Lit Up Luxury: Infusion of a Cannabis Culture

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close-up Pineapple Express, Dazed and Confused and Up in Smoke don’t exactly give viewers confidence in the work ethics of young marijuana entrepreneurs. Weed has never had many “ambitious” advocates, and most media portrayals involve men in their thirties still living on their mother’s couch in clouds of smoke.

For a long time, marijuana turned off Wall Street businessmen the same way that it stank up a teenager’s car, distinctly and forcibly. The distain for the drug rose from a long precedented archetype of hippies and stoners, who were considered useless to the economy. Today, the "lazy pot smoker" has become a savvy business partner to Wall Street execs, and an investor in an industry known as Big Marijuana.

The legal marijuana industry began, of course, in Colorado in 2014 with small mom-and-pop businesses that had little to lose when investing in a barely legal product. Oregon, Alaska, Washington, and D.C. soon followed in Colorado’s footsteps, and in the November 2016 presidential election, several additional states voted to legalize recreational use of the drug. But the trend towards legalization poses the question to big shot businessmen everywhere: Is cannabis the new jackpot vice of American consumers?

According to cannabis analytics firm GreenWave Advisors, big, green bucks are waiting to be exploited from a potential marketplace of approximately 30 million recreational users. Gold rush, meet green rush. The needs of these consumers are diverse and relatively untapped, due to a hesitant start from businesses that want to avoid legal controversy. Hate to break it to you, Corporate America, but “The monkey’s out of the bottle, man.”

Alcoholic beverage corporations have a stake in the marijuana biz, too, with hemp flavored vodka and Mary Jane Wines making a dent in what we formerly referred to as a cocktail.

Studies conducted by Cannabiz Consumer Group show that 27% of beer drinkers have either switched to cannabis or would do so were it legal in their state. It’s no question that cannabis as a substitution can threaten long-established industries like beer and liquor, but many leaders in these industries have decided to row with the current, rather than against it. Infused drinks are the talk of the future.

Even wine snobs might need to open their tasting palates to greener pastures.

Small dispensaries still own the market, but Wall Street execs beware: creativity and raw ambition are paving the way for a large-scale market takeover.

Marijuana is no longer the same taboo drug it was years ago. In fact, some of its biggest fans are the former shamers of the so-called “gateway” drug. That’s right. Weed is more popular today among middle-aged Americans than it is among teenagers.

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The shift in user demographics brings with it a new slew of questions about the uses and opportunities of the plant. We’ve seen it before. The legalization of once-illicit activities results in diminished excitement. While pot is still illegal in many states, smoking pot behind your rundown movie theater or in the backyard woods is becoming largely unnecessary.

Now, there is a new type of high: a luxury high. Consuming cannabis in a lofty high-rise is becoming a habit of the rich. Not only are the methods pricey—vaporizers, bubblers, grinders, tasters, pipes—but the emphasis on smoking to get high has, in many places, turned into an emphasis on the bougie ways to get high.

One new practice involves weed pairings, where certain strains of the THC drug are used with the intention to bring out flavors in paired foods. Some luxury consumers even subscribe to services like AuBox that send them new edibles and accessories each month. (With alternatives based on your needs and preferences—drowsy high or adventurous high—at $150 a box.)

One of the most successful brands to take advantage of this culture change is Marley Natural, a Bob Marley-inspired cannabis seller that also offers smoking accessories and hemp body products. Now in its second year, Marley Natural strives to become the primary luxury brand for quality marijuana and related services. A Starbucks of weed, if you will.

Big Marijuana has impacted the strategies of its competitors—beer, wine and liquor—as well as the innovations in tech and even the music industry. ArcView Market Research estimates that the legal marijuana market will be worth more than $22 billion by 2020. Some even say $40 billion. But with this trend towards mass celebration of the drug, particularly by Americans with high disposable income, there’s no telling where this industry will lead.