Cannabis companies are a growing trend for celebrities. Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel, has his own brand. Shocking no one, Seth Rogen is in the business. But Sacha Baron Cohen, the star of Borat movies? Absolutely not. Never. You’ll never see him have his own brand, and you’ll never see him supporting one. According to the actor’s attorney, he’s never used cannabis and never will, for any amount of money. Unlike many in Hollywood, Sacha Baron Cohen believes that using cannabis isn’t a healthy choice and he would never want to be associated with anything that supported it. So you can imagine that he was not at all happy when he found out his image was being used on a billboard, saying a particular cannabis brand was “nice”. Now, he’s suing the company.
The lawsuit is being filed against Solar Therapeutics, a sustainable cannabis company based in Massachusetts. The company grows its plants using solar energy and generally focuses its growing practices on having a smaller footprint. Sacha Baron Cohen is suing the company for copyright infringement, false advertising, and misappropriation of his right of publicity. Basically, they took an image of Cohen’s famous Borat character and put it on a Massachusetts billboard. The picture had him giving his character’s signature thumbs up and saying, “It’s nice!”. They didn’t pay him and they didn’t ask his permission.
In this day and age, that hardly seems like something a company could do in ignorance. They had to know they weren’t allowed to do that, right? Copyright infringement at its most basic seems like common knowledge, and definitely like something you’d be aware of when going to place a billboard. That’s what Sacha Baron Cohen thinks. He has asserted that he believes Solar Therapeutics “took a gamble”. That they hoped the Borat star would simply not find out that there was a billboard somewhere in Massachusetts with his face on it, or that he would be too busy to care if he did hear about it. He did notice, though, and apparently, he does have time.
The actor says that he is protective of his image and his brand. That he doesn’t believe that cannabis is a healthy choice for people. And even if he did support cannabis usage, the Borat star doesn’t take corporate deals. He says that he’s been offered deals many times, but that he believes that would undermine his credibility both as an actor and as a social activist.
Solar Therapeutics has only issued statements through its lawyers. They’d noted that they took down the billboard as soon as Sacha Baron Cohen’s lawyers sent in a cease and desist letter, and then said that they can’t comment further on an active case. They haven’t expressed if they were surprised by Cohen’s reaction or if they’re at all sorry about how much this billboard upset him. Even if they’re not regretful of how much the Borat star seems offended by the billboard, they must now be regretting the move. Cohen’s lawyers seem set on suing for damages, which may turn out to be a hard loss for the company.