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From off-the-street to mature marijuana

In the light of the growing marijuana market brands are competing to establish themselves as the go-to trusted provider. Smart-design will be key to changing customer perception.


While medical use of the drug provides a strong argument for legalisation, interest in lifestyle and recreational uses of the drug is increasingly entering into the conversation. Growing demand means the marijuana market is set to be worth $146.4b by 2025 (PR Newswire, 2017).

The legalisation debate is going global, from Canada’s liberal approach, to upcoming plans allowing UK doctors to prescribe medical cannabis. And it’s not just medical uses of marijuana that are gaining traction, 82% of Brits support legalising medical marijuana (Sky, 2018) and 51% support full legalisation (Independent, 2018). Amsterdam’s reputation as weed-capital of Europe has been challenged in recent years, as a legal loop hole means private members-clubs are being established all over Spain. One such club, Verde, is focused on the recreational and social side of marijuana consumption catering a wide range of customers, with varied products available. And there is clearly demand for easier access to the drug, with some clubs making an estimated $6m sales per month.


With marijuana a hot topic in the US over the past few years, US-born companies are leading the way. Medmen, the ‘Apple of cannabis retail, combines product provenance and accessible expertise to create a contemporary experience. Customers are required to check-in to the store, before browsing a range of products, from oils to pre-rolled spliffs, and purchasing from service-focused staff. Education is key and each product is accompanied by a tablet for customers to discover and learn.
Earlier this year Medmen made a strong statement for full-legalisation, opening a store on 5th Avenue in New York, even though less than 0.1% of the city’s population are currently able to purchase as registered medical marijuana patients. The brand is now in the midst of the biggest ever marijuana acquisition in the US, acquiring producer PharmaCann for $682m.


As laws relax and products launch, changing perception of the drug is key. Negative perceptions are still common, and impact businesses, as shown when Tesla shares crashed 6% after Elon Musk smoked a joint during an interview. As legal usage grows, brands are moving on from garish bongs, and approaching marijuana through a more mature lens. Serra is looking to change perception by selling elegantly designed marijuana accessories in a space with an aesthetic to match. The dispensary even produces lifestyle-style tutorial videos such as ‘How to roll a cone joint’. Vice is also taking a lifestyle approach to marijuana with its Bong Appétit cannabis-cookbook features high-end recipes for a more sophisticated experience.

As demand increases globally, brands are looking to challenge the stereotypical ‘pot-smoker’ demographic, creating targeted products for new niches. From female-focused marijuana magazine Broccoli, to products specially formulated for women from Fleurish Cannabis that acknowledge the different rates of metabolism men and women have, and how that influences their experience.

Marijuana is definitely having a moment, it seems cannabis is the new bitcoin and stocks are through the roof. When Coca Cola revealed plans to invest in cannabis infused beverages, rumours that their partner would be medical marijuana producer Aurora, boosted the growers’ shares 17% in one day (ABC Canada, 2018). This external validation may seem promising, however hopes of a bright future of legalisation lack detail on what this future looks like and smart-design will be key in changing customer perception and opening the drug up to a mainstream market.

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