It is a truth universally acknowledged that in 2017, a millennial with any access to money must be in want of experiences on which to spend it. For the pioneers of the cannabis “green rush,” those venture capitalists and M.B.A. types who’ve sensed the rapidly shifting sensibility around consumption (which has gone from a maligned social scourge à la Reefer Madness to, for the creative class, something like what tobacco was in the ’50s), the products in question also happen to be experiences. As legality spreads across the country, the resulting high for this young crop of businesses looks to be both lasting and seriously lucrative: The legal cannabis industry in North America was worth about $7 billion last year. That number is expected to grow anywhere between $24 billion and $44 billion by 2020.
Among these shiny new startups, there is something of a shared ethos, wherein it’s less about seducing stoners, slackers, or any other equally tired stereotype than it is about dovetailing with an overwhelming cultural obsession with health and wellness. In a year where the hottest new adaptogen (for smoothies! for your skin! for your sex life!) is the minimally-psychoactive cannabis-derived CBD, and anything grown in the ground is seen as preferable to something created in a lab, cannabis is a cure-all, a chill-out, a Rihanna-approved way to handle the chronic cesspool of bad vibrations that is 2017. Plus, it’s legal in some form in more than 25 states and the District of Columbia. (If you needed further proof of the death of cannabis’ counterculture cache, Chuck Lorre has created a sitcom—with a laugh track—based in a cannabis dispensary in Southern California.) Unconvinced? Consider how unusual it once was for people to care about or insist upon fresh, organic, locally sourced food, and the current ubiquity of “farm to table.” Now consider the amount of money that human beings will spend in order to feel different than they do naturally. In this sense, the future of cannabis may look a lot like that of alcohol, or haute cuisine: curated, thoughtful, consumer-driven—only without the hangover, or the weight gain. (“The munchies” are so ’70s.)
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