- Dionne Roberts
ith the legalization of recreational sales, the cannabis industry is undergoing a makeover to appeal to a new and growing consumer demographic.
There are still plenty of drab, boxy-looking dispensaries with bars that cover the windows, neon green crosses and weed flags hung for all to see. But for the first-time user, the curious patient who's searching for holistic healing or the soccer mom interested in alternative methods of relaxation, these establishments may not extend a warm welcome. Hence, the shift in approach to architecture and design that many cannabis businesses are making to create attractive and, in some cases, downright lovely dispensary spaces.
Denver-based Cannabrand, which bills itself as "The World's First Cannabis Marketing Agency," serves over 100 clients and has been integral in this push to change the public face of the marijuana industry. Olivia Mannix co-founded the business in 2014 with just one mission: to "rebrand cannabis."
- Jared Bradley
"Before it was illegal, and [then] the marketing, packaging and dispensaries were not appealing to a consumer market, so we saw a need," says Mannix. "We decided to start an agency to help them with their packaging, interior design, etc. The last four to five years, the industry has really come a long way. People really need to spend money and invest in the messaging because people buy into a brand."
Since marijuana has been proven to serve patients well in the medical arena, the dispensary experience should reflect the same consultation opportunities, professionalism and atmosphere that you can expect from a doctor's office, she says.
"If it's advertised as a medical product, it should be clean, safe and well-positioned for people to want to try," Mannix explains. "It's good to have flow, design that's inviting and inclines people to purchase, as well as having a knowledgeable staff."
Lux Leaf, a new dispensary in Old Colorado City, stands out as a business that understands that its exterior presentation signals the quality of products and services found inside.
- Dionne Roberts
"Lux was established to grow a great product, and we offer services up front in this office," says Lux Leaf President Ron DiGiacomo. "We'll sit and talk about how we can help you to use cannabis, to track your progress. When you think of boutique flower, you think of a boutique shop, so you have to have that feel. We're so masked by the recreational market here, that people don't realize how many are using cannabis for quality of life. So we needed to make the place look almost spa-like."
Located on West Colorado Avenue, Lux's once stodgy building now catches the eye with reclaimed wood sourced from a 100-year-old tobacco barn in Nebraska. The light fixture hanging in the lobby was built from a beam that held up the same barn. The pristine, contemporary interior is interspersed with mixed metals, large windows to show off the grow rooms and big pieces of original cannabis art by Alyssa Serpentini.
"Before we even opened we had people coming by a couple times a day, asking, 'what're you doing to this building? It's beautiful!'" says Lux Leaf co-owner Jared Bradley. "We [tried] to use a lot of materials that we could reuse as decorative items. Our industry is notorious for having a lot of waste, so we've tried to figure ways to be more efficient. From the design elements all the way down to some of the grow techniques. We're just trying to be a little more green."
- Dionne Roberts
This aesthetic and earth-friendly approach to running a canna-business is also an attempt to move away from stereotypes, revealing what cannabis could mean to those who are new to the product, who just want to try marijuana now that it's legal, or use it to replace pharmaceuticals.
"The survival of this industry is not just pushing people to get high and use it recreationally," says DiGiacomo. "I think the longevity is education, and getting people to realize the benefits and take charge of their personal wellness. That's why we needed to put together a facility that had this look and feel. A lot of other companies are starting to get it and understand that we have to up the game and be a true business and establishment."
Coloradans are plenty familiar with the cultural elevation of craft beer and how that trend has driven tap rooms to up the ante when it comes to quality — not just of the beer they sell but also of the space where people drink it. The younger cannabis industry is quickly catching on to the idea that a good business sells itself, so facility, presentation and packaging design will go a long way toward changing attitudes toward their product. Ideally, people's cannabis relationships will shift from bong rips in a dingy dorm room to a high-class experience with a sustainably grown product, delivered with professional care in an attractive environment.
"The market is very competitive," Mannix says. "So if you do not have a solid brand, which is the essence of your company, then you will fail."