A Startup That Runs Marijuana Dispensaries is America’s First $1 Billion Marijuana ‘Unicorn’

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A startup that runs marijuana dispensaries is America's first $1 billion marijuana 'unicorn' Melia Robinson. MedMen has been called an Apple store for pot products. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters Chain stores have arrived in the legal marijuana industry. MedMen, a retail company that runs marijuana dispensaries nationwide, was valued at $1 billion in a new funding round. Known as the Apple store for pot products, MedMen claims to elevate the marijuana retail experience with high design and excellent customer service.

Chain stores have arrived in the legal marijuana industry — and it could be a billion-dollar idea.

MedMen, a cannabis retail company that operates 11 marijuana dispensaries across California, New York, and Nevada, has sold a minority stake of the company to a Canadian investment firm at a $1 billion valuation, making it the first US cannabis startup to achieve elusive “unicorn” status.

On February 14, MedMen closed a $41 million round of funding, according to Daniel Yi, vice president of corporate communications at MedMen. The Toronto-based firm Captor Capital led the round, buying 2.5% of MedMen for $25 million, in its first marijuana-related investment.

MedMen previously raised $135 million between two private equity funds.

Founded in 2011, MedMen set out with a goal of mainstreaming marijuana in America. Customers shop for marijuana edibles, vaporizers, and flower (the green stuff you smoke) around sleek wooden tables lined with iPads. Sunlight streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Sales associates known as “budtenders” walk customers through the retail experience. They have an intimate knowledge of the products and make recommendations based on user preferences, like whether someone wants to get high at a concert or mellow out on the couch.

Yi compares what the company is trying to do for marijuana to what Nordstrom did for luxury brands and what Whole Foods did for organic grocery items.

“If you asked your average American, ‘What is your idea of a pot shop?’ they’re going to think of this dank place that’s not very well managed. Some kid with a tie dye t-shirt behind the counter looks very jaded as you walk into the store,” Yi said. “That’s the image that a lot of people have.”

“That stereotype still exists but is quickly changing,” he added.

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