STASH CASH

The marijuana industry is dispatching high-end weed to the rich via mail subscription

Obsession
The Green Economy
Obsession
The Green Economy

The subscription box business is big. From socks to sex toys, Americans are signing up for monthly personal care packages of themed, curated goods at a rate that generates an estimated $5 billion dollars annually. Marijuana is a natural fit for this model.

Weed is still a surreptitious purchase for many, even where it’s legal. Plus, there’s a slew of new products in the burgeoning canna-biz; the average marijuana lover can’t manage without insider guidance. Luxury subscription services deliver these goods to high-end consumers in tasteful packaging that says “this is not a slacker’s stash.”

Chris Husong, founder of Club M in California, has been selling curated cannabis products to 300 monthly subscribers since October 2015. He markets his boxes as “not for pot heads” and told Quartz that his initial, “regular,” subscription offerings, starting at $100 a month—with a choice of flowers, edibles, concentrates, and tools—didn’t suffice. Customers quickly began clamoring for more luxury cannabis and accessories.

This month, the company shipped limited edition $1,000 offerings of two varieties to 20 customers. One option was packaged in a lockable smell-proof stash-box—made of aged, recycled wine barrels—with compartments full of cannabis products, like chocolates, candies, flowers, sleep aids, oils, drinks, joints, and a journal, among others. For the ladies, there were bohemian style leather purses, scent-free and stuffed with weed. “Our members are always looking to create perfect moments, and this subscription makes those moments even more elegant,” Husong says.

He believes his customers use marijuana “to aid wellness and creativity” rather than as pain relief. Still, they must have a medical marijuana recommendation to subscribe…and be willing to pay for high-end natural medication.

Club M subscribers—60% of whom are women—appear willing to pay. Next year the company will offer a subscription to themed limited edition boxes for $1,000 on a quarterly basis, featuring products endorsed or created by celebrity tree lovers. Husong won’t reveal who’s involved yet, and speculating would be silly given how many stars are starting marijuana businesses, including Snoop Dogg, Melissa Etheridge, Whoopi Goldberg, Whiz Khalifa, Willie Nelson, and Woody Harrelson.

Lesser-known personalities are also launching marijuana ventures. For example, Jessica VerSteeg—model, former Miss Iowa, and Amazing Race competitor—this year founded Au Box, a subscription service catering to female cannabis consumers. “We want to create a luxury experience that will change the way people view cannabis,” VerSteeg explains on her company’s LinkedIn page. “We recognize that obtaining premium cannabis can be an uncomfortable inconvenience, so Au Box decided to make life a little easier by delivering quality products to your door at the end of every month.”

The company began shipping in October. Its offerings come in a black box with gold type, reminiscent of lingerie packaging. They include an “intimates” option for the romantic cannabis lover with a taste for 24-karat gold rolling papers, marijuana oils, candles, and beauty products. Au Box also sends conventional goods, like edibles, and offers a sampler with joints, hash, and flowers. The company also has boxes for pets that come with CBD treats, which don’t contain the THC that creates a high but are, therapeutic, and yes, boxes designed to appeal to men. A one-month trial is $150 and subscriptions start at $140 a month.

Liz Cadman, the founder of My Subscription Addiction, credits Birchbox, a $10-per-month beauty product sample subscription service, with beginning the great American box craze in 2010. Cadman’s site lists nearly 1,000 different subscription boxes; she told Fast Company in April, “We get four or five requests from new companies to be listed every day.”

But the box market is still hard to quantify precisely because there isn’t good data available, according to Amir Elaguizy, the founder of Cratejoy, a platform for entrepreneurs to create subscription businesses. He estimates that since 2011, the subscription commerce industry has been growing at a rate of 200% a year and says that there are 10,000 such businesses on the US market.

Combining the boom in boxes with marijuana makes sense, given how fast the legal weed biz is growing. Revenue from California’s cannabis industry—with recreational weed now added to its 20-year-old medical marijuana market—is projected to reach $6.5 billion annually by 2020 from $2.8 billion in 2015, the Cannabist reports. The national market could generate $20 billion in sales by 2020, according to market research commissioned by Arcview Group, a marijuana industry incubator. A report by analysts from Cowen & Co. estimated that the national cannabis industry could reach $50 billion by 2026.

“There are some really beautiful luxury cannabis products,” Husong says. “This is about discovery of the best of the best.”

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