The Botanist is a new retail brand from Acreage Holdings, one of the largest cannabis operators in the United States. Three stores opened late in 2018, and three more will open in 2019 throughout the East Coast. The spaces, inspired by elegant 19th-century greenhouses, have been designed by McKinley Burkart, a Canadian architecture firm better known for its luxury residential and hospitality spaces. It makes sense: the brand’s self-declared aim is to reflect the future of cannabis retail.
This, by the way, is what that future of cannabis retail looks like: Silverpeak’s ‘stunning Aspen store [that] provides an extraordinary shopping experience’ looks like it drew inspiration from a London gentlemen’s club. Diego Pellicer in Seattle markets itself as ‘luxury you can afford’ and its 4th Avenue store looks like it belongs in the nicer spots of the Vegas strip. Planet 13, by the way, is actually in Vegas – but it looks like an Apple store.
Cannabis retailers are starting to look more David Rockwell than David Wooderson
Stop me when you get the general idea: as more American states are relaxing policies related to recreational marihuana consumption, spatial design has found a new niche. That’s why cannabis retailers are starting to look more David Rockwell than David Wooderson – gone is the tie-dye and the reggae playlist, as now they’ve gone luxe.
Which would be perfectly fine and good news for business… if only marihuana possession wasn’t the loaded racial element that it currently is in the United States. Despite nearly equal usage rates, black users are still four times more likely than whites to be arrested for smoking, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In New York City, where a couple of Botanist stores are opening this year, it’s eight times more likely – and being Latino is also bad news, as the group’s arrest rate is five times that of non-Hispanic whites. What’s more troubling: according to the Drug Policy Alliance, the rates of these racially biased arrests persist even in states that have legalized the drug.
Here in the Netherlands coffee shops are, almost as a rule, as far from the definition of spatial luxury as possible. Beyond the lax drug policy in place in the country, it is the cultural umbrella for tolerance that makes marihuana not a premium item, but a right to all.