From the prospectors looking for gold in its hills to the tech campuses in its valleys, California has always been a fertile place for pioneers and innovators. It’s been a pioneering state for cannabis, too. Prop 215 made California the first state to legalize medicinal use. And even though it passed on the opportunity to become the first state to legalize recreational use, other states still look up to it for a regulatory framework.
The fans of the plant look to its growers and cultivators for high-quality plants and boundary-pushing strains and products. Lately, they’ve been seeing a new trend emerge from one of the most mature cannabis markets in the country. It’s called luxury cannabis, and it promises to deliver a new type of experience for the discerning consumer.
“It starts with taste. Taste is the most important part of cannabis, and it’s the hardest thing to achieve,” explains High Chris, the founder of Zätix, a pioneer in luxury cannabis. “Even if you grow an amazing-looking flower, and it looks the most beautiful, sparkly, crystally purple, today, it doesn’t mean anything unless it tastes good.”
With over 20 years in the industry, Chris is one of the true veteran entrepreneurs operating in California’s cannabis market. With Zätix, his latest venture, he set on a mission to find the cannabis strains that would appeal to true connoisseurs who enjoy the finer things in life and believe that quality and taste trump insane levels of THC.
“It’s almost like food. It’s easy to find mediocre food anywhere,” explains Chris. “But when you go to some high-end, fine dining restaurant where the chef makes something incredible that you’ve never had and you taste and say wow, this is amazing, I’ve never had anything like that — that’s what I’m getting at. That’s luxury cannabis.”
Launching a luxury cannabis brand isn’t as simple as creating a regular one. For one, it wasn’t even financially feasible until California repelled its cultivation tax, which burdened significantly smaller, niche producers.
Then, it was a task to find a cultivator that could produce the strains of cannabis that meet the highest standards. And even though they don’t necessarily have to create enormous quantities of it — luxury and exclusivity go hand in hand —a producer of a luxury cannabis flower needs to have tremendous consistency in their products.
As an industry pioneer who also does consulting work, it wasn’t a problem for Chris to have a hands-on approach and make decisions that would put the quality of the product first, even ahead of cost-effectiveness.
For example, he advised his cultivator against switching to LED lights from high-pressure sodium, even though LEDs were a more economical option because the switch would have changed the qualities that make their products consistently good. He contrasts his artisanal approach with corporations who see cannabis as an industry where they can make a quick buck.
“Corporations tend not to understand this, and they approach it from a traditional corporate mindset of how we lower our costs and increase profits. That’s usually their main objective,” explains Chris. “And we’ve seen it in all sorts of industries, but in cannabis, it doesn’t work like that.”
Zätix’s stance against cost-cutting measures extends to the second-biggest cost besides the product — packaging. For many brands, it’s a prime target to reduce some costs. For Zätix, it’s another opportunity to show what they’re about — quality, luxury, and going all-in to get the best possible experience. Presentation is a massive part of it, and it’s not something the brand would want to give up on.
For Chris, being a part of the larger cannabis community is critical for his brand. “We try to go above and beyond and engage with the people supporting us as a brand and be part of the community because we come from the community,” he says.
Zätix organizes its events, sponsors others’ events, and uses every opportunity to interact with the community and offer giveaways, samples, and an overall pleasant experience. Luxury cannabis is still cannabis. Its roots run deep, and people recognize it. “That’s the big thing. It’s the easiest thing for us to do and the hardest thing for the corporate people to do. They don’t come from this, and they are considered culture vultures,” Chris explains.
Even though Chris’ plans for Zätix include growing the brand, he’s well aware that a luxury cannabis brand cannot be mass-produced while still keeping the same appeal. He’s okay with that — he knows he’s onto something special and is putting all of his expertise in maintaining its uniqueness.
“I used to manage some artists when I was younger when I had my recording studio,” he says. “I had a unique background in the music industry and understood marketing and the full background in cannabis. So I combined the three, and that’s where we’re right now — I treat the brand as a musician.”