New DTC toolkit   //   November 14, 2023

‘A growth space’: Cannabis accessories are becoming mainstream

When Lana Van Brunt and Hayley Dineen launched their cannabis accessories brand Sackville & Co in early 2018, they were “really early” to the market, Van Brunt told Modern Retail. At the time, only a handful of U.S. states (plus the District of Columbia) had legalized recreational marijuana. Now, following last week’s election in Ohio, that number stands at 24 states, plus the capital.

Today, cannabis is a huge industry, with sales in legalized markets expected to top more than $50 billion in the U.S. by 2030. With more dispensaries popping up across the country to meet demand, consumer brands have started offering cannabis-related items. Even major brands have joined in. Patagonia has an entire section on its website dedicated to hemp clothing; Sephora, Walgreens, Sprouts and CVS all carry CBD products; and vape pen company Dosist has grown to hundreds of stores.

As cannabis use becomes more widespread, there’s been a shift in the smoking accessories market. Many of today’s brands that sell such items focus on sleek, modern products in bright colors or unique shapes — an attempt to distance themselves from the stoner stereotype that’s permeated pop culture for decades. Instead of selling pipes or rolling papers alone, companies are selling fashionable and whimsical accessories. Sackville & Co, for example, sells a grinder shaped like an apple, while Tetra sells a shiny, circular, blue and purple incense burner. Still, challenges remain for these brands, especially when it comes to advertising on major platforms like Meta and TikTok.

The rise of accessories

Bags, especially, are catching on within the cannabis accessories space. A few months ago, clutch brand Edie Parker went viral on TikTok for its Burn handbags, which come with lighters and have become a hit with influencers. Last week, Bic rolled out its first fashion product, the Best Buds Bag. The product, which is part of a collaboration with Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart, uses the lighter as the latch of the bag. Bic’s Best Buds Bag comes in two colors and retails for $99 on Bic’s website. It’s currently a limited-edition product, with both styles sold out on Bic’s website.

While Bic sells many types of goods, its lighter business was responsible for nearly 37% of net sales over the first nine months of 2023. “We’ve seen the lighter is becoming a fashion accessory,” Caroline Carlson, senior brand manager at Bic, told Modern Retail. “Bic being the leader in the lighter business, I mean, of course, we have to be part of these new trends… We cannot miss it.”

High-fashion brands, too, have started selling lighters in various forms — albeit most aren’t marketing them alongside cannabis. Celine sells a $470 lighter case charm to attach to a bag, while Victoria Beckham has a gold lighter case retailing for more than $100. Zippo collaborated with Vivienne Westwood on special-edition lighters in April. But, brands of all types are getting in on the craze, even selling look-a-likes. Shein sells a $1.50 ring with a fake lighter on it.

Outside of lighters, there’s growing demand for all types of accessories, especially ones with unique designs. In 2020, Sackville & Co launched Sackville Studios, a private label, product design and production agency for cannabis accessories. Sackville Studios has worked with artists at Live Nation and WME on cannabis accessories, as well as multi-state cannabis operators like Jushi, Curaleaf and Cresco Labs.

“It’s given us the opportunity to help inform how products should be used, how they should live and help really dictate minimizing the stigma that exists in cannabis by allowing products to be beautiful, functional and sit out in your world,” Van Brunt said.

Advertising headwinds

There is, however, an inherent challenge with being a cannabis accessories business: advertising.

TikTok prohibits the “promotion, sale or solicitation of smoking paraphernalia, including smoking pipes, rolling papers, filters, vaporizers or any other device, equipment or apparatus designed for smoking,” although it does say that this rule is “not applicable to” CBD products in certain countries. Meta says that “ads may not promote or offer the sale of THC products or cannabis products containing related psychoactive components.” Twitter, post-Elon Musk’s takeover, became more lenient, allowing cannabis ads on the platform in states where cannabis is legal.

Sackville & Co has been able to appeal these rules for Meta properties, largely because Urban Outfitters is selling its goods and advertising its products online. “But it’s obviously a very difficult process, and we’re still independently not really able to access those tools,” Van Brunt said. TikTok, she said, is still an absolute “no go.”

“I came from traditional advertising… and a lot of the tools that we’re used to being able to access as a brand are just gone,” Van Brunt added.

To sell its items, Sackville & Co relies on its wholesale distribution deals with companies like Urban Outfitters and Bespoke Post. It also tries to take advantage of word of mouth and was an early brand user of TYB (“Try Your Best”), a platform created by Outdoor Voices founder Ty Haney. With TYB, brands collect input from customers, then grant them rewards such as NFTs and/or coins to use towards purchases. Sackville & Co is interested in doing more experiential retail, too.

While Van Brunt acknowledges that advertising is “a great challenge,” she’s also confident in the direction of the cannabis accessories industry. Her brand has seen a 130% compound annual growth rate every year since 2018, and she’s optimistic about the future, especially in regards to product expansion across sectors.

“Consumers, I think they will absolutely demand their products in the future to accommodate cannabis,” Van Brunt said. “The entire world has adjusted itself to accommodate the experience of alcohol in every form, and product is no different. So, I absolutely think that’s a growth space.”

“I think being able to create clothing, wearable aspects that allow somebody to have functionality, conceal their product safely, access their product safely, that type of thing, I think is just the next step of allowing consumers a better experience with cannabis,” she added.