The best cannabis dispensaries are designed to be memorable spaces—both aesthetically pleasing and functional. And when they are owned by a celebrity, well, you expect to see their famous persona interjected into the space. With nearly half of Americans living in a legal cannabis state, marijuana has gone mainstream—and plenty of famous cannabis users are betting on the burgeoning industry with cannabis retail endeavors of their own, creating innovative retail spaces and experiences.
Elevating Cannabis Retail Experience
Every shopper, regardless of the product, wants to move seamlessly through the funnel while feeling both familiar with the process and intrigued by innovation. Shoppers want to be entertained, find what they are looking for, and ensure all their questions and concerns are addressed. Today’s consumers are sophisticated, and they will increasingly shop for an experience over a product. When you can purchase the same product from a variety of retailers, where are you going to spend your time and money? The retailer offering the experience that most aligns to your expectations and desires.
“Cannabis brands of all sizes, from multistate operators to mom-and-pop shops, have stepped up to the challenge of rising consumer expectations,” said Kathee Brewer, editorial director at trade journal mg Magazine. “Whether online or in-person, contemporary dispensaries are pushing the boundaries of the retail experience, opening new avenues for consumer exploration and washing away the negative connotations of the past. With experiential activities, futuristic design, whiz-bang technology, and more, the cannabis retail environment is forging ahead into a new era.”
Last year a new kind of cannabis retailer, The Woods, opened with a dispensary and consumption lounge in West Hollywood, focusing on organic, sun-grown, California strains. There you can find everything from smoking apparatuses to flower and edibles all in a gorgeous space that feels like you’ve been transported out of busy LA into a tranquil oasis. The Ganja Giggle Garden offers state-of-the-art air filters, climate control, and luxurious views of the luscious gardens and koi pond. You can even rent a private cabana and chill in the consumption lounge.
Harrelson is not the only celebrity who focuses on every detail. Actor, Comedian, and Filmmaker Seth Rogen, owner of Houseplant, hand picks and personally tests each cannabis strain his lifestyle brand sells online and through retail partners. He sells his hand-picked strains in pre-rolled artisan-crafted joints available at select California dispensaries. Houseplant offers ashtrays, lighters, and lifestyle products for sale online—including the “By Seth” line of products that “draw inspiration from original designs or items from Seth’s personal collection, while others embody his profound admiration for ashtrays.”
Cookies co-founder and rapper Berner “built the brand from humble beginnings in the Bay Area to a worldwide lifestyle brand.” Considered “America’s first legal weed empire,” the Cookies brand is thought to be worth at least $1 billion; the Cookies clothing line alone did over $50 million in sales in 2021. The brand is continuing its expansion path; between 2018 and 2022, Cookies grew from zero to 49 retail marijuana dispensaries. The company also added two flagship clothing stores, in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Its two-story Las Vegas retail flagship is being redesigned to emphasize experiential elements like a vortex entry, hologram booth, craps table, and rap station.
Rapper and entrepreneur Berner’s brand boomed when friend rapper Wiz Khalifa began rapping about Cookies.
Josephine & Billie’s
The first dispensary by and for women of color, Josephine & Billie’s in south Los Angeles transports visitors to a speakeasy in the Harlem Renaissance. Named for the Jazz-era icons Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday who were once persecuted for their cannabis use, the vibe is cool and contemporary while harking back to the Harlem speakeasies and tea pads of the 1920s and 30s where Black thinkers, musicians, artists and activists would gather and discuss social issues over a joint and jazz. With events like Tea and Terpenes and regular board game nights and record release parties, the aim is to build community among women within the predominantly Black and brown neighborhood they serve. If you’re there, drop the not-so-secret passphrase, “Billie sent me,” for access to the backroom lounge filled with books about history and social justice.
You can’t talk about cannabis experiences without mentioning Planet 13. Co-CEO Larry Scheffler knows people visit Las Vegas for spectacle, so he created the world’s largest cannabis dispensary—an elaborate, jaw-dropping retail destination. Picture this: you walk through the doors and are greeted by vibrant psychedelic lights dancing across the walls, illuminating an expansive space that feels more like a futuristic theme park than a dispensary. Interactive elements include 15-foot tall giant interactive lotus flowers, an outdoor water feature with LED lights and fog, and a glowing aerial orb show high above the dispensary floor. Its Santa Ana dispensary features an 89-foor digital waterfall, a computerized interactive beach, and a 16-foot octopus sculpture. If you are headed to Vegas in 2024, visit Cannabition, a 12,000 square-foot “whimsical and visually breathtaking environment, tailor-made for cannabis enthusiasts seeking an awe-inspiring and Instagrammable experience.”
With a handful of California locations and one coming soon to Michigan, Dr. Greenthumb’s have been open in California since the early years of recreational legalization. The vibe reflects their anti-establishment roots as a champion of legacy culture. Dr. Greenthumb’s may have retro vibes, but they are at the forefront when it comes to immersive, tech-driven retail experiences that help drive the brand story. For example, when you pick up a package in their stores, a screen activates and educates you about the strain and allows you to add it to your digital shopping cart. Focusing on omnichannel storytelling and high-touch service is an incredible differentiator, but in-store tech is only one way the brand is exploring innovative ways to show their connection to the culture.
Cypress Hill frontman and 30-year cannabis advocate B-Real owns the dispensaries, as well as the cannabis brands Insane and Dr. Greenthumb.
Today the market is ripe for innovative new retail experiences and cannabis is greenfield for exploring how to use brand story, unique spaces, and star power to elevate retail. What can other retailers learn from these high-profile, celeb-connected cannabis experiences? Will they find inspiration in or motivation from the way cannabis brands are reimagining the in-store experience?