Celebrity cannabis advocate Montel Williams announced on Wednesday that he has reached a settlement in a lawsuit against a company that allegedly used his name and likeness to sell CBD oil without permission. Under the terms of the settlement, Timothy Isaac of Arizona and various entities he owns or is associated with have agreed to refrain from ever using Williams’ name, image, or likeness in its advertising again. Williams has been an outspoken supporter of medical marijuana and will be a keynote speaker at next week’s Cannabis Science Conference in Baltimore.
“We are very pleased that our clients Mr. Williams and Montel Williams Enterprises were able to amicably resolve this litigation with the named defendants,” lead attorney in the lawsuit Marc Rachman said in a press release. “It is always a challenge to determine who is behind false celebrity endorsements online, but we believe we were successful in ferreting out many of the parties that were involved in the unauthorized use of Mr. Williams’ name and likeness. ”
Seniors and Vets Scammed
Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for Williams, told High Times that after the celebrity announced the launch of his cannabis brand Lenitiv in 2017, scammers began selling their products as if they were Williams’ merchandise or endorsed by him. Articles about his company published by outlets such as Forbes and ABC had been altered and republished online with links that directed to shady e-commerce sites. Once a customer decided to try the products purported to be endorsed by Williams, they would end up being scammed.
“They would sign them up for trials and then lock them into expensive credit card rebilling arrangements where there was really no way to cancel,” Franks said of the defendants.
The unauthorized charges caused overdraft fees for some consumers and led at least one to change bank accounts. Franks said that Lenitiv started getting complaints from consumers who thought they had purchased products from the company but instead got scammed.
“It’s upsetting to hear from senior citizens or veterans or people who are sick who fell for this and got taken for a ride,” he said. “This was not a harmless money-making scheme. They were hurting real people.”
Franks declined to reveal any financial terms of the deal, saying “that part of the settlement is confidential.” He did say, however, that any potential monetary compensation was far outweighed by the costs of the legal action. Profit, according to Franks, was never the goal for Williams.
“I would call this an operation to take back his name in the cannabis space from people that had no right and no business to use it in the first place,” he said.
“Montel’s not the only celebrity that has been targeted by this type of shady marketing activities,” he added. “They’re often ignored because they’re difficult and expensive to address.”
Franks noted that other companies besides the defendants in the lawsuit had also been stopped after using Williams’ name and likeness in their marketing.
“The lawsuit was part of a larger, ongoing effort to hold accountable numerous individuals and entities, who through the use of affiliate network marketing, flooded the internet with false endorsements using Mr. Williams’ name and likeness to deceive consumers into buying CBD products,” he said in the press release. “Thus far, we have settled with several other marketers unrelated to Mr. Isaac who engaged in similar conduct and our ongoing investigation may well result in further legal actions.”
Sorry, Not Sorry?
The defendant denied any wrongdoing in a statement provided to High Times by Franks’ pursuant to terms of the settlement.
“I and my companies never sanctioned the use of Montel Williams’ name or image in the marketing of our CBD oil products,” Isaac said. “We are truly sorry to Mr. Williams and anyone who purchased our CBD Oil products if they were misled into believing that Mr. Williams had endorsed or was otherwise affiliated with these products. I used affiliate networks and affiliate publishers to promote my products and several of them apparently used Mr. Williams’ name and image without permission, although I did not direct them to do so.”