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  • Writer's pictureRoger Obando

Cannabis, Ink.

By looking at my LinkedIn profile you may not realize it but I am heavily tattooed. There, now you know the truth. Does that change the way you think about me? I hope not and if it did then I’d say you are pretty out of touch with modern society.  

For most of modern American history tattoos were perceived as the mark of sailors and deviants. If you spied a tattoo peeking out of the sleeve or collar of a business person it would likely have been chalked up to a misspent youth.  

As times change, so do perceptions.  

I would say that beginning with my generation (Gen X) it became much more common to see tattoos being displayed proudly in the workplace. I’ve had hide-able tattoos since I was eighteen but right around my thirtieth birthday I decided to fully embrace my love of Japanese tattoo and started on my first sleeve. Almost exactly ten years later I’ve just finished my second full sleeve. At this point I am completely tattooed with hardly any bare skin showing through from collarbone to wrist.  

And I love my tattoos.

Early this morning I found myself on a phone call with Peter Joukov, the founder of Avantpay. Avantpay is a B2B conference for payments, banking, and compliance in the cannabis industry. Peter also happens to be the founder of Inq Tattoos. Inq Tattoos is a tattoo boutique in Alexandria, Virginia that is taking advantage of this change in perception of tattoos by creating a space that is approachable and comfortable for people who haven’t traditionally been tattooed and may be a bit apprehensive about walking into a “traditional” tattoo parlor. I was introduced to Peter by a good friend of mine who had mentioned the fact that Peter and I would have a lot to discuss about cannabis and tattoos but I had no idea what I was going to learn this morning.

Peter identified that there is a segment of society that is very interested in tattoos and who want to explore the opportunity of getting tattooed but are apprehensive about the environment of traditional tattoo parlors. I can see why this is the case. You walk into most tattoo shops and there is loud music playing, flash art sheets plastered all over the walls, and more bearded individuals than you'd find at a dive bar in Brooklyn. I personally love that aesthetic but I understand that it isn't for everybody. Peter saw the opportunity to create an environment more akin to a spa than anything else; a place where a woman interested in getting her first tattoo, perhaps to commemorate the birth of her first child, could walk in and immediately feel at ease. To be fair, your first tattoo can be a harrowing experience so I'm happy to see that he and his team figured out that there is a demographic out there that may need a softer landing into the world of ink. The minute Peter explained his concept in more detail to me I immediately thought…

It's MedMen for tattoos!

I probably just turned off half of my readers with that one statement but stick with me here. I know that many people who have been in the cannabis industry for a while have a negative impression of MedMen and what they represent in the industry but I believe in giving credit where credit is due.  

The cannabis industry was, quite frankly, very stagnant before companies like MedMen decided it was high time to take advantage of the change in perception of the Cannabis industry. MedMen, as marketers first and cannabis people second, understood that the Chardonnay Moms of the world (yes, that is a term we industry folk use to describe a know who you are) would not feel comfortable walking into most cannabis shops that could be found before 2015. MedMen founders were some of the first to identify that there are many people out there that are interested in and curious about cannabis but never felt comfortable or, more importantly, welcomed in a traditional cannabis dispensary. Having been in this industry since that time I can understand why. Most shops, honestly, were not very nice and not terribly approachable. At this point in my career I can’t even count how many dispensaries I’ve been to and the moment I remember most vividly in all of those visits is the first time I walked past MedMen in Downtown Los Angeles. I kid you not, I literally stopped in my tracks. I wasn’t even headed there! I was headed to a meeting and I just happened to walk past.  

There were no blacked out windows with bars over them...

There was floor to ceiling glass that was brightly lit with a friendly looking security guard out front...

The display tables felt expensive, made of impeccably finished wood (and I should know, my father is a woodworker)...

The staff were all uniformed and were bright, kind, friendly and well educated about the products they were selling...

In short, it was the Apple Store of weed.

I could not bring myself to NOT go into the store. I had a fantastic experience and I’ve had a strong admiration for the brand ever since. Now, the business and their practices is a different story. But I digress. The point I’m making here is that they had created a very approachable retail experience for what we now refer to as the Canna Curious crowd.  

And the Chardonnay Moms came...

And the tourists came...

And the seniors came...

Just about everybody found their way there. The only people who didn’t like it there were those who were ingrained in the “traditional” cannabis industry. For many of those people the change was too much and too soon. It wasn’t “right”, it was “too expensive”, it was “too corporate”.  

The truth is it was just different and different can be difficult for many.  

Peter was telling me about how at Inq they are getting a lot of wayward looks and comments from people in the traditional tattoo industry. I think that is something that he should be proud of. Perceptions change, industries need to change to keep up with them.  

I think Peter and Inq might just be onto something here.

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