As California prepares to set up the legal market for marijuana, cannabis entrepreneurs have found new opportunities in the wedding and event space.
People are increasingly comfortable with cannabis use in the state, and businesses are capitalizing on that with opportunities to incorporate cannabis at weddings, from offering “budtender” services that help serve and monitor cannabis use, to cannabis party favors to wedding bouquets and cannabis-infused meals and desserts.
“Cannabis is growing up,” said Andrew Mieure, who owns a Colorado-based company called Top Shelf Budtending that recently expanded to California and Nevada.
Mieure said the evolution of cannabis into something that can be high-end — like wine — is part of what drives his “mobile budtending” business. He dispatches budtenders and equipment to parties, weddings and events, where they can measure out the proper doses for guests. The company also makes and serves cocktails that replace alcohol with doses of THC.
“So far, it’s been growing,” Mieure explained of the business as he has expanded into California.
Other businesses said the same of their business opportunities at the recent Cannabis Wedding Expo that took place in San Francisco this week at the Westfield San Francisco Centre’s event space.
Katie Brooke Callahan is a longtime makeup and hair artist, having worked with stars like Lady Gaga to companies like Google. She’s also a big advocate for cannabis, which helped her manage pain from a spinal injury, and is working on building a line of healing balms and beauty products that have CBD in them.
“I’m merging 14 years of wedding hair and makeup with cannabis,” Callahan said of her new Petaluma-based company, Belle Fleur Apothecary, pointing out the opportunities available in big industries like the wedding and event space and beauty or body products. “Everybody uses marijuana.”
Camille Ochoa started her business, Canna Reign, after seeing a “lack of gorgeous, sophisticated, cannabis decor,” she said.
She crafts trays for rolling joints, as well as paper cannabis-inspired banners and other decor. She’s seen an interest from customers hosting a variety of events, but now hopes the wedding industry will provide more opportunities for her to sell her high-end cannabis decor.
Eliza Maroney, co-founder of the Lucky Box Club, a subscription box for cannabis users, said the company was expanding its model to include customizable boxes for events or weddings after seeing a demand for that. The boxes are “aesthetically pleasing,” suitable for high-end events or in people’s homes, Maroney said. “We want to be approachable and give people products that they aren’t embarrassed to have in their house.”
“We’re going to see a lot more of this,” said Philip Wolf, CEO of the Cannabis Wedding Expo. People want services like “cannabis-friendly limos, but they’re not sure where to go, or when a bride wants to smoke a joint before her wedding but needs a hair and makeup artist who is comfortable with that,” he said.
Wolf started the expo in Colorado after a career in the events space. When his now-business partner Rebecca Koop, who owned a cannabis floral business, said wedding expos would not let her attend as a vendor, they decided to start their own expo, a cannabis-friendly one. The San Francisco event was the first in California, after the pair hosted two others in Colorado.
It was not without challenges, however. Wolf said he talked to about 40 venues about hosting the California expo before finding one that was suitable and welcoming to the event. Finding venues for weddings themselves can be a challenge, as well, he said. It is only legal to consume at private parties at private locations, so many traditional wedding venues may be out of the question. Even private venue owners can be hesitant to allow it.
But as cannabis use becomes more mainstream in California and elsewhere, Wolf said, more people are looking for ways to incorporate cannabis into events in their life — including weddings.
“Before, people were theming weddings in cannabis,” Wolf said, but the question was “how can it be lightly incorporated?”
Expos like this one offer brides and wedding planners a chance to see just that. And entrepreneurs are stepping up to the challenge.
One Livermore-based company, TheRoyalHerb.com, grinds marijuana flowers and creates blends of different strains (think winemakers making wine blends). Leslie Flannery, the owner of the company, was marketing them as good party favors or gifts for bridal parties in the wedding space, although they could be used for baking or other uses.
Eagle Creek Ranch is a cannabis-friendly resort about five hours north of San Francisco that owner Nicole Lanni and manager Stephanie Adriana promote for weddings and honeymoons. It is in the process of building out extra rooms, a farm-to-table restaurant and is considering building a cannabis bar, Adriana said. People cannot smoke in the rooms, but other parts of the 116-acre property are cannabis-friendly, she said.
The already large wedding industry has continued to grow in recent years. According to research firm IBISWorld, the $72 billion wedding services market grew 3.2 percent from 2011 to 2016 and employs about 1.2 million people. The cannabis industry is growing too. According to a report from Arcview Market Research, the cannabis industry in North America grew 30 percent in 2016 to $6.7 billion. The firm projects sales to be upwards of $20.2 billion by 2021.
Cannabis is spreading to other industries and event spaces as well.
Lala Santolla and Marz Campos incorporate fitness and cannabis and are planning their own “420 Wellness” event in San Francisco on May 7. The pair work to remove the “lazy stoner” stigma by offering education about fitness and cannabis and hosting regular fitness and wellness classes, they said.
Santolla is planning her own wedding, in which she hopes to include two bars, one for alcohol and one for marijuana. Campos said she, too, has considered having cannabis incorporated at her wedding for years, although she is not planning one immediately. She said she has thought of including a “smoke toast” instead of the traditional champagne toast.
Cannabis is a big part of her and her partner’s life, she said. They do not like to drink and would prefer cannabis in place of alcohol on her big day, she explained.
“I don’t want champagne — spark up the joints!”