The Hermes of marijuana
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NEW YORK, March 20 — Recreational cannabis may be legal in California, but buying the actual stuff still makes Scott Campbell, a celebrity tattoo artist and fine artist, feel like a class-cutting teenage stoner.
“You go in to buy weed, and it’s like visiting your parole officer,” said Campbell, who lives in Los Angeles. “You get buzzed through three metal gates.” Inside, cannabis products are often packaged with loopy Deadhead-style graphics and goofy dorm-humour strain names like Gorilla Glue and Purple Urkle.
Campbell hopes to change that with Beboe, an upscale line of cannabis vaporisers and edible pastilles that he founded with Clement Kwan, a former fashion executive, that caters to design-savvy professionals who value premium goods manufactured with an artisanal sensibility.
Beboe, which is starting to be embraced by the Hollywood A-list as the Hermès of marijuana, was unveiled at a lavish dinner party Thursday in West Hollywood, where the likes of Orlando Bloom, Sharon Stone and Justin Theroux attended. “You know where you would go to a dinner and bring a fancy bottle of wine?” Campbell said. “That’s what we want, dinner-party culture.”
In that spirit of gentility, Beboe’s wares could pass for the latest French fragrance on sale at Bergdorf Goodman. The company’s disposable vaporisers, which retail for US$60 (RM266) and are good for about 150 marijuana-infused drags, are sleek in design, come in only one colour — rose gold — and would not look out of place poking from the breast pocket of a Saint Laurent suit.
The packaging, too, is Instagram-worthy: White boxes festooned with elegant line drawings by Campbell. The company also sells low-dose edible pastilles in tins of 25, for US$25.
“You can eat one of the candies, and it’s five milligrams,” Campbell said. “You don’t get high off one candy, it just makes your day a little bit warmer, a little bit better. It’s little like ‘mommy’s little helper’. You could eat one at 3pm, and your boss wouldn’t know. You don’t have to worry about being in the foetal position on the sofa crying for four hours.”
(The dosage strength of legal edible cannabis products has become a health issue as more states have legalised the drug. In 2015, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning about edible cannabis after a 19-year-old man in Colorado consumed an entire cookie containing 65mg of THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, and jumped to his death from a fourth-floor balcony in Denver.)
Beboe is hardly the first company to try to take cannabis upscale. Tetra, a company founded by style and design writers, sells designer pipes and stash boxes worthy of the MoMA Design Store. A social club called the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club sells select strains of marijuana wrapped in gold foil for US$700 an ounce.
Even so, the clout of Beboe’s founders gives it an unusual head start. Until last year, Kwan was the president of Yoox North America, the online luxury retailer; before that, he was the business projects manager for Dolce & Gabbana.
Campbell, meanwhile, has inked the likes of Heath Ledger, Penélope Cruz and Marc Jacobs. He is married to the actress Lake Bell, and was the best man at Theroux’s wedding to Jennifer Aniston in 2015.
Beboe’s A-list investors include Rose McGowan, the actress; Carmen Busquets, an early investor in Net-a-Porter; and Joanne Wilson, the angel investor who runs the popular entrepreneurship blog Gotham Gal. The marijuana upstart is named after Campbell’s grandmother Be (short for Bernice) Boe, who used to buy dime bags to make brownies to ease his mother’s pain as she battled cancer when he was a child. “I remember one time, after a fresh batch of brownies, my mother put one of her chemo wigs on a remote control car of mine, and chased our dog around the house with it,” Campbell said. “She and Grandma couldn’t breathe, they were laughing so hard.”
Kwan, meanwhile, helped finance his tuition at the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied corporate finance, with a hydroponic operation that produced some 20 pounds of marijuana a month.
While Kwan said he avoided any run-ins with the law, he was forced to shut down his multiple grow rooms when he became a mergers-and-acquisitions analyst in the tech sector. “I was heartbroken,” he said. “I love, love, love cultivation.”
Neither founder sounded particularly worried that the Trump administration may enforce a federal crackdown on legal marijuana in California, the only state where Beboe is being sold. (Despite the fact that cannabis is now legal in some form in 29 states, as well as the District of Columbia, marijuana possession remains a federal offense, and a first possession conviction is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of US$1,000).
Campbell hopes that upscale marijuana brands like his will make the drug more socially acceptable.
“There’s always that moment, like at the Chateau Marmont, where you’ll go to this dinner, and then at one point in the meal, between entrees and desserts, a handful of people will sneak off into the bushes and smoke a joint,” Campbell said. “We’re just trying to make it so they don’t have to leave the table.” — The New York Times