In order for weed to really go high-end, the cannabis industry has to ditch the budtender, according to speakers at the 2019 World Cannabis Congress in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.
There has been a lot of talk about the impending death of retail in recent years—and about whether or not the so-called retailpocalypse actually exists. But one thing that is not up for debate is that retail is changing. And the retail landscape of the burgeoning cannabis industry is no exception to this. While the dispensary model most consumers are familiar with is still holding strong, a number of mostly upscale cannabis brands are challenging what cannabis retail could look like.
The future of what the luxury cannabis space will look like was the focus of the 'Status, Luxury And Uniqueness: The New World Of Premium Cannabis' panel at this year's World Cannabis Congress. And what that future will look like exactly was perhaps best summed up by Paul Rosen—founder of the cannabis edibles producer Pantry.
"This whole paradigm that the budtender is where you will go to seek direction for a medical condition that requires treatment is antiquated and likely isn't going to be very durable," Rosen said.
In order for cannabis to truly evolve into a luxury market, the role of the budtender must either disappear or at least change significantly, said the panellists, who believe that consuming cannabis is a very personal thing. So marijuana retailers should let customers find the products that will meet their needs and desires, instead of making them buy "whatever the budtender is pushing."
"Purchasing cannabis is very emotional for a lot of people," explained Berkeley Poole—VP Creative for Tokyo Smoke Brands. "Ultimately I think people come in and they think about how they want to feel and the experience they're looking to have, the ritual they're looking to set up."
In order to empower consumers, the focus of cannabis retail will have to shift from a system of budtender recommendations to one that is centered on consumer education, said April Pride—founder of the female-focused and design-driven cannabis brand Van Der Pop.
"Education is a key part to help the consumer not be overwhelmed. It's very intimidating, particularly in the retail experience, as a woman. There's usually not a woman behind the counter, and there are questions that are specific to our reproductive health. Instead of asking those questions to somebody who has no idea what they're talking about, you just simply don't ask them. Then you throw the veil of luxury over it and it becomes doubly intimidating."
Luxury is all about the experience. And in luxury cannabis, achieving the right experience means not only providing customers with a beautiful and enjoyable retail environment but also making sure that the costumer has the best experience possible while they're consuming your cannabis. said Rosen
"If it's just the same experience, with a better label sold for more money, I don't think we're doing our customers a favor."