America’s newly legalized marijuana industry is attracting corporate cash and entrepreneurs who want to transform the business from plants in plastic bags sold on street corners to branded experiences in well-outfitted stores. Jamen Shively, founder of Diego Pellicer, the first retail brand in the U.S. to market legal, premium marijuana, says the plant is an “incredible boost to creativity”–the company itself bloomed from a “brainstorm session with cannabis.”
As with other products like clothes, coffee, and technology, the corporate suppliers are moving to provide diversity in variety, service and quality during this Green Rush. Like Starbucks and its Teavana boutiques, Diego Pellicer will be using a retail store strategy within this untapped recreational cannabis industry. They plan to open a pot retail store within the next year in the Washington state, which, along with Colorado, recently legalized pot for recreational use. Many other states allow legal sales of pot, but only for medicinal use, though getting a license to buy has few barriers in many localities.
Shively’s vision is to capitalize on the current national market for marijuana, estimated to be valued at $100 billion, which includes the black illegal market and the medical pot market. There is no national marijuana brand, and he says, this leaves the field wide open for creativity in selling marijuana to consumers–for example, perhaps a ‘weed harmony’. Diego Pellicer is developing a system to optimally match consumers with specific varieties of cannabis based on characteristics of both the plant and the person. “Think of this as an E-Harmony.com of cannabis,” says Shively.
While there are many entrepreneurs entering the recreational marijuana market, there are questions on how the federal government, which does not recognize legalized sales to the general public, will respond. Jeffrey Miron, an economist at Harvard University, says that he is “guardedly optimistic” the industry will be allowed to bloom. “A fully legalized market,” he says, could generate “$20 billion in annual retail sales.”
Currently, Diego Pellicer has two operating retail centers with Northwest Patient Resource Center (NWPRC) for Medical Marijuana. Diego Pellicer is working with them to develop designs and logistics for the Diego stores, and incorporating the best companies from within NWPRC’s network into the Diego Network, says Shively. The business seems set for a long expansion. This month, Colorado took its first legal recreational marijuana store applications. Dispensaries such as Sweet Mary Jane Edibles plan to apply to have a bakery shop with cannabis- filled treats in the next year.
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