Hip-Hop Meets Pharma: A Case Study for Cannabis Startups in Marketing

In Germany, the legalization of medical cannabis has opened a door not just for patients and physicians but also for marketing professionals and startups in the cannabis sector. A recent incident involving a German hip-hop artist collaborating with a medical cannabis manufacturer has ignited a fiery debate on the ethical and legal boundaries of marketing in this nascent industry.

The Case: Art Meets Commerce

The artist in question openly endorsed a cannabis product in her music video, explicitly highlighting a German medical cannabis manufacturer. This unusual fusion of artistic performance and product placement has sparked a heated debate. Finn Hänsel from the Sanity Group encapsulates the concern: “This topic is tricky… What particularly bothers me is the call to ‘smoke’—as no doctor I know prescribes cannabis with the instruction for the patient to smoke it.”

Reactions: From Admiration to Concern

Responses to this campaign have been mixed. Gero Hohlhaas from the Working Group on Cannabis as Medicine sharply criticizes: “This is not covered by artistic freedom. It’s advertising.” On the flip side, proponents praise the openness and transparency in addressing the topic of cannabis. The debate reveals how the line between advertising and artistic freedom can blur, subject to critical public scrutiny.

“In a society where the stigmatization of patients is still present, I find it worrying when pharmaceutical companies increasingly blur the boundaries between medicine and lifestyle. Medicine should not be advertised like a consumer good and should be free from political, religious or marketing interests.” says Bertan Türemis (

Marketing in the Cannabis Industry: A Minefield

For marketing experts in cannabis startups, this incident offers valuable lessons. Ebu Broda, Head of Marketing at Therismos, cautions: “It can also lead to a backlash and damage the brand. Building a strong brand involves more than hiring a rapper or influencer to promote it.”

Conclusions for Marketing

Cannabis startups face the challenge of promoting their products without violating legal boundaries or engaging in ethically questionable marketing strategies. “The keywords are transparency, education, and focus on medical necessity,” echoes the consensus among experts.


The controversy surrounding the hip-hop artist and the cannabis manufacturer starkly illustrates that marketing in the cannabis industry is a sensitive field, requiring both creative and ethical considerations. It’s crucial for cannabis startups to find a balance between innovative marketing and responsibility towards their customers, always keeping the medical perspective in focus and prioritizing patient education and well-being.

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