, all CBD was considered equal and forbidden by the TSA. Patients who rely on cannabis products were unable to fly with them at all, whether or not they were hemp-derived. Last week, the TSA updated their policy to read:
"Products/medications that contain hemp-derived CBD or are approved by the FDA are legal as long as it is produced within the regulations defined by the law under the Agriculture Improvement Act 2018."
In other words, any hemp-derived CBD product or a product that has been approved by the FDA is allowed to go with you. Currently, the only FDA-approved CBD product is Epidiolex, which is used to treat aggressive forms of epilepsy. Hemp-derived CBD products were included in the Agriculture Improvement Act 2018 passed by Congress and are, therefore, federally legal.
Unfortunately, you're out of luck if you're carrying any CBD product that doesn't include hemp-deprived CBD. You're also way out of luck if you're carrying any THC or THC-infused products, according to the TSA's updated medical marijuana policy:
"Possession of marijuana and cannabis infused products, such as Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, is illegal under federal law. TSA officers are required to report any suspected violation of law, including possession of marijuana and cannabis infused products. TSA’s screening[s] are focused on security and are designed to direct potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but in the event a substance that appears to be marijuana or a cannabis infused product is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer."
To paraphrase George Orwell: All CBD is equal, but some CBD is more equal than others.
The United States government needs to remove cannabis, not just hemp, from Schedule I to allow for research into this beneficial plant. Why is it acceptable for a model to promote a toxic drink and not a natural product? Why is it OK for me to travel with one type of CBD oil but not another? There is a stigma around the word "cannabis" that needs to be shattered.