Upon the release of Canndescent’s newest cannabis product, the Stylus, CEO Adrian Sedlin has no plans to slow down. Discussing everything from the product’s deliberately sleek packaging to its discrete aesthetic, being easily mistakable for a writing utensil, to its high quality ingredients and the brand’s transparency, Sedlin’s drive, passion, and innovation, show through in our Q+A.
While many non-marijuana users may feel intimidated by the concept of consuming the plant itself, Canndescent has made it the brand’s mission to tap into the vape user market, demonstrating a working understanding of the consumer’s wants and needs through customer outreach and market research. If the Stylus is any indicator, Canndescent knows it’s audience. With plans to expand the brand to new states in the coming year, Sedlin’s vision for Canndescent transcends cannabis products, with the California resident describing the brand’s vision to be the betterment of their customer’s lives.
How would you describe Canndescent?
What our name means is "to project light" and that’s what our company tries to execute. Our brand statement is Canndescent helps adults turn down the noise and unlock the moment and be their best selves through exceptional cannabis products. More conceptually, though, we're really about projecting light into the world and creating a happier, warmer place with joy, beauty, art, and all the better things.
How do feel the stigma of Marijuana has affected the way your business functions?
Well, the stigma of Marijuana affects everything we do because the way the laws and the regulations are. They’re based on a lot of false information out of the 1930s and 40s. The regulatory landscape we have to navigate is all a stem from that stigma or misinformation. If you're asking more of a pop culture question about people's negative perception of marijuana, how does that affect the way we position our company, is that the question? Or is it more are there a lot of hard mechanics in the business because Cannabis is still on schedule one?
I was thinking more from the perspective of people who don't know the actual facts behind marijuana use. How does your business combat that by bringing light to the very important and significantly helpful effects of cannabis?
Canndescent identified six major problems facing the industry back in 2015 and everything we do targets solving those problems. If you were to look at it another way, those things and the way we execute against them help us, not because we're trying to destigmatize it, but by solving those problems, one of the benefits of the offshoot is destigmatization. Let me give you some examples. One of the problems is in the industry was lack of exceptional products - back 4-5 years ago. When you have under-capitalized companies run by not world class management teams there's sort of mediocre products. We focus on building exceptional products at every touch point whether it’s the actual product itself, to the packaging, to the presentation. Another way we've addressed that is by keeping things obstrusse and opaque. There was tons of confusion and intimidation (in the industry) - think about the 6,000 strains with names like "Tahoe Alien" and "Cat Piss" and "German Poison" and "Alaskan Thunderfuck." These are not names that the average human being wants to put into their body. Then you overlay that with a lot of science that no one understands like CBN, CBG, THC, THCA, THCB, Cannabanoids, Flabanoids, Trichomes. You literally (would) need a PHD in weed science to make a weed purchase four years ago. So what do we do? We simplified it with the effects based architecture and made it much more approachable. So, anyone who can answer the simple question "How do I want to feel?" can now buy their products. Do you want to feel calm? Do you want to feel charged? Do you want to connect? By simplifying the categories, we've made it far more approachable and, in doing that, invariably destigmatized it.
The number one thing I would say is that there’s an absolute mismatch between the broad positioning of cannabis in most cannabis companies and the underlying substance. Focusing on the alternative of alcohol, I often describe cannabis as the smart phone to alcohol's landline. We're zero calorie, don't destroy your liver, we have a lower withdrawal program than caffeine, we're not a known inhibitor. It's a really aspirational product category, but then you look at how it was being positioned. It was a really bad mash up of Wu Tang Clan meets Duck Dynasty with a super unhealthy dose of misogyny. It was an inbred stepchild of those three. We understood the underlying performance attributes and that this should be aspirational and we ran as hard as we could the other direction and created a very aspirational luxury feel, taking cues from Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany's. That was another way of making it more approachable because people don't know a lot about Cannabis, but they do know design and they can say that looks like my demographic and if someone puts that much effort into soft touch packaging with a magnetic closure they're probably thinking quite a bit about the product i'm consuming. Our design team has always used what I call our three S's - sexy, simple, and sophisticated (to make our products) and living at the intersection of those things makes it approachable but aspirational. I would say don't do any of the things that have earned the industry a stigma. In certain ways, historically, it's been pretty shady. When I entered the industry, 86% of the products on shelf were testing positive for pesticides. Put a product out there that actually loves your customer - pesticide-free, organic pest management. We just built, completed, and are operating the world's first solar project for the cannabis industry commercial scale. Do something your customers are proud of and want to be associated with. That's how you destigmatize something is by making good choices.
You mentioned that you've used words like Hermes and other brands that people are familiar with as a way to create customer outreach. In past interviews, you've also referred to Canndescent as the Hermés of cannabis. How do you think the price point of the products affects their accessibility?
