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My visit to a retail cannabis store in Los Angeles: Lots of products, hipster vibe

As Illinois ponders legalizing recreational pot, I checked out a hip store selling a variety of products.

MedMen billboard in Los Angeles
A MedMen billboard on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles promoting the store in West Hollywood. The MedMen message: Legal cannabis is the “new normal.”
Photo by Lynn Sweet

LOS ANGELES — With Gov. J.B. Pritzker pushing state lawmakers to legalize recreational adult use of cannabis, I checked out what the future could hold if street-level retail marijuana product stores ever take root in Illinois.

I’m about to enter a MedMen shop, the one at 110 S. Robertson, not far from Beverly Hills.

The store stands out on this trendy block because of its bright red color schemes and welcoming picture windows providing a look at the rows of sleek counters inside.

Think of a minimalist hipster Apple Store translated from stark white everywhere to a shop with bursts of robust red and wood accents.

Several MedMen staffers are outside the door, all in red shirts. They are hanging out for a reason. The legal age to buy marijuana in California is 21 and if you are underage, you are not allowed in the place.

One of the red shirts politely asks me for an ID before I enter, which I don’t mind showing, though its been awhile since I’ve been carded. I was put off a bit when the staffer took a photo of my driver’s license. I was told none of my personal information was going into a database with the intent only to keep MedMen out of trouble.

Interior of hip-looking MedMen store near Beverly Hills. The legal age to buy marijuana in California is 21 and if you are underage, you are not allowed in the place.
Photo courtesy of MedMen

One of the messaging campaigns of MedMen centers on trying to normalize purchase and use of the once-forbidden weed.

A billboard I spotted later for MedMen on Santa Monica Boulevard for the West Hollywood store said “Welcome to the New Normal.”

The “new normal” I saw was what, to me, was an astonishing number of cannabis products anyone over 21 could buy even if they were not California residents, no reason needed: flowers; vape cartridges; edibles; medicinal creams and more.

Once inside the MedMen store, I saw under each glass-top counter examples of the different flowers for sale. Each sprig was in a container with iPads nearby with touchscreen explanations.

At MedMen, the various products for sale claim their use will achieve some state of better, according to descriptions in the store and on its website. Keep in mind these helpful product claims — from triggering euphoria to easing stress — are not strictly government regulated.

Sativa strains, for example, according to the MedMen website, are known for “eliciting more stimulating, euphoric and uplifting effects.” A Sativa sprig named “Alien OG” is $50 for 3.5 grams.

Sativa-dominant marijuana “promotes focus and composure. Perfect for creative endeavors.” A flower in this category called “Connect” is $20 a gram or $55 for 3.5 grams.

Indica strains are “known to evoke a sedative effect, making them popular with evening users.” An Indica flower called “Black Jack” is $50 for 3.5 grams; a 50 mg bag of gummies named “Connect” sells for $14.

Indica-dominant cannabis “promotes maximum relaxation and a sense of transcendence.” Another indica-dominant product, named “Banana fig,” has the hefty price tag of $65 for 3.5 grams.

After my visit, I asked MedMen about the retail vibe and my answer came from David Dancer, MedMen’s chief marketing officer in an e-mail. “At MedMen, we have a vision where legalized and regulated cannabis creates a safer, healthier and happier world.”

Everything in each store — the technology, the design, the sales team — “is focused on offering an elevated, but accessible, experience that breaks stereotypes of what people expect when they visit a dispensary,” he said.

Said another way on the company website: “We do not run pot shops, we manage class leading retail stores that happen to sell marijuana and marijuana products.”

MedMen at present operates 14 retail stores. It is also making inroads in Illinois as the state lawmakers debate legalizing recreational pot sales.

Illinois’ current laws allow for the sale of medical marijuana with a cap on the number of cultivation centers and dispensaries allowed around the state. At present, only Illinois residents over the age of 18 with a debilitating medical condition certified by a doctor can purchase cannabis associated with a medical use.

Last October, MedMen announced a $682 million deal for the Chicago-based PharmaCann company, headquartered at 190 S. LaSalle.

PharmaCann’s Illinois operations include dispensaries in Arlington Heights, Evanston, N. Aurora and Ottawa, and production facilities in Dwight and Hillcrest.

Illinois is still working out the many details of how, if legalized, the sale of recreational pot will take shape, be it in hipster MedMen style retail stores or something else.

Pritzker press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh told me in an e-mail the administration and “stakeholders and lawmakers have studied all the other states that have legalized marijuana and have incorporated best practices from those states as well as lessons learned to create the most equity-centric approach in the country.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot backs “safe and equitable legislation” to legalize recreational pot use.

Friendly advice: This stuff is only legal for use in California. Since you wondered, I didn’t buy anything. I got what I wanted — a taste of the future.

Editors Note: The number of MedMen retail-only stores was clarified.