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Monday April 30, 2018

By Matthew Mongelia

420 Culture

According to Wine Spectator, the second-best bottle of wine of 2017 retails for $45. If you’re pinching pennies and can only spring for the third-best, you’re out a sensible $37. The best bottle of last year logically costs the most on the list at $89, but its close second in price ranks at the very bottom of the top 10, at $80. The fourth-best is more expensive than second and third, and a bottle of the ninth-best costs more than both combined. While they are all superior wines, it’s clear that price is not the only benchmark of quality. To be a true luxury consumer, a customer is not necessarily asked to spend more; they are asked to know more.

After more than two decades of medical marijuana in America and six years of recreational sales, the cannabis market is beginning to enjoy a similar level of complexity and sophistication.

In the booming cannabis landscape, edibles have extended to every end of the gastronomic spectrum. We live in the era of infused small-batch hot sauce and free-range medicated bison jerky, while shows like Viceland’s Bong Apétit introduce cannabis to haute cuisine. In such a flooded landscape, where can one find something truly luxurious? To experience the pinnacle of modern cannabis consumption one need not look further than the humble chocolate bar, if one knows where to look.

Exploring the Luxury Cannabis Market

To help you better understand the landscape of the luxury cannabis market, take a closer look at some of the products, brands and dispensaries catering to higher-end consumers.

Enhanced Edibles

Though comparable in price and dosage to their competitors, Défoncé chocolatiers treat every step of their production process with the love and devotion of a vineyard. They boast products made with their own “single origin” cannabis, lovingly cultivated outdoors in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Their ethos promotes terroir, the concept that an environment’s unique characteristics are evident in what it produces.

Defonce Chocolate
Défoncé chocolates are setting the standard for luxury cannabis edibles. photo credit

Terroir is what makes champagne, champagne. Just like the vintners of old, Défoncé stands out by attending to every detail. The very cut of the pieces evokes a sense of diamonds and finery. As their website accurately claims, “Défoncé is not just another infused chocolate bar. It is the gold standard.”

Elevated Dispensary Experiences

Across the industry, we are seeing a similar elevation of goods, but to accurately get an understanding of the progression of luxury cannabis, one must consider not just products, but the way they are acquired.

One of the best embodiments of the new luxury cannabis ethos can be found in Diego Pellicer dispensaries. Starting with just the name, Diego Pellicer distinguishes itself from a hundred other pot pun-titled outfits. One might not immediately realize it’s even a dispensary. Again, the best lies in knowing where to find it. The moniker pays homage to a legendary hemp trader and great-grandfather to one of the company’s co-founders. In kind, a sense of respect and tradition permeates the premises.

Diego Pellicer Dispensary
Few dispensaries offer a more luxurious experience than Diego Pellicer. photo credit

Walking in the door to the Colorado location, you’re greeted by a cheerful host and checked in amidst lush plants and imported tile floors. After an ID is checked, customers are issued past a literal velvet rope onto an elegantly designed sales floor populated with warm, reclaimed wood display cases. In the corner you’ll find the tank of Diego, a small Cayman that serves as a mascot and unparalleled touch of ambiance. Despite the crocodile, the format feels exceptionally welcoming.

While many other dispensaries aim for the “boutique” feel, few achieve it with such an inviting, yet manicured presence.

Chief Retail Officer Nicholas Jack explained that accomplishing this balance was one of the most importance factors to their success. “People see the place, it’s nice, and they think, ‘oh, I can’t afford that,’ but we want them to know that’s the furthest from the truth. This place is for everyone.” His words ring true. Their own house-grown, high-end, high-potency flower is available in a variety of price ranges. Every day has an assortment of value-priced ounces, but each looked as desirable as the main stock. According to Nick, “If someone comes in and gets a $99 ounce, goes home and sees it’s all popcorn and sticks, that’s an upset customer. They aren’t coming back. We care about that customer. Everyone is getting good flower.”

The cannabis consumer of refined tastes is far from neglected at Diego Pellicer. Nick showed off one of their more signature bespoke items, hand-rolled Sabo Especial cannabis cigars. Containing 7 grams of top-shelf flower and 2 grams of concentrate, a single Sabo Especial will set you back $225. Nick says they have larger, custom orders that go up to $300. “One of these can last a room full of people a few hours,” he noted with pride. Looking at the care and craft put into it, the price sounds almost judicious. And that sense extends to every item in their vast repertoire. Even in the sizeable space, every item felt carefully chosen, vetted and placed. It was unlike any other dispensary this writer has visited.

Upscale Accessories

Any market can be harshly judged by its accessorizing, and cannabis is no stranger to such criticism. After a few years in the industry, one begins to feel like they’ve seen it all in the way of ostentatious add-ons – from heady glass worth more than a midsize car to vaporizers that rival the very device you’re reading this on.

Some people might believe these types of accessories carry the odious air of feeling unnecessary and that their price tag does little to enhance the smoking experience. However, there is a massive demand for high-end cannabis accessories and many consumers go out of their way to purchase the latest and greatest add-ons for their smoking set-ups.

One company that caters to high-end cannabis consumers and connoisseurs is Oregon-based design firm High Society. They’re well-known for elevating one the most humble of smoking devices, the roach clip, to a new sophisticated realm with their 24-karrat gold-dipped smoking clips. The art deco-inspired style by designer Erin Rose Gardner invites the user to partake proudly, defiantly.

Gold Joint Clip
High Society's 24k gold smoking clips are great for any consumer looking to add some luxurious flare to their smoking regimen. photo credit

At $129, the Sunburst Lux Clip creates the piece de resistance of the collection. No modest amount, to be sure. However, the clip appears like it might be right at home in either a sacred ritual or extravagant ball – and possibly some combination of both.

When looking at such a beautiful device, one simply cannot conjure the image of a disheveled burnout, only Dionysus in repose. In succeeding in doing so, High Society has achieved what all high art hopes to do: it becomes transformative. However, beneath the brilliant gold lies sturdy, reliable bronze. Almost like a reminder of smoking’s humble roots.

It is that abstract, elevating quality that makes the difference between genuine luxuries and expensive baubles. It is the line that separates one of the year’s best from just another pricey bottle of wine. When you’re out shopping, make sure you know the distinction.

Are you interested in luxury cannabis products? If so, what’s your favorite brand/product?


Matthew Mongelia Matthew Mongelia

Matthew Mongelia is the Content Manager for He holds an MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA in Creative Writing from CUNY Brooklyn College. He has worked in the industry in numerous roles for over 5 years while covering cannabis content from coast to coast. Like so many in the industry, he first became acquainted with cannabis as a medical patient, and has been a passionate advocate for the plant ever since. He is a writer for the comic Dark Beach, and has previously covered music and cultural content for SOL REPUBLIC.

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