The Gentrification of Medicinal Marijuana Is Upon Us
Medical marijuana is legal in New York, but dispensaries that sell medicinal weed are few and far between. Now, though, MedMen, a marijuana distributor that Page Six referred to as the “Barney’s of weed” is coming to Manhattan. Barney’s, you say? Of weed? Aiming a little high, no?
According to Page Six, the Los Angeles-based cannabis brand will open a 10,000-square foot retail store in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, near Bryant Park—an enormous footprint for a state with only 25,736 registered medical marijuana users. And not all of those users live in New York City proper; clearly the men behind MedMen are waiting patiently for recreational weed to be legalized in the state. While I appreciate an upscale retail experience like anyone else, something about MedMen’s entire vibe skeeves me out.
As marijuana is now legalized in California, MedMen has aggressively positioned themselves as the frontrunner in this nascent industry, covering Los Angeles with their ads—a pleasing aesthetic combo of Glossier and Supreme.The thought is that classing up the joint will strip away the shame of entering a head shop that smells like Nag Champa and bong water, and will encourage those who would rather not think of their weed as a “drug deal” to shop. While a rebrand to adjust for consumer sensitivities is fine, what MedMen are poised to do is to transform the retail experience entirely by sanitizing it.
“Most [cannabis stores] follow the ‘deli’ model where people check in and go up to the counter to put in their order,” MedMen chief marketing officer BJ Carretta told the Observer. “We want people to feel free to browse and really experience the store and get educated on the products.” Making this process as user-friendly as possible is one thing, but MedMen’s approach seems to carry a hefty whiff of Silicon Valley boys-club ‘tude. People of color are incarcerated for minor possession at a rate much higher than white people, while a disproportionate amount of white people are at the helm of the companies poised to make a shitload of money once weed is legal everywhere. It’s setting an uncomfortable precedent that some people—mostly women of color—are trying to change.
Gentrification is inevitable and one day the world will truly be a giant outdoor shopping mall, but let’s think this one through.