Corporate Sharks Smell Weed in the Water

As more states legalize cannabis, big players take a big step forward.

Happy New Year! Let’s jump right in. Over the last few years, dozens of movers and shakers from the corporate world have set up shop in the world of cannabis—and several corporations have begun to express interest in the financial potential in weed.

“Luxury” weed shop Diego Pellicer was founded by Jamen Shively, one-time corporate strategy manager for Microsoft. The Seattle Times interviewed a starry-eyed Shively back in 2013 when he announced his vision for a chain of Starbuck’s-esque weed stores. With a former Mexican president by his side, he projected his vision of a future where he would utilize Washington’s legal weed market to create the prototype of retail cannabis store franchise. This year, he will be advancing his plan. Shively announced in December that he has teamed up with Jill Savini, the trailblazing pioneer in the world of branding who helped design the first Mac and was the creative director of the original Apple store. He is also now a client of world class architect Michael Rotondi. The trio plans to create fully branded grow-ops and retail locations that can be leased out. The storefronts would be fully customizable to suit the needs of the lease-holder. They hope to get out ahead of the market, create brand awareness around the Diego Pellicer name, and eventually dictate what the cannabis retail experience should look like.

It was also announced in December that GoodShip Co. is being sold to Privateer Holding. GoodShip is the stoned sister company to Cupcake Royale, all created by sugary chef Jody Hall. The company produces marijuana-infused sweet treats like chocolates, gummies, and cookies. Hall is no stranger to the corporate world herself. Formerly a marketing manager at Starbucks, she saw that company grow from 30 stores to more than 3,000. She left to start Cupcake Royale in 2003. Now, she has sold GoodShip to Privateer, but she will be staying on to continue to create cannabis confections. Privateer may not be a familiar name, but their holdings are. Started by three guys with Ivy-league pedigrees in corporate management, Privateer Holdings owns Leafly, the world’s largest cannabis site with over 11,000,000 visitors a month. It also owns Marley Natural, the official Bob Marley cannabis brand, as well as Tilray, one of the world’s largest medicinal cannabis producers and distributors. Tilray was the first company to legally distribute cannabis products from North America to the rest of the world. Currently they provide medicinal cannabis products to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, and Canada.

Shively and Hall are far from alone. Earlier this year, another Apple alumni, Eric Eslao, launched infused chocolates venture Défoncé Chocolatier. Carrie Tice left the video game giant UbiSoft to become the co-founding director of San Francisco cannabis company Octavia Wellness. Yet another Apple alum, Mark Williams, is behind the groundbreaking vape pen the Firefly Vapor (he met his business partner at Burning Man). Pepsi, American Express, Google, Bose, and GoPro have all seen top execs turn down the corporate green for canna-bucks.

Will the wild and free elements of cannabis culture be lost as the industry turns away from crunk cups and tie-dye in favor of silk ties and power lunches? Only time will tell.

stashbox@seattleweekly.com

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