Cannabis is not just going mainstream. It’s going upscale.
The plant, whose species include hemp and marijuana, is showing up in luxe beauty products, sparking an array of glamorous accessories and becoming the focus of Wall Street investors.
Luxury retailer Barneys New York will unveil a shop selling cannabis-related accoutrements – including blown-glass pipes and 24-karat-gold rolling papers – at its Beverly Hills flagship next month.
More than 100 shops selling lotions, balms and other personal care products infused with the cannabis extract CBD will be opening this year in premium centers owned by the nation's largest mall owner, Simon.
And the clamor to invest in medical marijuana has led the publicly traded Alternative Harvest fund to reach over $1 billion in assets in just 13 months.
"It just felt like this was a cultural shift that needed to be addressed,'' said Matthew Mazzucca, creative director of Barneys New York, whose cannabis accessories shop will be fittingly dubbed "The High End.''
Unlike marijuana, another cannabis species, hemp has almost none of the psychoactive compounds that cause a user to get high. And now that it's no longer labeled a controlled substance, more businesses have the opportunity to create hemp-based products, from tinctures to lotions.
Cannabis coming to a mall near you
The 1-year-old Green Growth Brands is betting that its high-quality, low-priced CBD-infused personal care and wellness products will catch on.
"It's going to become mainstream,'' says Green Growth CEO Peter Horvath, adding that the company's stores look like "part of Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom ... different from the CBD kiosks I've seen'' previously.
Two of its Seventh Sense Botanical Therapy branded shops are opening this month in Lexington, Kentucky, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. And Green Growth expects to open a store at Castleton Square Mall in Indianapolis in March, the first of 108 shops it's launching in properties owned by the top-tier shopping center owner Simon.
As many retailers are struggling amid the rise of Amazon and rapidly shifting consumer tastes, getting in on the front end of a new category is a ripe opportunity, Horvath says.
"I’ve got three-plus decades of being in retail where we’ve been beating each other's brains out trying to sell T-shirts to customers...and coats and dresses, and this is the first segment I’ve seen in our lifetime where the market is going to increase,'' says Horvath, whose career as a retail executive includes a past stint as chief operating officer of Victoria's Secret.
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It's legal, but stigma still remains
Still, cannabis and CBD remain misunderstood by many, Horvath and others say.
Barneys believes that by lending its craftsmanship and cachet to cannabis-related products, some of the stigma may fall away.
"Doing it at a high level with a really sophisticated kind of approach is going to hopefully make this something that is more palatable and introduce it to people who are curious but are uncomfortable otherwise engaging with it,'' Mazzucca says, adding that Barneys may be opening High End shops at other locations.
In Beverly Hills, the products for sale will include CBD-infused face moisturizer, blown-glass pipes crafted by Caleb Siemon, and 24-karat-gold rolling papers from the company Shine.
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Though Shine says that at the time it launched in 2013, the priciest rolling papers cost just $3, it believed that if it created premium products, there would eventually be consumers who wanted them.
"It was clear to us that, like nearly every product category, whether it be cars, spirits or electronics, there’s always a demand for top-shelf options,'' Dave Brown, Shine's founder and CEO, said in an email.
Shine's rolling papers sell for as much as $45. "We were the first to give them luxury choices when it came to smokable items,'' he said.
But "there’s still a ton of education needed to remove the stigma around cannabis,'' he says. "When people stop seeing it as a drug and start seeing it as a healthier alternative to alcohol for recreational use, as well as a plant with tremendous medicinal value, that’s when the stigma will be eradicated.''
Separate from the national legislation clearing the way for the sale of hemp-based products, dozens of states have also legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. The publicly traded Alternative Harvest fund (MJ), which invests in such businesses, has gone from $7.5 million when it launched in December 2017 to currently having more than $1 billion in assets.
Cannabis is not yet fully mainstream, says Sam Masucci, CEO of ETF Managers Group, which includes the Alternative Harvest Fund. But over time, the sky could be the limit.
“We certainly see opportunities for this to double, triple ... its assets,'' Masucci said of exchange-traded fund. With continued "positive regulations in the U.S. and abroad, ... we think the growth opportunities will continue to make it a very interesting sector for people to invest in.''
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cannabis may be coming to a mall near you, as such products go upscale