The future of cannabis is about to bomb the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

If you’re one of the millions of viewers who enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as one of your annual holiday rituals, I’ve got a new game for you.

It’s called “Find the future of cannabis”.

It may appear briefly in the background of an Al Roker scarf and fedora display. Or over the shoulder of Hota Kotb and Savannah Guthrie. It’s a corner building painted sky blue: Cookies NYC.

Yes, Cookies’ new flagship store in New York City is about to photobomb America’s beloved Thanksgiving tradition. I say it’s about time.

Get Cookies NYC in the picture!

Cookies, for those who are here for the first time, is the cannabis brand founded by hip hop artist Berner. Over the past decade, Berner has grown his company from a tiny California startup to one of the most respected brands in cannabis.

That growth was seen in Manhattan last month, when crowds swarmed the corner of Sixth Avenue and 35th St., directly across from Macy’s in Herald Square — all to mark the opening of New York’s first Cookies store. (And it doesn’t even sell weed.) Here at Leafly, we’ve given the opening ample attention.

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This is how you do an Empire State gig.  Cookies' NYC debut took place this weekend.  The celebrations included a Madison Square GUMBO tour bus and a local biker gang that blocked traffic.  The wildest part?  No cannabis was sold - only merchandise and accessories adorned with Cookies' signature blue.  Keep scrolling to see the highlights.  (Cookies)This is how you do an Empire State gig. Cookies’ NYC debut included a GUMBO tour bus in Madison Square and a local biker gang blocking traffic. The wildest part? No cannabis was sold – only merchandise and accessories adorned with Cookies’ signature blue. Keep scrolling to see the highlights. (photo courtesy of cookies)

Believe the hype

I admit: I was a bit skeptical about the hype. But then I got the chance to see the scene for myself.

During a trip to New York earlier this month, I took a day to stroll into some of the many unlicensed “gift shops” that openly sell weed from window displays. As you may have heard, the gray market is thriving. I counted six unlicensed cannabis stores within a five-block stretch of Chelsea, including a pop-up weed truck parked along Sixth Avenue.

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Scoping the gift shops

Cannabis Culture on 8th Ave. across from Madison Square Garden impressed me with its professional decor, well stocked shop and place to make money. Every train passenger stepping into Penn Station and every Knicks/Rangers/concert fan is just a few steps away from something small – anything on West 30th.

Cannabis Culture NYC storeCannabis culture: just steps from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. (Photo: Bruce Barcott)

Meanwhile, the Breckenridge Hemp Company was at 6th Ave. and West 31st St. confusing as hell. How do they sell “State Approved Colorado Legal” weed in Manhattan? However, the Breckenridge budtender showed me some beautiful flowers kept in large gallon sized jars.

breckenridge-hemp-shop-in-new-yorkThe Breckenridge Hemp Co. store in New York City: Nice weed, confusing interior. (Photo: Bruce Barcott)

Cookies is miles ahead of everyone else

Most gift shops reminded me of the old days of no-rules medical marijuana in Washington State and Colorado—shops with minimal design and limited products staffed by extremely friendly budtenders. The prices have been, um, updated a bit though. I don’t remember pharmacies selling single generic pre-rolls for $15 back then.

Then I walked through the doors of the Cookies flagship store in Herald Square. It felt like traveling through time.

While it doesn’t sell actual weed – Berner isn’t stupid, he wants to be fully licensed – the Cookies store offers branded merchandise that embodies everything that successful weed brands are: fun. Playful. Creative. Clever.

The cool authenticity of Cookies is evident in their store:

Photo of Cookies MerchandiseCookies NYC Store: Smart design, a brand-compliant color scheme, and authentic cultural roots. (Photo: Bruce Barcott)

Offers an authentic cultural connection

Cookies doesn’t just sell weed. They offer consumers a lifestyle brand. Berner established his reputation in the hip hop world and then combined that foundation with a mission to sell only the finest cannabis.

What sets Cookies apart is their own hybrid strain: cultural authenticity crossed with brilliant graphic design. The company rises out of a particular subculture and goes mainstream while employing the extremely difficult trick of maintaining its cultural respect. Few companies have succeeded in doing this. Think Vans, the shoe company born in California skate culture, or Patagonia in the world of outdoor adventure.

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This combination of cultural authenticity, respect and chic design can be seen at the Cookies Herald Square boutique. Check out these artistic appeals to New York City’s media institutions below. An old man playing stickball on the streets of Brooklyn. The “Cookies Day Parade” is a nod to the traditional Macy’s parade.

Cookies Shirt DesignsOne brand, many creative expressions at Cookies NYC Store. (Photo: Bruce Barcott)

The next era in cannabis branding

The whole aesthetic is captured in the t-shirt pictured below, honoring (from above) The New York Magazine, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The New York Post and dressed in the city’s orange and blue Knicks/Mets Color scheme, with a clever little “C” from the Cookies brand, letting you know this company is poised to take its place among the Big Apple’s cultural institutions.

Credit to the designer – and to the folks who run cookies who have obviously built an impressive network of in-house and contract artists.

new york t-shirt designNew York institutions captured in four fonts. (Photo: Bruce Barcott)

Shine in a national retail storefront

All of this happens in a shop that isn’t tucked away in some far-off corner of Brooklyn. It shines in Manhattan’s Herald Square, a showcase of big-name retailers. Macy’s flagship store is across the street. Nearby are brand-defining shops of Dr. Martens, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Sephora, Tissot, Levi’s and Aeropostale.

I entered the store as a skeptic. I have finished a conversion. Cookies welcomes New Yorkers and the millions of people who visit New York each year to the future of cannabis in the best possible way. The future of cannabis is fun, playful, cool, smart. The future of cannabis is bright.

And on Thursday, if you keep your eyes peeled, you can catch a glimpse of that future as part of your Thanksgiving parade. Maybe Al, Hota, and Savannah will come down to the cookie store and see for themselves. Continue. It’s legal.

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