Dispensaries have been delivering cannabis products to hotels across California ever since the state officially legalized weed.
However, according to Amy Cirincione O’Connor, normalization was never really established as evidenced by guests often consuming cannabis either tucked away in their rooms, or in their cars.
Cannabis-friendly places should be “open, warm, comfortable and casual,” she says.
That’s where Humboldt Social comes in.
This California-based wellness and hospitality brand focuses on avoiding “clichéd images like prints of big cannabis leaves in bright green colors.”
Instead, they use lush, native greenery and light, and a subdued color palette, Cirincione O’Connor explained, citing Napa Valley’s hundreds of hillside vineyards and resorts as an inspiration.
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“When you’re in Napa and you walk into a hotel lobby, you might see brochures for local wineries or branded wine glasses in the gift shop, [but] you wouldn’t see wine bottle icons on the wallpaper,” she says. “That’s what normalization looks like.”
‘Getting Away From The Dark’
Humboldt Social is under the helm of architect and CEO Aaron Sweat, who co-founded the company with Cirincione O’Connor and her husband, Jon O’Connor.
When it came to designing with cannabis in mind, Sweat — who previously worked with renowned companies like Lake|Flato and Nelsen Partners — noted that he prefers “getting away from the dark, no window, hidden cannabis business we remember.”
“Changing that perception of cannabis needing to hide has been a big push for me in design,” he told Benzinga. “Having cannabis facilities more open, transparent, inviting, and a place for community is where the industry must go.”
Sweat’s focus was on creating the mindset “away from something illicit or taboo.”
“I always tell people I am not here for what the industry is today,” he says. “I am here for what the industry will be in 10 to 20 years. I will say I like where the industry is going.“
Safety is also a priority and Humboldt takes both alcohol and cannabis consumption very seriously. Cirincione O’Connor, who is a licensed clinical social worker, says Humboldt employees are trained to “serve safely” and “to never serve someone who is inebriated.”
Furthermore, they offer help and recommendations to their quests relying on their past experience.
“Most of our guests are seeking relaxation and rejuvenation,” she adds. “They’re not looking to ‘party.’ They want to pair their hikes, massages, and fireside gatherings with microdose edibles and non-psychoactive products like balms and topicals.”
The ‘Napa Hospitality’ Model
It turns out, cannabis in hospitality can be similar to wine.
“For us, integrating cannabis into hospitality in Humboldt is much like integrating wine into hospitality in Napa,” Cirincione O’Connor says. “In Napa, when you check into your hotel you can ask the concierge about local wineries, or to book a wine tour. You can bring a bottle of wine you purchased at a local winery back to your hotel and enjoy it on the grounds.”
Humboldt Social has similar accommodations.
“If our guests are interested in visiting local farms or dispensaries, having cannabis products delivered to them at the hotel, or having a cannabis-infused spa treatment, our staff help meet their needs in the same way they help guests find a redwood hike or recommend a local restaurant,” she adds.
Her husband, Jon, is also no stranger to the cannabis industry. Prior to this, he was a founder, COO and board member of cannabinoid company, Dosist. He’s also part of the founding team of a cannabis brand Papa & Barkley.
The husband-and-wife team also have experience restoring vacation properties in Humboldt County. Once they met Sweat, the trio joined forces to create this specific business model.
Today, Humboldt Social features a boutique hotel, a bar, waterfront cabins, a day spa with cannabis-infused treatments, and a restaurant. Eventually it expects to add two dispensaries, another hotel, a cannabis product line and utilize its favorable location for cannabis cultivation.
Humboldt County, turns out, boasts as “many cannabis farms in the county as wineries in the state of California — estimated at 15,000 farms,”
They wanted to offer their guests “integrated travel experiences” that presents all the regions’ resources and goods.
“We embrace cannabis because we are surrounded by it, our friends and family work with the plant, and our community is sustained by cannabis (1 in 3 dollars in the Humboldt County economy is cannabis-related),” Cirincione O’Connor says.
But Humboldt Social is not a “bud and breakfast” place, per se. It’s touted as a synthesis of boutique hospitality and legal cannabis. The main idea behind it was to create a pleasant atmosphere for their guests and enable them to enjoy cannabis in various ways.
And non-cannabis consumers are also welcome.
“Our spaces attract people first because of their unique style — they’re all restored historic buildings that are off the beaten path,” she adds. And most guests are simply looking for “authentic” travel experiences, and are appreciative of the outdoors and wellness.
Humboldt Special also prides itself on being family-friendly, LGBTQ-friendly, and dog-friendly.
“Our guests range from 20-something friend groups to families with young children to Boomer couples,” Cirincione O’Connor says. “Some consume cannabis, some do not. Our goal is to normalize cannabis within our hospitality model, not to exclusively promote it.”
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