From metallic vapes in prismatic shapes to pre-rolled joints packaged in jewel boxes, the world of marijuana has never offered so many options for today’s tastemakers.
One need look no further than the recent opening of Barneys’ new shop-in-shop, The High End in Beverly Hills—where sculptural bongs by master glassblower Caleb Siemon sit on glimmering chrome shelves next to organic rolling papers by legendary stationer Devambez—for proof that weed is the modern aesthete’s favorite new accessory.
But weed might also be the athlete’s (or at least the green juice-sipping yogi’s) favorite new accessory. In California in particular—where the market has exploded ever since recreational marijuana became legal just over a year ago—the most intriguing and enterprising new brands are focusing more on the wellness benefits than the buzz, offering specially-formulated blends of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids that promise to relieve pain, amp up sexual desire, or increase metal focus. For these brands, it’s more than just merely looking cool (though many of them do that, too).
“More and more people are coming to cannabis looking for a solution to a problem,” says Gunner Winston of Dosist, a brand that sells medical-grade vape pens designed to deliver precisely 2.25 milligram “doses” of cannabis per hit. The vapes—which come in six different formulations and have names like “Arouse” and “Sleep”—are so popular that the brand recently opened a sparkling new flagship on Venice’s trendy Abbot Kinney street. “It’s not about recreation and intoxication anymore; it’s about wellness and natural solutions,” he explains. To that end, he’s calling the new shop a “Wellness Experience,” not a dispensary; with its modular shelves and white-on-white interior, it looks more like an Apple store or medi-spa than a traditional head shop.
Taking a prescriptive-based approach to cannabis and offering it in a clean, well-lit space isn’t solely about jumping on the wellness bandwagon—it’s also a savvy way to attract more female consumers to an industry that’s historically catered more to males. “Just look at the biggest dispensary chain—it even has a the word ‘men’ in its name,” muses Hema Patel, who recently launched Roam, a cannabis brand specifically geared toward those who self-identify as females. (The dispensary Patel is referring to is, of course, MedMen, which now boasts over 20 locations across Nevada, New York, Florida, and Arizona, as well as its home state of California.) Patel does seem to be on to something: At a recent dinner celebrating the launch of Roam in Los Angeles, several women in attendance expressed frustration that most dispensaries and cannabis products feel so utterly masculine. “What’s with all the aggressive black and red branding they all have?” one women scoffed. By contrast, Patel’s Roam vapes are pastel-colored and soft to the touch. To further enhance the sensory experience, each of the four available “journeys”—which are formulated for relaxation, connection, focus, or fun—are inspired by different cities, and flavored with aromatics like rose, tropical fruit, or berries. “We wanted to make cannabis accessible to the large and underserved market of women who were canna-curious but found nothing that spoke to them,” she explains.
Anna Ho, the director of growth for Sunday Goods, a brand that recently launched a line of “Effect” vape pens in four blends of “cannabis terpenes and aromatherapy to fit every occasion” has noticed that the wellness and women approach is working—even catching fire in states where recreational cannabis isn’t yet legal. “I was in Austin recently and was surprised to see that the Goop store carries cannabis accessories—even in Texas. That speaks to the way in which the intersection between cannabis and wellness is one of the drivers of bringing cannabis more into the mainstream,” she says. “It’s a great way of introducing the plant to new market segments that may not be thought of as the ‘traditional’ cannabis consumers.”
But Ho is careful to note that the focus on wellness shouldn’t be downplayed as a trend or marketing gimmick. “Cannabis as a tool for self care and medicine has been around for a very long time and the potential positive benefits to people who are suffering is real,” she says.
Ultimately, education and research is key—and something that many brands say is the priority. “On a personal level, cannabis has helped me manage anxiety and chronic pain—the unwind for my body and mind allows me to fully live in the present,” says Maggie Connors, founder of Besito, which offers hexagonal-shaped vapes in three all-natural, flavored formulas. “Thankfully, the stigma caused by 80 years of criminalization is changing and is reflected not only by shifting regulations but also by more people taking an interest in the plant’s medical benefits. We need regulations and capital to further support scientific research of this plant.”