Today’s marijuana enthusiasts live in every U.S. state and come in all shapes and sizes. While that idea might still surprise some Americans, the polling numbers validate the plant’s popularity across the country. The odds are pretty good that two out of three adults within earshot of you right now are part of the cannabis faithful.
Cannabis is at last being taken seriously, most notably by the U.S. federal government, which recently legalized hemp nationally. That move could unleash an economic dynamo for Americans after over 50 years of prohibition. The nation now also counts 33 states where some form of legal cannabis is available, either medically or recreationally, for purchase.
So, it should come as no surprise that many new, chic cannabis products are hitting the market and creating a subset marketplace of their own. Goods range from cannabis-infused sublingual strips to portable vaporizers to beautifully designed pipes, ashtrays and bongs — all now legally available for purchase in most U.S. states.
The modern-day smoke shop is a place completely liberated from the prohibition mindset. Some retail outlets look more like Restoration Hardware than a traditional head shop. The New York City shop Higher Standards in trendy Chelsea Market is a good example. It’s an attractive retail space loaded with premium cannabis brands ranging from high-end grinders to sophisticated glassworks to crystal ashtrays. The luxury department store Barney’s recently got into the high-end weed game, too, announcing that their Beverly Hills location will soon have the cannabis flower Sherbinskis available for purchase through their “store within a store” called The High End.
It’s safe to say that the legal cannabis industry — which in 2018 garnered $10.4 billion in investment and employed a quarter of a million people in the U.S. — is now off to a roaring start. And the ancillary goods market growing right beside it is expanding by leaps and bounds.
Form with Function
Esther LeNoir, co-founder of Session Goods, saw the potential in the marijuana gear market and co-designed a stylish bong that could look at home alongside the clean lines of an Eames lounge chair.
“The idea of Session was sparked by a discussion with my now business partners, that despite the changing attitude around weed, bongs have yet to be given the same design attention as any other lifestyle product,” says LeNoir. “We are all designers, who curate every product we interact with — but when it comes to our smoking, we used a bong that we hid away. We decided to challenge ourselves to design a brand and product that didn’t feel taboo.”
That’s the new mantra for cannabis brands: it’s no longer necessary to hide your marijuana use behind closed doors. Just as, say, an elegant bar looks at home in a mod living room, current fashion-minded homemakers are free to display their favorite plant and its associated utensils right out in the open.
Delivery of cannabis products is also an aspect of marijuana tech that’s vastly changed over the past decade. Where home-delivered smoking implements were once cast in a poor light as some forbidden, distasteful act, today there are hordes of services online that deliver products to your doorstep. You can now, in many states, freely order items ranging from a bag of weed to a variety of new cannabis supplies, many of which you won’t find in your neighborhood smoke shop. Companies like the Daily High Club, which began as a monthly subscription-box service delivering every manner of weed gadgets to subscribers — including rolling papers, pipes and smell-proof bags — has expanded into an online store selling marijuana-related goods including apparel, artistic bongs and just about any cannabis accessory you can imagine.
Cannabis subscription service SensiBox recently took the delivery concept one step further and began creating their own bespoke ceramic pipe products for their boxes. Founder Helen Ryba, after two years in business, says she wasn’t finding the right pipes for her subscription product. So the entrepreneur-artist decided to create pipes of her own. The result of that endeavor is her finely crafted ceramic ball pipes, which will begin appearing in SensiBoxes starting in April.
“I wanted something that could be left out on a shelf and look like a piece of art with a modern, clean yet retro feel to them,” says Ryba.
Innovative Ingestion Methods
As cannabis tech advances further into the mainstream, consumers now have a host of different ingestion mechanisms to choose from, far beyond traditional smokable and edible products. Late last year, the California-based company OLO debuted their line of infused sublingual strips that provide effects-based experiences, including products called Chill, Focus, Social and Active. OLO says their discreet cannabis products were designed to be precise, rapid and experiential. Available in 5 and 10 mg THC strips, onset is hastened by cannabis extracts being absorbed directly into the bloodstream by way of the tongue.
For consumers looking to lessen the harshness of smokable products, vaporizers have for years been a favorite means to indulge in cannabis use without requiring a flame. Vaping devices heat up the plant material, but at just a low enough temperature to avoid the carcinogens that result from full-flame combustion. One vaporizer called the Double Barrel takes the notion of the vape to a new level, offering users a dual-chamber delivery system to mix two different varietals of cannabis oil at once. Chief Brand Officer Ann Skalski at Double Barrel explains that superior electronics combined with high-quality, artisanal cannabis that’s rich in terpenes — which are the compounds that create the flavor profiles in marijuana — are key to the product’s success.
“Our design and engineering teams were inspired to bring Double Barrel to life as a platform hinged on syncing technology with the finest oil producers state-by-state, whose THC, CBD, and terpene formulations categorically represent the purest, cleanest form of the plant sourced from artisanal farmers,” she says.
Also, mixing and matching different oil varietals is a blast and allows you to create your own personal experience.
Other companies — like Prrl Labs — are thinking far outside the box when it comes to innovating new cannabis products. Prrl co-founders Josh Winicki and Mark Lewis have created a device, called the Ember, that’s designed to transform a simple wooden pipe into a vaporizer.
“One of our primary goals has been to deliver the purist vapor possible without contamination from substances that might off-gas during heating,” says Lewis.
It’s a persistent concern of many vape users, an uncertainty that high-quality parts are used in the combustion areas of vapes. Manufacturers don’t always have the consumer’s health in mind when mass-producing goods and can employ parts that degrade and present dangerous conditions when heated. Because the Ember has a heating element made up of a proprietary super alloy used in aerospace applications, say Winicki and Lewis, their product will not degrade and gas off harmful vapor.
While some vapes come with complicated temperature settings and intricate controls, the Ember is much more straightforward and designed for users to control the temperature and the density of the vapor using merely their breath. A pretty novel concept. And the Ember doesn’t require cleaning like other flower vapes (which is a big bonus) because it sits above the bowl and never comes in contact with plant matter.
These are times of incredible growth for the cannabis space, and we’re still in the infancy stage. Look for many more useful and innovative products to hit the market this year, as legal cannabis really hits its stride in 2019.