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Subscription boxes are all the rage, but will they catch on for legal pot?

Meena Thiruvengadam

There really is a subscription box for everything nowadays and that includes marijuana.

Beauty enthusiasts have Birchbox. Dogs and their people have BarkBox. Men who don’t embrace their 5 o’clock shadows have the Dollar Shave Club. Foodies and drinkers have as many options as there are months in a year.

And now medical marijuana users in California have at least two choices: PotBox and Marvina.

Each PotBox comes with two jars of marijuana and two pre-rolled joints.

Through its curated monthly subscription service, PotBox is hoping it can make ethically-sourced farm-to-bong pot as popular as ethically-sourced as farm-to-table food.

Each PotBox comes with two four-gram jars of different farm-grown marijuana strains, two one-gram pre-rolled joints — in wax-sealed containers — and “tasting notes” that provide information on THC and other chemical levels as well as information on the farm where it was grown. Subscriptions are priced at $149.99 a month.

“For us, it’s not just about THC content. We try to find strains that people will find meaningful either because of genetic lineage or taste,” CEO Austin Heap said.

The strains from which PotBox’s contents are chosen are all grown outdoors under the sun without chemicals or pesticides and lab-tested prior to delivery. “We only work with farms that follow sustainable practices and work to reduce their impact on the environment,” Heap said.

One of the farms where PotBox strains are grown.

Part of the PotBox sales pitch is that its cannabis is better for the environment than cannabis grown indoors. “Light and air accommodations for one indoor plant can equal the energy consumption of one household refrigerator,” PotBox says on its website.

But it’s not yet clear whether the company’s pretty boxes and corporate philosophies will be enough for it to catch on with California consumers. PotBox launched a week ago and isn't yet disclosing subscriber numbers.

While the subscription box business has boomed in recent years, another California medical marijuana startup with a similar offering has had trouble gaining traction and has so far attracted fewer than 100 subscribers.

Marvina launched in late 2014 and aims to help its customers cut through the clutter of choice that’s been available to them since California became the first U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

Marvina's buds and tasting notes.

“It’s overwhelming to go to a dispensary, especially if you’re new to the world of legal marijuana,” Marvina founder and CEO Dane Pieri said. “On the black market, your street dealer will have maybe a couple of choices, but here you can have as many as 30.”

Unlike PotBox, Marvina features only marijuana strains that have been grown indoors and offers three size options at prices ranging from $95 to $325 a month.

Marvina doesn’t grow any of the marijuana it curates for its boxes. Instead, it partners with dispensaries that source and deliver boxes whose content it chooses.

It’s a common approach in the subscription box business.

“The value the subscription box brings is in the curation,” said Kat Vorotova, co-founder and co-CEO of Try the World, a subscription box service for international foodies. “You’re getting something that somebody else has thought a lot about and that you may not be able to easily find yourself.”

But Vorotova and her cofounder and co-CEO David Foult, foodies with the travel bug, started Try the World because they couldn't easily find the specialty foods they were looking for. "After we'd come home from trips, we'd try to recreate some of the amazing meals we had eaten abroad, but we had the hardest time finding the foods we needed," she said.

A number of websites such as leafly.com and weedmaps.com already aim to solve that problem for marijuana users. And while marijuana subscription boxes do cut through confusing options, they do so at a price some consumers might not be willing to pay.

Marvina's largest subscription box comes with 28 grams of marijuana and costs $325, about $80 more than the average price for that quantity in California.

Meena Thiruvengadam writes about the marijuana business for Yahoo Finance. Follow her blog on tumblr at amsterdamamerica.tumblr.com and follow her on Twitter at @Meena_Thiru.

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