Cannabis users have really been on the receiving end some serious hate over the last century.
Often, they are thought of as either the "lazy stoner" who is proverbially couch-locked, or the "jobless hippie" who smokes for the fun of it.
Dhaval Shah is looking to change all that with Ganja Boxes, a premium subscription service that delivers a stylish box full of cannabis accessories monthly or quarterly for the savvy consumer.
Dhaval put it this way,
We're kind of like Birchbox and Dollar Shave Club except for the cannabis industry.
Elite Daily had a chance to talk to Dhaval about the changing perception of cannabis culture, from one that is deeply tied to Reagan's war on drugs and a new understanding which is geared toward cannabis users from all walks of life gaining legitimacy and acceptance.
While you won't find any actual buds in the boxes just yet (because it's still federally illegal to ship cannabis), part of the company's long-term plan is to deliver in-state boxes with edibles, starting in Colorado.
Dhaval stressed the idea that the boxes are filled with premium products you won't necessarily find at your local head shop. They're also discreet for consumers who wouldn't want to linger in smoke shops in the first place.
Among the accessories you'll find in a Ganja Box: Wooden tips for your joints, custom wooden dugouts, custom glass pieces, the latest vaporizers and tools for concentrated oils. The main difference, Dhaval said, between Ganja Boxes and its cannabis-related competitors' boxes, has as much to do with what's in the boxes as it does how they market them.
The boxes currently out on the market are right around $20, and they're marketed toward college kids and stoners. What the boxes out on the market usually come with is just one or two accessories, and they fill the boxes with a lot of swag.
I'm sure many of us have experiences with gift boxes containing more filler than actual gifts. Who needs all that cellophane, not to mention boxes of water crackers? No thanks.
At 33-years-old, Dhaval wants to cater to a more mature demographic of cannabis lovers. He does so by putting high-quality products in the boxes. And with three different levels, you have the option of going big or taking it slow. Starting at $45 with ultra-premium options that range to $150, you'll be able to adjust the size and frequency of your boxes based on your needs.
Dhaval got the idea for Ganja Boxes after watching his then-fiancé open a monthly beauty box and be overcome with pure joy. He realized he wanted a box like that, when thinking of what he'd want in it, he said,
Man, it'd be cool if I had a box of cannabis.
Um, who wouldn't want that?
Dhaval is particularly interested in keeping older business professionals in mind when it comes to destigmatizing cannabis culture.
As a working professional living in New York, Dhaval said he doesn't want to be associated with the negative stereotypes that surround head shops. Therefore, he can relate to his company's core demographic.
Out of the 120 million cannabis users in the industry, a lot of those are what Dhaval likes to call "ghost users."
Whether cannabis use is illegal in their state or not accepted in their workplace, there are lots of reasons why ghost users don't want to reveal their lifestyle. To accommodate, Dhaval said,
We ship each box in an opaque bag and we seal the bag... So, if you have it delivered to your home and you have kids, or at your workplace, no one's going to know you have a Ganja Box.
He added, the company's actual corporate name isn't Ganja Boxes, but Windy City Exchange, LLC. That way, you won't see ganja listed anywhere on your credit card statements or the return shipping address. This keeps the product accessible for people who want to explore the benefits of cannabis but aren't quite ready to shout it from the rooftops.
While Ganja Boxes is all about being discreet, the company does have the larger goal of raising awareness and acceptance of cannabis use, said Dhaval. As an Indian man, he's aware of the rich -- and often untold -- history behind cannabis. As he explained,
When it came time to choosing a business name... I chose ganja because [the word] is derived from Sanskrit in India. The first people to use cannabis were Indians thousands of years ago before it migrated. A lot of people think ganja is a Rastafarian term that comes from Jamaica, but that's actually not true. Indian laborers brought ganja to Jamaica in the 1600s, and that's when Jamaica gets it's history of cannabis.
This is why, Dhaval said, it's important to keep education in mind when selling any cannabis-related product. By acknowledging the long history of the plant, it becomes more apparent that the negative stereotypes developed recently are entirely manufactured.
Printed on the Ganja Box itself is the definition of ganja and a tidbit about the Indian history of cannabis, stylishly merging education and design. Which is important considering Facebook still doesn't allow cannabis-based businesses to advertise their wares. Neither does Twitter nor Snapchat nor Google, all because it's still federally illegal to sell cannabis.
It was interesting to learn about the hurdles Dhaval faces as a business owner. Even though he isn't selling actual cannabis, the mere mention of the plant sends a red flag to social media platforms, typically causing them to delete his accounts. So not only is the stigma around cannabis ruining the experience for users, it's posing a detriment to an American business.
If that's not a solid argument for legalizing cannabis, then I don't know what is.
On top of everything Dhaval is doing with raising awareness through Ganja Boxes, he's also donating part of the profits to charity as well. He said,
For every box we sell, we're giving back to kids in need who need medicinal cannabis. So, we're actually working with Realm of Caring, which is a nonprofit organization started by the Stanley brothers to help kids who have epilepsy or some other disorder [and] families who can't afford the medicine.
OK, so by now you're probably wondering how to sign up for Ganja Boxes since everything about them sounds absolutely amazing. If you head to its website, you can sign up to receive 30 percent off your first box and get notified as soon as the company launches later this year.
Beyond exercising political power with our wallets, we can all do our part to dismantle the negative stereotypes surrounding cannabis by staying educated, supporting pro-cannabis legislation and keeping an open mind.