The Emergence of Luxury Cannabis
In the 1960s, middle America saw marijuana as a tool of the hippies: a gateway drug poised to demoralize our youth and incite drug addiction. Times, they are a-changing: public perception of cannabis as a taboo illicit drug has seemingly vanished, as ex-hippies have now become parents, if not grandparents. Mainstream businesses and entrepreneurs have entered the market specifically to cater to new cannabis consumers seeking a sophisticated experience more than the high.
Nearly one in three Americans now live in a state where cannabis is legal for recreational use. The pandemic has advanced the dissolution of old stigmas with many states legitimizing cannabis use both as a true therapy for patients and as a revenue builder for depleted coffers.
Women Driving Sales
The evolving cannabis landscape has sifted consumer demographics, demands and purchasing behavior. Cannabis consumers are spending roughly 25-30% more per purchase today than they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, opening doors to the introduction of higher-priced, premium products. Women, who control trillions in spending power, are the fastest-growing demographic of cannabis consumers. Alcohol is being replaced with cannabis as people increasingly focus on health and wellness. High-end cannabis services like marijuana sommeliers are now a real thing.
More and more women are launching female-focused brands to better serve the growing base of female customers. New and existing cannabis consumers are increasingly seeking better-quality products. The movement has spurred the development of innovative products and brands taking cues from luxury fashion, hospitality, and food groups, from Louis Vuitton to Ladurée, elevating the entire industry.
Unlike fashion, where luxury is conspicuous, luxury cannabis is rooted in self-care and wellness with the added touch of indulgence and self-expression. This makes it even more appealing to Millennials and Gen Z consumers who have a more nuanced relationship with the luxury sector. The pandemic has put health and well-being at the forefront and luxury cannabis is becoming a recognized place for affluent consumers to turn to.
In March 2019, high-end retailer Barneys New York became the first major American department store to introduce a cannabis lifestyle shop with the launch of The High End at its Beverly Hills flagship location. The retail behemoth partnered with upscale cannabis vaporizer and edible pastilles brand, Beboe, to bring the luxury wellness retail concept to life.
Jonathan Adler, iconic designer of modern home decor, teamed up with luxury retailer and cannabis lifestyle brand Higher Standards to design a capsule collection of cannabis-inspired accessories that includes glossy trays, catchalls, and coasters.
Others are creating sister brands melding cannabis with the extravagant lifestyle. Fully merging the worlds of fashion and cannabis, Flower by Edie Parker offers upscale, colorful smoking accessories and fun cannabis products to the luxury female consumer.
Given the lack of cannabis products designed specifically with women in mind, Edie Parker isn’t the only female-forward cannabis brand that has emerged. Her Highness is another such premium purveyor of cannabis couture that’s bringing to market luxury cannabis and THC-infused self-care products inspired by and engineered by women.
Celebrities are also developing their own cannabis brands, elevating the cannabis game with famous personalities. Jay-Z partnered with California-based cannabis company Caliva to create MONOGRAM, yet another premium cannabis brand. Launched in December 2020, the high-end line includes five different strains of craft, indoor-grown cannabis flower and joints, retailing for nearly twice the average at $40 for two grams.
Earlier this year, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg launched Houseplant, a purveyor of custom cannabis strains and artisan home goods and smoking accessories. Products in the latter collection, some handmade by Rogan himself, range in price from $250-$350.
New Concepts Draw In Premium Consumers
Beyond physical products, we’re also seeing a rise in novel experiences designed for the premium consumer. From cannabis hotels and lounges to art galleries and spas, there’s a multitude of cannabis hospitality concepts either under way or already in operation.
Humboldt Social and Papa & Barkley unveiled Papa & Barkley Social, a first-of-its-kind cannabis lounge, day spa, restaurant, and boutique, not coincidentally on the past 4/20. The concept introduces a new kind of cannabis indulgence, creating a space where locals and tourists alike can browse local swag, smoke high-quality cannabis, grab lunch and relax with a CBD facial.
Meanwhile, Palm Springs awaits the opening of The Grape House, a luxury cannabis-centric boutique hotel development that includes a dispensary-shop featuring a curated mix of upscale cannabis, accessories, and apparel, accompanied by a restaurant and smoking parlor.
Root’d is rethinking the cannabis consumption lounge by combining high-quality cannabis with elite customer service and live events like comedy, music, yoga, and sports viewing parties in a luxe-designed space.
Premium hotel chains from the fashionable and stylish Soho House to the more traditional Accor Hotel Group are actively looking to integrate CBD products into their in-room amenities, a trend that will undoubtedly continue to propagate throughout the hospitality industry.
Touring For Luxe
After a year on pause, travel is resuming with popular tourist destinations reopening. The revival of cannabis tourism mixed with the prohibition of cannabis trade across state lines will spawn travel for luxury cannabis shopping. Similar to how affluent consumers will fly to Milan for haute couture fashion, others may visit Las Vegas or California to indulge in high-end cannabis products.
Las Vegas experienced one of the sharpest declines in cannabis sales at the onset of COVID-19, caused in part by a 97% drop in tourism. But people are eager to see the bright lights and Blackjack tables once again. Casinos and cannabis aren’t the only attractions on Las Vegas’ infamous Strip – they share the fame with one of the highest concentrations of luxury retail in the U.S. that reels in a high volume of national and international tourists. With dispensaries now neighboring high-end retail like Hermès, Chanel and Gucci, the return of Las Vegas’ tourism is bound to generate greater interest in cannabis as a luxury lifestyle product.
On the East Coast, New York’s recreational cannabis market is expected to open early next year. Expect to see cannabis side-by-side with the high-end 5th Avenue storefronts. Everything on 5th Avenue is extravagant, and cannabis stores will be no different. With a record-high 66.6 million tourists in 2019, New York City’s luxury cannabis market has a chance to take off once visitors return in full force.
The Arrival of Luxury Cannabis
Strong momentum from businesses and consumers alike are propelling the luxury cannabis market’s growth. We can expect more brands and industries to capitalize on the growing public acceptance of weed and extend an arm into luxury cannabis, following the likes of Alexander Wang and Viktor&Rolf.
Cannabis has an updated reputation, and the market will respond accordingly. Every category of retail has a spectrum of products from value to luxury, cannabis included. What we’re seeing today is only the beginning of what the high-end cannabis lifestyle can ultimately become.
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