Boutique hotel group Standard International and cannabis-infused confection maker Lord Jones have announced a partnership that includes opening a retail shop in the lobby of the Standard
There are also plans to create co-branded THC-derived products and expand to the hotel's downtown Los Angeles location — and beyond — as regulations permit.
Robert Rosenheck, founder and chief executive of L.A.-based Lord Jones, said the 2-year-old brand's first retail flagship will take up about 300 square feet facing Sunset Boulevard just to the right of the hotel's main entrance.
It will be stocked with the company's full range of THC-derived edibles (gourmet gumdrops, caramels and chews) and topicals (some of which contain THC, others made with hemp-derived CBD), along with what he describes as "a very tightly curated assortment of best-in-class products – including smokable product" by other brands.
There are still some complications to sort out. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and although California voters legalized adult recreational use a year ago, state and local laws pertaining to sales of THC-containing products are still in the process of being formulated and won't be in place until next year.
"California has a dual-licensing program," Rosenheck said, "which means you need to have a local license as a prerequisite for applying for a state license, and you need both to operate."
He explained that with neither the West Hollywood nor California regulations in place, negotiating the permitting and licensing process required to open the boutique sometime in early 2018 was akin to "sort of building the airplane on the runway."
The handful of Standard hotels — there are two in New York and one in Miami in addition to the two SoCal locations — have a long-history of forging quirky, trail-blazing partnerships.
In 2013, the Standard Hollywood — which is actually located in West Hollywood — became home to the first West Coast bricks-and-mortar outpost for online eyewear purveyor Warby Parker; the next year, SPiN LA, Susan Sarandon's table-tennis-meets-social-club concept, bowed at the downtown location. The group was also on the forefront of adding Peloton stationary bikes to its gym-equipment lineup.
Standard International's chief executive and managing partner, Amar Lalvani, sees putting Lord in the lobby in keeping with that tradition.
"We love the idea of connecting with people at the early stages [of their businesses], finding fun, interesting dynamic concepts and allow them to come to life in physical locations at our hotels," he said.
Even with so many regulatory hurdles left to clear — and an opening date at least 45 days in the future (if not more) — Lord Jones and Standard International had a strategic reason to make the partnership public now.
"We've been working on this for over a year, " Rosenheck said, "and we wanted make the announcement first to our knowledge this will be the first hotel-based dispensary in the nation." (Rosenheck prefers the term "dispensary," though it's usually used to refer to pot shops that cater to medical marijuana patients.)
Although there are already "bud and breakfasts" and hotels that allow cannabis consumption, "there's nothing on the scale of what the Standard and Lord Jones are trying to do," said Cynthia Salarizadeh, publisher of the Cannabis Trend Report and Cannabis Brand Report.
She added that it almost certainly won't be the last, either.
"If you're running a hotel and it's a great brand and you see the Standard killing it like this, you're likely to follow the concept quickly," she said.
"This is a great way to take cannabis to the next level of luxury branding. The Standard is such a familiar and high-end establishment in L.A. and Lord Jones is one of the better-branded products, that I think this collaboration speaks to what the California market is eventually going to become as the regulations unfold."
That those regulations are still taking shape doesn't concern the Standard's Lalvani, nor do the potential legal ramifications.
"We're doing everything we need to do to be compliant in any way with whatever the regulations are," Lalvani said. "But the cannabis details will fall to [Lord Jones]."
Business-wise, the partnership is structured as a lease in the Standard Hotel. Lalvani said the hotel would not be involved in things like collecting money or credit-card processing (due to federal regulations, banking remains a challenge for cannabis concerns).
Rosenheck and Lalvani said that they're also working on opening a similar space inside the downtown L.A. Standard on Flower Street, but they expect the process in the City of L.A. to take longer.
"The light is not quite as bright at the end of the tunnel in Los Angeles," Rosenheck said. "West Hollywood's much further along in [drafting] their ordinance."
Positioned at the premium end of the market, Lord Jones' edibles include $5 individually wrapped chews bursting with dark chocolate and espresso flavor – and 15 mg of THC each and limited-edition small-batch gumdrops inspired by the flavors of foraged Icelandic berries, packed with 20 mg of THC each. The gumdrops are packaged nine to an elegant turquoise box and created in collaboration with Icelandic band Sigur Rós; the boxes cost $50 each.
Topicals in formulations from pure hemp-derived CBD to CBD/THC blends are priced from $40 to $60.
For more musings on cannabis culture and commerce, follow me @ARTschorn.