The 2018 midterms made Michigan the tenth U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana. With the vote, the state enters a cannabis market thriving in states like Colorado, Washington and, most notably, California, which has surpassed the UK as the 5th largest economy in world. People are quitting their jobs and feverishly moving across the country for the “the green rush”—it’s literal reefer madness. To some, the legalization of pot was a formality—license to smoke up without that nagging cop-phobia to ruin the high. But this reaches far beyond the stoner community: America finds itself in a full-on cannabis revolution. It’s no longer about graduating from a dealer to a budtender—the entire consumer market is pivoting to cater toward buyers who aren’t really “pot people.”
First came “Legalize It.” Now comes “Normalize It.”
The industry is projected to bring in 75 billion dollars by 2030 and most don’t plan on riding the winds of bong rips to get there. While the current market skews younger and male, the growth is toward an older, more female crowd. The industry isn’t targeting the college kid hotboxing his dorm room every night—he’s gonna smoke regardless—it’s the 45-year-old yoga instructor and her accountant husband they’re after.
“As a middle-aged suburban dad, I couldn’t care less about O.G. Kush or Pineapple Express,” says Daniel Yi, Communications Director of MedMen, California’s budding 711 of weed. “What I want to know is what is this product gonna do for me? Is it gonna help me with my chronic back pain? Is it gonna help me sleep at night? Is it gonna help me socialize with my friends over the weekend while I’m playing golf or having some bbq?” Yi, like many, came to adult marijuana use through the business side of it, not the other way around.
This new market has something for everyone: THC toothpicks for dad to get his buzz on discreetly as he watches the evening news. A peppermint for mom. Vegan chai for a yogi’s pregame. Stimulating sex creams for your sweetheart. A berry crumble for grandma.
Curating and simplifying this market for new customers are a slew of new apps.
One such company had products hit shelves last week. Colorado’s Gofire puts “All of your alternative medicine in one place,” using crowdsourcing and reviews to help buyers find the right product for their symptoms. The app scans product codes and, based on your ratings, learns what you like. It anonymously stockpiles the data for other customers with symptoms like you. It pairs with a “smart vaporizer” to closely monitor your intake and dosage.
The idea for Gofire came when founder Peter Calfee got a call from his mom, grilling him about the difference between CBD, CBG and CBC, “I realized, why does she need to know the chemical makeup of this plant to find whatever product is gonna work for her?” She told him she just wanted something to help her sleep, “And then it all kind of fell into place.”
Chief among these curation apps is Tökr, who LA Weekly called ‘The Amazon of weed”. The app launched in 2017 in Venice Beach and seeks to make the intimidating world of weed small, local and approachable. Your personal ganja concierge, Tökr learns who you are, what you like, and then suggests products you may enjoy and locates them in your area. (If only we had such an effective service for dating.)
With categories like sex, fitness, cooking, health, and beauty, the app reads more like an aspirational lifestyle magazine than a pot catalog. Their goal is not to get you high so much as infuse your life as a whole with cannabis. “Sure, some people want to light a joint or get ripped on a bong hit. And they always will. But that’s not who this is for. They’re welcome. But it’s really about enhancing your lifestyle,” says CEO and co-founder Matt Singer. “It’s for wellness,” says his co-founder and Chief Product Officer Brian Campbell who helped his own mother get off pain pills with cannabis.
His mother is not alone. It turns out marijuana is as much of a natural cure-all as apple cider vinegar. The long list of symptoms CBD alone can ease includes achy muscles, arthritis, morning sickness, depression, and acne. It can even treat epilepsy in children.
One female-facing company, Foria, even has vaginal suppositories for pain and pleasure alike. The big win for female customers is a treatment for cramps they say works better than Midol without getting you high. The product stays localized so little gets in your bloodstream, “Like a topical for your uterus” says Kiana Reeves, Foria’s Director of Communications.
While Foria capitalizes on being different, some companies just want to be familiar. “We make our products as approachable as possible,” says Joel Teitelbaum, Director of Sales and Marketing at gourmet cannabis chocolate company Défoncé. Their chocolate bars look like something you’d be served at a José Andrés restaurant and have European chocolatiers of the highest caliber. Unlike most weed chocolate they have no terpenes, so they don’t smell or taste of pot. It looks and tastes like the finest Belgium chocolate…because it is. They currently have low-dose chocolate in production, “We want people to be able to eat our chocolate in normal amounts without getting stoned out of [their] mind.” Of course, the chocolate is so good that once you are a little high, all you’re going to want is more.
So instead of a glass of wine at the end of a long day, you might enjoy a fine THC chocolate bar; a CBD massage; some yoga with whacky tabbacky scented aromatherapy oils; or a cannabis-infused romp in the hay—the picture of sophisticated, modern wellness.
Or you could smoke a blunt and pass out on the couch for old times’ sake.