16 Photos and a Few Hundred Words From 'The Apple Store of Weed'
Does MedMen have the future of cannabis retail on lock? Maybe.
Where do you buy your weed? As the legalization movement transitions from a pipe dream to an eventuality, that answer will likely shift as well. The “corner drug dealer” became the quasi-legal dispensary; will the neighborhood pot shop become a national, branded chain?
MedMen, a Los Angeles-based, cannabis-focused management company that recently launched a $100 million private equity fund for incubating legal weed businesses, hopes to lead the retail revolution. The company opened its West Hollywood, California, flagship storefront earlier this summer, offering a fine array of THC medications and a glimpse into one possible mass-market, recreational-retail future.
“I’ve been in the [cannabis] industry for so long, [all of this] is just normal for me,” Andrew Modlin, MedMen’s chief operating officer and de facto manager of its WeHo storefront tells The KIND.
In 2009, Modlin founded MedMen Management with partner Adam Bierman. In the time since, we're told, he has worked on the launch of more than 100 companies in the space. The MedMen brick-and-mortar took over the location (and medical licenses) of an existing dispensary, and seems happy to have been referred to as the "Apple Store of Weed.” The company aspires to define, and normalize, the shopping experience of the modern cannabis consumer.
“We’re just taking the model of excellent customer service, and the best products, and applying that to marijuana,” says Modlin.
The brand’s WeHo flagship is positioned in the middle ground between medical marijuana dispensary, and retail weed outlet. In a break from typical dispensary protocol, it already refers to its "donations," as, "purchases." The menu lives on iPads; the bud is displayed on tables like MacBook Pros and iPhones in the Apple storefront of an upscale mall. The interior is well-lit, smartly furnished, and staffed by a team of millennial budtenders who could easily be cast in an Apple commercial, or work as “geniuses,” in one of its stores.
Again breaking from the dispensary norm, MedMen’s front door remains open to Santa Monica Boulevard. Even tourists, who cannot yet legally purchase anything MedMen sells, can poke their heads inside for a look. Entire walls are dedicated to different edibles; a case for high-end concentrates. Nobody is dabbing in a dark corner. The pungent smell of bud is contained to the back of the house. The clientele skews more young professional than stoner youth. At no point does it feel like a DEA raid is about to go down.
“MedMen is more than just the WeHo store,” communications director Daniel Yi––a former mainstream journalist and public relations professional––tells The KIND over email. “Andrew is there often because it is a flagship store for the company.”
During our tour, Modlin jokes that making a hire such as Yi, with traditional corporate experience, would have been impossible just a few years ago. He’s thankful the stigma surrounding the herb is fading. He also notes that the MedMen private equity fund, and the physical storefronts, are not the same piece of business. Modlin's partner previously told Time of visions of a 2017 Super Bowl Commercial.
In 1996, California voters made medical marijuana legal for the first time in America. In November this year, those same voters, and their younger, perhaps even more 420-friendly family and friends, will decide if weed should be recreationally legal, making California the fifth state to do so. In 2014, rec-card carrying Californians spent more than $1 billion on weed, the most in the country; the same year the herb became full-on legal in Colorado.
California is home to many "disruptive," or otherwise innovative, business and retail models across myriad industries. Some of these technologies have already been appropriated and applied to the weed world––the "Ubers, Postmates, and Pricelines, of pot.” A dispensary along the central coast employs chatbots to determine what products its patients prefer. Telehealth tech powers online medical marijuana recommendations in minutes.
Apple Store comparisons may be more indicative of a contemporary retail experience than of the future of shopping for weed. The analogy might also reveal the need for marijuana businesses to remain flexible, and prepared to evolve, in order to survive the next wave of the legalization movement.
All photos by Silas Dunham and Ben Parker Karris.