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?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is making its way into just about everything lately—lattes, cocktails, lotions, mists, supplements, oils, extracts, and so much more. The public is embracing CBD and its benefits as retailers are watching to see how the emerging industry will impact the future of shopping.
Today’s “canna big bang” is the beginning of a new era for product innovation, and it’s trailblazing a new narrative for the cannabis industry and cannabis retail. Pairing new uses for CBD with compelling brand experiences will shift how we approach more than cannabis, with the hospitality and retail industries watching intently.
Supplementing for Wellness
The vitamin, supplement, and personal care industries were some of the first to fully embrace the medicinal benefits of CBD. In 2018, 44% of the conversations around CBD were focused on using it for its medicinal qualities— and today, those conversations are becoming reality.
For example, the CBD Lounge in Covington, Ky., curates experiences fueled by CBD and offers one-on-one consultations to find the best personalized CBD personal care products for clients. This approach is about more than educating the community; it’s also helping rebuild the narrative around the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Similarly, modern skincare and supplement lines, such as MOOD, have integrated CBD into just about every product, professing its many benefits and applications. Brands like Mender have developed a full body care lineup of CBD-infused products including deodorant, lip balm, body cream, and more.
To accommodate different consumer preferences, brands are getting creative in how they use CBD. Recent research has found strong evidence that CBD can be used as a sleep aid and for stress and anxiety reduction. Pain relief lotions claim CBD is an anti-inflammatory, whereas pillow mists capitalize on its calming, anxiety-reducing qualities. Oils and oral supplements are said to combat issues with intimacy, and creams and lotions alleviate skin conditions such as psoriasis. Some CBD supplements are said even to slow aging!
Given that the cannabis industry is still relatively new, there’s a gap between hard evidence of its true effects and product claims. However, many CBD brands include complementary ingredients in their products that are proven to deliver a solution. For example, many CBD pillow mists include lavender and chamomile, which are known to have calming, sleep-inducing qualities. This approach has helped brands collaborate, ultimately creating a gateway for CBD products into retail spaces.
Looking into the future of supplements and skincare, we’re seeing a new take on products through self-mixing of independent CBD oils like Exhale, and individual CBD supplements such as Sunsoil vegan CBD capsules. Influencers are using it topically or mixing it into products to pursue positive results. This opens the door to more discoveries regarding the benefits of CBD and the growth of this deeply personalized approach to skincare and supplements.
CBD lounges and bars are gaining popularity as places to relax or socialize. Entrepreneurs are finding ways to offer full CBD experiences through more than just stores.
In Cleveland, Tiger Lily at Electric Gardens entered the scene last year serving up CBD cocktails and organic wines in a beautiful atmosphere. Cocktails can be made virgin with CBD to provide a relaxing experience without the risk of a rough morning following. This concept is also engaging a growing market of alcohol-free guests.
Many CBD lounges are incorporating more into their spaces than a bar. The Summit Lounge in Worcester, Mass. hosts cannabis tastings, live music, and paint and video game nights giving people more reasons to visit these new destinations.
It’s only a matter of time until craft brews and alcohol-free spirits centered on CBD will dominate the market. Coffee shops, like CBD (Coffee Brewed Differently) in Phoenix, Ariz., is in on the fun, offering CBD-infused lattes and drinks, and even selling individual CBD capsules.
CBD culture is in its inception and yet we expect tourism surrounding it to explode as these destination experiences grow. International cannabis tourism is already starting to expand with residents in cannabis-restricted countries visiting green countries to partake in canna-culture. That same enthusiasm and interest, met with physical and cultural experiences, will move mountains for the cannabis industry, of which CBD is a part.
A New Kind of Retail Experience
CBD products are deserving of unique shopping and brand-interactive experiences. Having very few industry predecessors (aside from hemp) gives CBD and cannabis companies the chance to blow the top off the typical retail experience. There is a stigma and sense of distrust of cannabis products due to decades of marketing and campaigning against marijuana. However, the experiential factor the industry is bringing to consumers is breaking down barriers and changing hearts and minds surrounding cannabis.
We’re watching the cannabis industry embrace hyper-niche, localized branding and store environments that are changing how we expect our retail spaces to feel and operate. Toronto dispensaries, such as Superette and Alchemy, are winning the game with their detailed approach to brand that penetrates everything from packaging, store design, and even merchandising a diverse mix of unrelated products that speak to its soul. Both brands perfectly demonstrate the boundless freedom cannabis brands are willing to experiment with—from Superette’s whimsical, bold pop-art supermarket aisles to the opposite high-end, luxurious, avant-garde showrooms of Alchemy.
The cannabis industry is actively putting design at the forefront of their guest experience as it provides perfectly curated brand interactions. Consumers can wake up and choose a store based on how they want to feel or what they want to experience that day, knowing they’ll get great products at both. This hyper-niche, design-forward thinking will start to bleed into other industries as consumers expect personalization more than ever before.
The interesting, beautiful, and hyper-specific experiences these new stores offer give the chance for fun and playful interaction with their brands and products. If niche, aesthetic experiences are growing more important to consumers, think of the countless retail spaces we interact with that will change as a result. CBD and cannabis brands have opened the gateway to immersive retail experiences and interaction, and it’s only a matter of time before we see the ripples these companies will cause in other industries.
Login to ASG
Enter the username or e-mail you used in your profile. A password reset link will be sent to you by email.