Cucumber water, complimentary slippers, freshly warmed robes and cool, mint-scented eye towels — the spa industry is all about these nuanced details. In Denver, another treatment option has made its way onto the menu: cannabis.
The marijuana-infused massage Cannabist editor Ricardo Baca recently wrote about at LoDo Massage is an example of how the recreational marijuana industry can find a foothold in the $14-billion-a-year spa industry.
Cannabis in spas has yet to become a full-blown trend in the U.S., according to the International Spa Association, but you can expect that to start changing in Colorado and Washington.
“I will forever work with cannabis for the rest of my career,” says Jordan Person, a massage therapist who a few months ago began offering massages with a lotion containing Cannabidiol (or CBD) to clients of her independent practice, Primal Therapeutics.
Person was a nurse of 14 years who got into the cannabis industry a few years ago. When she wanted to get back to her healing instincts, she says she knew she wanted to tap into the power of marijuana.
She found the product that worked best for her — massage oils and lotions from Telluride-based Mary Jane’s Medicinals — and saw huge success with her clients. She admits that as a deep-tissue massage therapist she can really dig into her clients’ muscles. The CBD not only helps her own hands work but it also helps as an anti-inflammatory so that her clients stopped needing to be iced the way they did before.
“They love it,” she said. “It puts them into a deeper mode of relaxation without making them high.”
Person quickly realized that her dream was to open a spa that incorporates cannabis into a number of treatments, and the success of her massage practice has brought her just that. Some of her clients have become investors, and now a 420-savvy realtor is scouting out spaces. Primal Therapeutics hopes to secure a space by July 1 and open what they believe will be the world’s first cannabis-focused spa on Aug. 1.
“It’s all happening so fast,” she said. “But this is the first time in my life when I’ve ever been on the path when I know I’m doing the right thing.”
Person is not the first massage therapist incorporating weed into her or his practice. Like LoDo Massage, therapists are keeping cannabis lotion on hand — or in other cases letting clients know they can bring their own.
As with so much in the cannabis industry, the legalities are still slightly fuzzy, and some spa owners are not quite willing to take the risk.
Jessica Podolsky, a massage therapist in Evergreen, says she welcomes clients who bring in their own lotions for her to use during their massage and has seen success with it all around — even her grandma is devoted to an infused salve for her aches and pains. But that’s as close as she gets.
“I would love to (use infused lotions and oils) personally, but I work for a company where my boss isn’t very pro-marijuana,” she said.
LoDo Massage owner Ed Rich talked about the issue with his legal council. They figure they are in the clear as long as they are only offering the THC-infused lotion at no extra charge. So having a tight relationship with a product manufacturer right now is key, he said.
“I would not be doing this if we didn’t have a deal with Apothecanna,” he said.
Apothecanna, the line of lotions LoDo Massage therapists use, was developed by James Kennedy, a medical marijuana business owner with a background in beauty products. He said that while Apothecanna has no plans in the immediate future to work with other spas, he agrees it is a relationship that makes sense.
“It’s a great way to show off the benefits of the product,” he said.
Right now Kennedy is more focused on improving his lotion recipes — which include plant essential oils, many of which are locally sourced — and the quality of the product. He sees the market growing, especially in places like Aspen where he can’t keep his products in stock.
“It’s not about getting high,” he said. “It’s about, ‘Look how cool this new industry is.’ It’s not about cannabis, it’s about a natural product.”
By all accounts, that is true — these topical products do not get you high. Each of these business owners has testimony that they will not cause clients to fail a drug test.
“If it got you stoned, my therapists wouldn’t be able to stand on their feet,” Rich points out.
Still, these lotions, salves and oils are only sold in dispensaries and fall under the same category as edibles in regulation. The potential to take over the beauty market, though, is there if Dahlia Mertens, founder of Mary Jane’s Medicinals (the products favored by Person), has anything to say about it.
“I think a jar of salve should be in everybody’s medicine cabinet,” she says. “It works for so many people across the board.”
On her website, Mertens has testimonials of burns healed, skin conditions cured and intolerable pain relieved by her salve, lotion, oil and even a product called “Hash Bath.”
Mertens started her line as a massage therapist who also wanted to use it in her practice. But now she has her eye on distributing to other states as legalization spreads. She has spent the past four years “pounding the pavement” to Front Range dispensaries and is seasoned in one of the biggest hurdles this cannabis spa industry could face.
“Now it’s just a matter of educating the public,” she said. “The word is getting out, and the orders are coming in.”
Person is certainly optimistic about the opportunity to jump into this freshly green cannabis spa industry — the pampering, the relaxation, the natural beauty.
“I feel that there are a lot of women that would not want it there,” she said. “But there’s a whole other group of women that daydream about it.”