Taking Cannabis for the 1%
Figure 1. Luxury cannabis retailers are an inevitability in a popular end-user market (1).
There will always be something that separates that 1% from the rest of us, the haves from the have-not’s. Cannabis has historically, at least since the 70’s, been synonymously perceived as an egalitarian, hippy-dippy venture that espouses counter-culture and reformation. However, with the advent of the current adult-use market, Capitalism is reminding us that cannabis is a business like any other. And like any business, there will be certain elements that try to gear towards the rich, the wealthy, the 1% among us.
A successful brand has the capacity to change an everyday product into something more, to elevate it into a perception of wealth and luxury unmatched by competitors. Beyond superior craftsmanship, work by hand, or any other deciding factor, it is the perception of a brand that brings it up the level of the Olympians and sets it up as a Luxury brand.
This idea, exploited since time immemorial, is not being brought to cannabis. Already, several ventures have gone up espousing themselves as “High-End Cannabis.” In Colorado, Veritas Fine Cannabis is going back to their roots. Mike Leibowitz, founder and owner of Veritas, says that what sets apart their cannabis and their brand is not just the potency of their cannabis or even the smell, but the way the cannabis flower has been manicured, the density of the bud, and the way it looks in a jar (2).
Figure 2. Part of the cannabis couture will be brands that are accepted as luxurious by the general public (3).
As part of their ethos, and similar to many other high-end brands in different consumer markets, Leibowitz refuses to automate any aspect of their manufacturing process, priding themselves on performing each of the necessary steps by hand. An example of a luxury brand that claim their high quality comes from a lack of automation include Lush Cosmetics, which hand-mixes all their own soaps and cosmetics. It is a strategy widely employed in many industries. The increase in the amount of time spent on manufacturing each product is subconsciously correlated by many consumers to an increase in quality. Could it be a fallacy?
Figure 3. The high-end cannabis market will depend clear signs of differentiation, accentuated by gargantuan price points which will serve as barriers to entry (4).
Another well-known VIP Cannabis dispensary is owned by the publicly-traded company Diego Pellicer. Maker of the infamous $3,600 ‘Cannagar,’Pellicer brands have since also popped up in Denver, Colorado as well. Working on the premise that some people will pay a premium for a VIP experience, Diego Pellicer actually rents out his brand to franchisees (1).
We at CPN view the development and growth of luxury cannabis brands as an inevitability. As the consumer market for cannabis grows, the taboo around it will fade. And a fading taboo will entice more wealthy consumers. When full, Federal legalization finally takes place, what is to stop a successful luxury cannabis brand from appearing alongside cruises, golf clubs, and yachts? Sip your Blue Label together with a gram of Blue Dream? Establishments have always vied for the attention of the wealthy; cannabis establishments will be no different.