If You Build It… you know the rest.
On January 23rd, 2019, Forbes published an article titled, Cannabis Cafes are Coming. Today, October 1st of the same year, I’m telling you they are already here.
As my friend and I walked up to the sketchy and dank side-street location I had been What’s App’d, I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place. We stood outside one of those industrial freight elevators for a few minutes, before realizing that it didn’t work and walked inside. Seeing a string of kitchens and a waiting room-type setting… and still thinking I was in the wrong spot, I was only told I had arrived by one indicator: the overpowering smell that slapped me in the face as the elevator opened.
Knowing we were on the right track, but still not expecting what was to come next, we got into the elevator with a security guard who didn’t seem phased by the pungent and hot odor that accompanied us in the lift. Anyways, we get upstairs, we get searched, and they tour us through their two-sided establishment. In shock and sticking out like a sore thumb that was definitely there for the first time, I couldn’t help but think that we were in the prime era of Cannabis Prohibition. The thick cloud of smoke that envelopes you as you walk in has to be eerily similar to the hot and choking cloud of alcohol vapor and sweat that would form in stuffy, underground speakeasies back in the 1920’s.
So why is this important? Well, Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café is already set to open this Summer and if it successful, many more in the legal market will follow while people in the still illicit market, like where I am, attempt to replicate. More important still, in my opinion, is that the more cannabis café’s, restaurants, and bars continue to open, the more commonplace the behavior will become among consumers and the more commonplace certain brands will become.
Starting with the first point, I mentioned feeling like I was in the prime era of, what I will call, Canna-bition. Another comment that struck my attention was him saying that he would never see himself just going to a place where you just smoked or consumed cannabis. To which I replied, “isn’t that what you do with alcohol at a bar? And sometimes you consume enough alcohol that you want to go talk to a girl.” Seeing his argument had no leg to stand on, he agreed and that’s when it hit me. We are both thinking that this whole situation is weird right now. And it was! We were illegally consuming cannabis in a public setting with other people around us doing the same. It was mind-blowing. But in order to destigmitize cannabis and bring us from the era of Canna-bition to Canna-lization, normalization is critical.
On the basis on making brands more commonplace, think about 3 different bars that you attend regularly. Everything from the name to the music and atmosphere is unique to that specific venue, but what they serve is always the same. Every bar has the same type of vodka, whiskey, tequila, etc. This will be the ultimate goal for certain cannabis brands. How do you get every café selling Mood33 or putting Canndescent pre-rolls on their dessert menu. This is both the challenge and opportunity that I see for this aspect of the cannabis industry that is just now beginning to emerge because of regulations.
So there are two extremes – on one end we have illicit club scenes that are distributing and allowing the consumption of cannabis. On the other end of the spectrum, and country, we have the first fully legal cannabis club that will allow consumption in a variety of forms. Both will have an impact on the cannabis industry and I see elimination of stigma as well as giving brands the platform to become the Coca-Cola or Bud Light of Cannabis.