Designing for cannabis hospitality
Mary Jane got a makeover. Hello, glammed-up branding, delicious edibles, discreet vape pens and health-focused topical Cannabidiol (CBD). Read on to find out how that new image (and the users it attracts) is shaping the look and operating model for hotels where usage is permitted...
Pot is not something clients want guests to feel comin’ in the air tonight, or any night. Far from being stoner paradises, the upcoming cannabis hotels (designed for fans of both non-psychoactive Cannabidiol [CBD] and Tetrahydrocannabinol [THC], which is psychoactive) will fit the substance’s new, integrated-into-the-cool-crowd vibe. Users and non-users should be able to stay side by side. “My goal is to create hotels where businessman, conference goers, concert goers and families feel welcome, whether they use marijuana or not,” says Roger Bloss, founder, Coachillinn, the hotel component of a canna-business development in Desert Hot Springs, California. Bloss is also developing several cannabis hotels. “Also, I don’t believe cannabis hotels will have an infinite lifespan. As legalization becomes more widespread (recreational use is currently legal in 10 states, one U.S. territory and the District of Columbia, as well as all of Canada and Uruguay, while unrestricted legalization doesn’t exist elsewhere), the novelty is going to wear off.”
Roger Bloss, founder, Coachillin; photo courtesy of Roger Bloss
For now, though, site planning and layout for cannabis hotels are a front-and-center tool for venues that appeal to a broad range of guests. First step: controlling odor. Most of these venues plan to ban smoking in public areas. In the guestrooms, Aileen Canta, founder, AF Canta Inc. believes in dedicated smoking rooms (she’s one of the first industry insiders to understand and publicize the importance of cannabis projects, and she’s seen how legalization affects hotels in Colorado, where she is based). “There's a fabric that is being developed to not retain smell. But it's still in the works. For now, it takes two days and a complete steam cleaning for the odor to go away, making this a room turnover issue,” she says.
Aileen Canta, founder, AF Canta Inc.; photo courtesy of AF Canta Inc.
Cara Federici, ceo and founder, The Madison Melle Agency (who works as a consultant and is currently creating a cannabis retail outlet for a confidential luxury hotel), agrees, but says physical separation from the rest of the hotel is key to prevent odors from penetrating non-users’ rooms. Bloss isn’t a believer in smoking rooms. Instead, he plans large balconies where guests can consume outside, as well as outdoor public and private spaces. Since Coachillinn is located in the middle of a canna-business park, already a hotbed of dispensaries and cultivation, it’s unlikely anyone in the neighborhood would complain. For more urban hotels, though, it can be an issue. Federici says one option is vaping-only outdoor areas.
Cara Federici, ceo and founder, The Madison Melle Agency; photo courtesy of The Madison Melle Agency
What does all this mean for the designer? First, it means banishment of anything that screams stoner culture. No neon green pot leaves, 4/20 references and definitely no Cheech and Chong quotes. Start with the bones of a great boutique hotel. Weave in the hemp references behind the scenes, says Bloss, who’s planning hemp uniforms and sheets at Coachillinn, as well as possibly replacing concrete with hempcrete in the construction.
“You can expect to see subtle references in the art, similar to the way other hotels might include local culture as an accent,” he says. Acres Cannabis, a dispensary his company operates in Las Vegas, offers a sneak peek into what the hotels’ aesthetic could be like. Starting with a look that blends its basic functions of high-end retail, open kitchen, art gallery and marijuana “farmers’ market,” offbeat touches (think the word “high” on a woman’s shirt in one of the murals) reinforce the space’s purpose without going over the top. Chandeliers and blonde wood display cases move the atmosphere upscale.
Coachillinn; photo courtesy of DLW Architects
That’s a key takeaway, especially for hotels that are incorporating cannabis retail. “Manufacturers create products that look and feel sophisticated and elegant, removing the stereotypes and reinventing the product through packaging alone,” says Federici. “These items will be integrated seamlessly into a hotel’s upscale retail display—on a shelf in a storefront or behind a display case. For example, CBD haircare or lip balm items would fit nicely in to an already existing retail display.” She says CBD-stocked minibars are another way to bring non-psychoactive cannabis to hotels.
Bloss also points out that CBD’s reputed health-enhancing properties makes it appealing to the wellness traveler. He plans on incorporating Equinox Fitness-style luxury gyms with a focus on mind-body practices into his hotels. So, designers will need to level up these spaces—no more putting two treadmills, one elliptical trainer and one stationary bike into a small room with some free weights and calling it a “fitness room.” Finishes will need to match the rest of the hotel. Lighting and acoustics will have to be handled with the precision of a nightclub.
And, that, as they say, is a tour of the high points of designing for hotels where cannabis will be used. These will certainly be some of the buzziest projects of the next few years.