That was my original view. I thought that I was truly building a luxury goods company, but I realized when we closed 2017 as a number one selling flower brand in California our first full year in production I'm not a luxury good. The better analogy for our business is probably Starbucks in the late 70s and early 80s. I remember when I walked into my first Starbucks it was like a trip to a foreign land. Then I was like "1.80 for a cup of coffee? Good luck with that." What Starbucks taught us is because the price point itself on a per serving basis was accessible, ultimately consumers had voted and Starbucks ended up advancing an entire coffee category. As a part of our daily ritual, 2, 3 bucks was no big deal. Canndescent is a higher priced product. We are one of the most expensive in the market right now. Our products still just cost 60 dollars. If you look at it, an eighth of product can roll four joints that can each serve five people. 20 servings in a $60 product. That's $3 an experience. That is really approachable from a price-point standpoint in terms of buzz for a buck. Think about what people pay for a beer or a glass of wine in a restaurant. Now with our new Stylus pen, the oils and concentrates are even more approachable. It works out to one dollar for a world-class, best that money can buy three hour psychoactive experience. Think about what a bad sequel movie costs. Our price point is incredibly approachable and that's why we're getting such a large response to what we're doing. We're not a niche product. What we're actually doing is premiumizing an entire category.
What was the inspiration behind making a Canndescent Stylus?
When we take on a new category, we look at it and say how can we add value to the consumer? What we observed is two fold: similar to the flower market where we started, we felt the product quality was very low and there was lots of white space, in terms of where the market wasn't giving consumers something they would really enjoy. Fundamentally, everyone had approached this category (of oils) as a utility. When you understand the cannabis consumer - cannabis becomes a very important part of people's lives and there's hundreds of Instagram and web pages dedicated to the cannabis fandom. When you understand how important cannabis becomes to people and how intimate it is, you understand it's not a utility, it's something to be celebrated. With the Stylus, we said let’s not build a utility lets build an accessory. A timeless accessory. Let's build something that's sleek, stylish, has a refined point of view. A Cartier and a Cassio both tell time, however, they deliver very different experiences. There's a lot of things in the aesthetic. It's that joy, beauty, and art thing. Another thing about the vape customer is that they're not necessarily as comfortable as the flower consumer with wearing their consumption on their sleeve, so the ideal of producing something that looks like a high-end pen, we like that analogy. Stylus is a play on that vape pen concept. We mirrored a pen from a form factor, but from a functional standpoint there's actually value to the cap, which no other vape pen has had historically. We've redefined the standards for oil in the vape market. There's only two ingredients: natural terpenes and cannabinoids. We customize the oil and our own hardware and then we design those two to be perfectly married, so we have magnetic cartridges or even simple user conveniences, like our cartridges are labeled.
You talked a bit about how Canndescent aims to destigmatize Marijuana. How do you feel about the push for legalization? How do you think that will help to destigmatize Marijuana? How do you think that will change the cannabis business overall?
I'm not trying to destigmatize it. I'm not trying to get cannabis to fit into society. I'm trying to use cannabis to change society. We believe cannabis is beautiful and the flower is gorgeous and I can tell you I'm a happier person when I have cannabis in my life versus when I don't. I think actually if we can get a little more cannabis consumption and a lot less alcohol the world would be a far better place. That's really our world view. It's not about do I destigmatize something. It's a step beyond that. It's how do I move the rest of the planet to cannabis? In terms of (legalization), it's fantastic. The march towards progress and being alive in the time that prohibition is receding and the true science of the category is showing is fantastic. We do a lot of things we can to support it. The number one thing we do is we run our company as a responsible corporate citizen. I love everything that's happening, I just want it to move faster.
How do you hope to expand your business? What is next for Canndescent?
We will relentlessly pursue innovation and product development into new products. Right now we have cannabis products like cannabis flower and cannabis pre-rolled. We also have our oils products now with our Stylus series, which have batteries and cartridges. In April we are going to release our ready to use/ disposable line of the Stylus. After that, we're going to start tackling the injestibles/ edibles category. Expect quite a bit of product innovation from our company on that line. That's how I would describe it expanding horizontally on shelf. We've got lots of followers on Instagram and the most recurring question we get is very simple: When are you coming to X? When can I buy your products in my state? Over the coming years, we're going to be moving to a number of new states. I think by the end of his year we'll be in four states. We will hopefully be in Nevada and Massachusetts and Michigan in the not so distant future. I'd like to be in New York by the end of 2020 and Florida and some of the other states. The idea is to expand the product line. A lot of people don't want to start with the flower and smoking, which is why it's been so important for us to get into vapes and the edibles and ingestibles category, which will be released throughout this year and early next. Once we find a way to really add value from both a form and functionality standpoint, I want to bring it to as many places as possible. First we'll start with the United States and then we'll paint the map of the world orange.
The Canndescent Stylus Series is available at select California dispensaries, and the rechargeable battery will soon be available for purchase nationwide.