LMCC 2021: Cannabis’ Next Frontier
New York’s recent legalisation of recreational cannabis set the stage for two days of talks and showcases at the Luxury Meets Cannabis Conference (LMCC) (November 11-12, NYC). Industry-leading brands and experts discussed the challenges and opportunities as the sector matures from green rush to sophisticated market.
- The Upcoming Epicentre: Since our 2018 Spotlight Trend Commercialising Cannabis, legalisation for adult use has continued to spread throughout the US, but many see New York’s legalisation in March 2021 as the harbinger for global acceptance. Speakers predicted NYC would become a “global epicentre” for legal cannabis when recreational retail begins in 2023 – a statement supported by estimates that its market could generate $3.5bn annually.
- “New York is an innovation-focused market,” said John Kaiga, chief knowledge officer of US cannabis analytics company New Frontier Data. “The combination of deep capital resources, huge consumer spending and retail opportunity will make New York one of the most attractive markets in the world.”
- Building for Inclusivity: To rise to this occasion, attendees agreed that the city must construct an industry that uplifts groups targeted during prohibition – a mission that stumbled in California (CA) and Massachusetts (MA). Speakers recommended that brands lead on equity by operating business mentorships, like MA dispensary Rebelle; donating a portion of sales to social action groups like CA’s Cannabis for Black Lives; or highlighting a spectrum of genders and heritages in advertising, like CA brand Stone Road.
- Fragrance, the Last Taboo: Despite sitting at the precipice of mass normalcy, cannabis taboos remain. Fragrance is “the last frontier of [cannabis] infusion”, said NYC-based journalist Alix Strauss.
- “We’re beginning to explore how fragrance can functionally affect your body, and that’s moving into CBD and THC in a really interesting way,” added Drew Martin, founder of CA cannabis brand Drew Martin. In April 2021, he partnered with NYC perfume brand Heretic to release a fragrance blending cannabis with calming notes of lavender and hinoki. In September 2021, CA-based brand Black Dahlia launched CBD-infused calming and mood-boosting fragrances.
- The multisensorial effect of these fragrances suits next-gen luxury consumers, said Kaya Sorhaindo, Black Dahlia’s creative director. “With CBD, you have an olfactive and a bodily experience, which contributes to a feeling of transcendence,” he explained.
- Luxury Leads On: We’ve charted cannabis’s high-end profile since our 2017 Macro Trend The New Rules of Luxury, and exhibitors at LMCC supercharged its premium pivot. “Cannabis couture” is the tag line for NYC brand Freeminded, whose handcrafted leather carry kits boast the craftsmanship of a Hermes handbag. No attention to detail is spared – from the stain-proofed calfskin linings, to the double-insulated, aroma-blocking construction.
- Also leaning on luxury, NYC brand Winnow positions its face cream as the CBD-infused alternative to elite skincare like La Mer, while CA confectioner Cloud 11 leverages its co-founder’s tenure in the pastry kitchen at upscale NYC restaurant Eleven Madison Park to market its experimental, low-dose truffles.
- In Science We Trust: With consumers craving knowledge and control over their health – a trend we first identified in Empowering Future Patients – brands are doubling down on science-backed products that stand up to scrutiny. CA’s Kamu makes sleep-promoting gummies using liposomal CBD – a process that encapsulates the cannabinoid in a substance the body easily absorbs, while NYC brand Plant Alchemy has developed a fast-acting, water-soluble CBD tincture.
- “Trust is what we’re selling,” said Christopher Gavigan, chief executive of Prima. He justified the CBD brand’s decision to offer soft gels instead of tinctures by citing research that sublingual formats – like tinctures – aren’t absorbed effectively.
- The Herb Factor: Exhibitors fused cannabis with herbalism, echoing the holistic approach to wellness we forecast in our 2022 Look Ahead. CA brand Element Apothec leverages herbs like ginger and peppermint to provide more targeted health remedies – a strategy echoed at North Dakota brand Kota Botanics, which incorporates adaptogens such as ashwagandha in its tinctures. Functional mushrooms are also trending, as exemplified by US brand A.F.C’s capsules, and mushroom-hemp pre-rolls from Plant Alchemy.