The KISS legend famously doesn't touch drugs or alcohol. What's going on?
Gene Simmons is famous for a few things, like being a member of KISS, and having an obscene tongue and the braggadocio to match. It's a reputation that seems at odds with another famed trait of his: straight-edge living. The 68-year-old musician and entrepreneur has never smoked or done drugs in his life, and doesn't touch alcohol. Which made it so surprising to hear that he has recently been named "Chief Evangelist Officer" for Vancouver's Invictus MD—a cannabis company. It's not the only thing the notoriously marketing-savvy Simmons has on the go right now–he's got a deal with 7-Eleven in the works, is set to release a $2,000 KISS box set and a new book about celebrities dying at 27, and is planning a world tour—but his connection with Invictus definitely gives one reason to take pause. Why would someone so staunchly against drugs sign on to "evangelize" them? For one, there's money to be made (and history has shown that Simmons loves money). Invictus has been slyly raising capital and acquiring companies with Canadian cultivation licences since 2014, providing growers with capital for expansion, and is now poised to spring into action as a distributor when recreational marijuana is legalized on October 17 of this year. "It’s about speed to market," explains Dan Kriznic, the chairman, founder and director for Invictus. "The provinces aren’t even really ready for this and it's gonna be a nightmare for the first little bit...but we’re ready to go." Invictus is one of many cannabis companies to approach Simmons for investment dollars, but it seems as though Simmons has bet on the right horse: Invictus's website has been a flurry of activity the past few days, announcing a new supply agreement with the BC Liquor Distribution Branch, a collaboration with branding company ABG to launch lifestyle-inspired product lines and the acquisition of new strains and farmland. Simmons claims, however, that his involvement isn't all about the money (though Invictus tellingly trades under the name GENE). As "CEO," his role goes far beyond that of an investor: "We wanted a storyteller," says Kriznic. Gene Simmons and Invectus founder Dan Kriznic at one of the cannabis farms under Invictus' ownership. Though he still isn't personally imbibing, Simmons now is eager to admit his change of heart and spread the cannabis gospel. "I was not at all informed. I was arrogant and dismissive," says Simmons. "As I was learning more, I just couldn't avoid it. New research is coming up every day—today we were talking about the FDA just approved a product to relieve seizures. Lobbying groups and big pharma aren't thrilled of course. But minds are turning around: we’ve been subjected to 'reefer madness' in the past, the idea that cannabis will make you act like Jekyl and Hyde, but you can’t avoid the research." For Simmons and Kriznic, the promise of legalization isn't necessarily in the recreational user, but the accessibility for those with health problems. "I'm not here to tell you to do it recreationally or not, but I’ll tell you this: if my doctor told me my child was sick and it could be cured with cannabis, what mother or father isn't going to use it?" says Simmons. "Legislators need to go do the research and learn more—the more informed you are, the more sane it’ll be." Things are moving quickly in this industry, so this rock-and-roll teetotaller likely isn't the last surprise we'll have as the cannabis economy evolves. "In an emerging market like this, one year is like 10 years," says Kriznic. "When you're out there building your brand, you need story. You need someone to follow. You need a Moses."